Blu-Ray Review: The Day of the Dolphin

Teacher and student

Mike Nichols began his career behind the camera with a bang. Like his former improv partner Elaine May, he immediately made a big splash when he swapped the stage for the screen. His debut, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, was nominated for thirteen Oscars, eventually winning five. He went on to make a number of memorable films including Catch-22, The Graduate, Working Girl, Primary Colours and Postcards from the Edge. Whilst lesser known, The Day of the Dolphin is still a strange oddity.

Jake Terrell (George C. Scott) is a scientist with an unusual obsession. For years now he’s been carrying out research on dolphins. Specifically Alpha, aka Fa who, along with his wife Maggie (Trish Van Devere) and a small team, has raised in captivity for four years. Managing to instruct his subject to speak basic English. When he uses Fa to teach another dolphin, it’s a major breakthrough. One which his funders, the Franklin Foundation, want to exploit for their own ends.

The Day of The Dolphin is an atypical mix of scientific drama and political thriller. Unusually for a film of this kind, Nichols gives his aquatic mammalian stars quite a lot of character development. This makes the pace feel slightly off but also adds an extra unexpected layer of depth. The stunt work is impressive and whilst Scott seems a slightly odd choice for an action lead he adds a touch of gravitas to proceedings. The Day of The Dolphin is one of kind.

Limited edition special features:

  • 4K restoration
  • Two-channel stereo and three-channel stereo audio tracks
  • Selected scenes commentary with academic and film historian Sheldon Hall (2021, 33 mins)
  • Days of My Life (2021, 44 mins): actor Jon Korkes details the eventful production of The Day of the Dolphin
  • Moon Over the Bahamas (2021, 40 mins): in-depth discussion of the film by second assistant director, and long-time Mike Nichols collaborator, Michael Haley
  • Archival Interview with Buck Henry (2003, 13 mins): the screenwriter looks back on his adaptation of Robert Merle’s novel
  • Archival Interview with Leslie Charleson (2003, 7 mins): the actor chats about her first major feature film role
  • Archival Interview with Edward Herrmann (2003, 13 mins): the actor recalls working with Nichols and George C Scott
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Larry Karaszewski trailer commentary (2016, 4 mins): short critical appreciation
  • TV spot
  • Radio spots
  • Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, extracts from interviews with director Mike Nichols and producer Joseph E Levine, an archival interview with actor Trish Van Devere, an extract from the Robert Merle novel, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray
  • Limited edition of 3,000 copies

The Day of the Dolphin is released on Blu-Ray by Powerhouse Films as part of the Indicator series on 26 July.

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