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Written by / 10/07/2016 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , ,

WILL SAMPSON DOUBLE CREATURE 'ORCA' & 'WHITE BUFFALO'

Poster for ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
With a brooding soundtrack, composed by genius maestro Ennio Morricone, orchestrating the title killer whale seeking revenge on Richard Harris's Neo-Ahab, Captain Nolan, for killing the whale's pregnant mate, ORCA is more an oceanic Spaghetti Western than an outright "Creature Feature."

Once narrowed into the hunt, as Harris — like JAWS scene-stealer, Quint, played by Robert Shaw, did with his two-man-crew to the Great White —leads ORCA (the name of Quint's boat, which means "a large toothed whale") out to sea, or vice versa, it's an entertaining adventure. But in order to make the audience forget about the 1975 shark thriller, this campy whale tale throws it right into our face with a menacing Great White's dorsal fin heading towards a young crewman (Robert Carradine) — only to be saved, at the last minute, by the one monstrosity more powerful than even Spielberg's Carcharodon Carcharias...

Foreign DVD Artwork beats our own
But it's the horrendously melodramatic revenge aspect, from the whale against the seafaring Captain, that shifts ORCA into camp-howler territory. One scene involving Harris, a hunter combination of Shaw (along with scruffy boat pilot Keenan Wynn) and Roy Scheieder, and an oceanographic Richard Dreyfuss in the exotic French starlet Charlotte Rampling, the whale actually sees (with a knowing, narrowed eye) his foe seconds after actually causing the sea-town, curved along the surrounding shoreline, to explode in massive flames...

Will Sampson, Charlotte Rampling and Richard Harris
Here's when our doomed anti-hero is forced seaward, going deeper and deeper into the Killer Whale's territory and, straight from the brawny pages of Herman Melville or even Ernest Hemingway, the macho captain wants the whale dead too — what the giant mammal did to Harris's gorgeous friend (a pre-fame Bo Derek) adds fiery insult to injury.... Making up for overlong bouts of tedious arguments on board, the pivotal, entertaining "body count" occurs in the style of a violent and bloody 1970's horror/exploitation flick, and like JAWS, the suspense is channelled into a steady pulse when the creature, unseen, is anticipated within the dark waters — but not for long...

Great White Shark smack-down by ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
During the third act, an iceberg becomes a HIGH NOON main street between man and beast. And, last but not least, along for the ride, to legitimize the picture and fitting within the theme of this double feature review, CUCKOO'S NEST "Chief Bromden,"

Will Sampson, taking a break from his role as a tortured Sioux with a WHITE BUFFALO chip on his shoulder, provides a hybrid of Dreyfuss style wisdom and Shaw experience — a moral compass swing vote, dead-set against the stubborn and determined Richard Harris who, the likes of Peter O'Toole, Oliver Reed and other intense British actors, whether in good, bad or downright ugly motion pictures, doesn't hold anything back.
Bo Derek in ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
Bo Derek in ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
Bo Derek in ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
Bo Derek in ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
Bo Derek in ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
Bo Derek in ORCA THE KILLER WHALE
Charles Bronson ducks for cover in The White Buffalo YEAR: 1976
A Charles Bronson cult film that, without the hilariously dated and contrived title creature, is a surprisingly decent Western in its own right...

Haunted by nightmares of THE WHITE BUFFALO, Bronson, as a retired, inconspicuous Wild Bill Hickok, wakes up with guns blazing, all his own — first on a train and then inside a gold mining town's hotel run by a gracious Kim Novak...

In-between we learn of the giant beast through the frantic, personal rage of the most sympathetic character, Will Sampson's Crazy Horse, who must go by the name 'Worm' until he avenges his family's death and, by the end, a stretch of terrain that resembles a neatly cut, treeless landing strip provides a showdown location for the killer Buff's three hunters — so let's cover the main JAWS similarities through the main characters...

The White Buffalo Score: ***1/2
Bronson's Wild Bill,is the Roy Scheider, while both Jack Warden's scruffy old miner (who tells a Buffalo backstory) and Sampson are a combination of Robert Shaw; and the latter's meticulous knowledge provides some Richard Dreyfuss while the eclectic trio — despite the two white men being initially reluctant to accept help from an Indian — bond while fighting the land-antagonist played by a bearded, menacing Clint Walker, who had followed Hickok from a rowdy barroom into a craggy mountainside, perfect for a Western duck-and-cover shootout in two of the best scenes: both involving blood and guns, sans the dated monster...

Lobby Card w/ Warden, Bronson and Sampson
Which comes soon enough — and like JAWS could override the fake-looking shark through terrific acting, editing and overall direction (being one of the greatest movies ever made helps too), Spielberg actually didn't expose the deadly fish very much. Here, the Buffalo's shown a quite a bit, despite an ironic attempt to cover up its entirety, ambling in a rocking-horse fashion, only the head shown clearly...

One that refuses to hang from a wall like its weaker, less evolutionary brethren in this wonderfully flawed seventies curio that works despite itself, and almost seems like intentional camp. So if centering more on the eclectic road (including a bizarre stage coach scene with a ridiculously doomed/conveniently sexist and racist Stuart Whitman) and less on its inevitable, titular destination, THE WHITE BUFFALO — perhaps both the film and the monster — may just grow on you. If you let it.  
Kim Novac gives Wild Bill vertigo played by Charles Bronson in THE WHITE BUFFALO
If only THE WHITE BUFFALO were titled BILY BIZON all around the world
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