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Day of the Dolphin

This interesting, if strange, thriller gets even stranger when you realize it is the third film collaboration of Director Mike Nichols and Writer Buck Henry after "The Graduate" and Catch-22".

How do you follow up those two modern classics?

With a thriller about talking dolphins that are beings used in an assassination plot against the President, of course.

THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN stars George C. Scott as Dr. Jake Terrell. Along with his wife Maggie (Trish Van Devere, Scott's wife in real life too) and a small crew, Terrell is running a well funded research institute stretching the abilities of two dolphins.

When the dolphins start to communicate with speech, they gain the interest of the government and several mysterious factions that descend on their experiments.

This is a bizarre film and it was a big budget, massive misfire at the box office. Mike Nichols made some of the best films of the 60's and 70's, "The Graduate", "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf", "Carnal Knowledge" to name a few, but he's a very strange fit for this material, taking everything very seriously.

That isn't easy to do when you have talking dolphins involved.

George C. Scott proves that he's a damn good actor no matter the material and Fritz Weaver and Paul Sorvino have good moments as conspiratorial suit types of varying allegiance.

The music score by Georges Delerue is excellent, the photography under and above water is great and those talking dolphins will sometimes tug at your heart, but overall it's a bit of a waste of some serious talents.

Buck Henry has told hilarious stories for years about the making of the film, Scott's manic intensity on set and Scott and Nichols legendary battles over the script.

If only a bit of the humor from those stories had leaked into the movie.

At the conclusion of filming, the two dolphins leap the fence of their pen per the script for three takes and on the last take, swam out to see never to be seen again.

Based on the audience and critical reaction to the film, it turned out those mammals were very smart indeed.

Dolphin sinks with a C.

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