The Day Of The Dolphin (1973) [REVIEW] | Assassination Dolphin

This isn’t really shark movie, but i knew i had to review a movie with the tagline “Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the president of the United States”.

It’s a rare combination of honesty, sensationalization and marketing, because it really catches your attention with the gist of a movie that’s absurd as genuine and oddly not brazen exploitation.

Also, i did mention the movie more than once during this month, so here’s the payoff.

It’s actually based on a french novel “A Sentient Animal” by Robert Merle, but partially so (as it clearly takes more from John C. Lilly studies about dolphins, which would also inspire Ecco The Dolphin) and follows a couple of scientists, husband and wife training dolphins to communicate with humans. The couple actually managed to make two dolphins, Alpha and Beta, communicate in very simple english via their usual dolphin noises, but the animals are kidnapped by a shadowy terrorist group that wants to further the experiments, and eventually use the dolphins to carry out a political assassination, by having them plant a bomb on the yacht of the United States’ president.

It’s a wild premise, for sure, even more when you consider it was originally gonna be written and directed by Roman Polanski, but after what would be known as the Tate-La Bianca Murders, he quit the project, eventually AVCO Embassy Pictures bought the film from United Artist and Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Catch 22, Wolf) directed it.

The premise is interesting, the movie does take advantage of it to the extent it can to explore the obvious themes of science going too far and the unintended but inevitable exploitation of scientific advancement for war, how progress is not always worth its factual cost, and so on, there are some good lines and some good stand-out scenes, and while peculiar, it doesn’t ever feel downright silly (odd, but i won’t say “silly”).

Main problem is the pacing, as it’s the plot it’s bit more slow moving than necessary, and it doesn’t quite get into gear until 45 minutes in, arguably even more, and before that there isn’t much in the way of twists or thrills, like, take a guess which character is gonna turn out to work for the goverment, and sure, make this guy that managed to know the secret location of an animal no one else should know takes a good look on what you’re not willing to show to anyone else, please even buy his vague explanations and shaky sounding motives and credentials even if you yourself don’t really believe them, what’s the worst it can happen?

There’s a pay-off, but at times it feels downright sluggish and the comparitevely quick resolution in the finale (which is quite emotional) doesn’t exactly help much.

It’s definitely a fairly unique movie in concept, and how many movies have terrorist basically blackmailing a talking dolphin into doing what they want?

The cast and acting is good, but the pacing issues do take their toll on a movie that doesn’t excessively rely on its own strange, unique premise, while at the same time not doing something that incredible with it, and i can’t deny it take too much of its running time for it to properly start getting interesting or tense, and even that doesn’t last long.

It’s quite an uneven movie, but overall i’d say Day Of The Dolphin is quite decent, not gimmicky like the premise and advertising might led you to think, as there’s a solid core to the unique concept, the film – while flawed – is more than a novelty and a mere curiosity. This is not the case.

It’s arguably not the best work from Mike Nichols, i’d say, but it’s still worth (re) discovering and giving it a watch.

Sure as hell it’s far more interesting than most of the shark movies i’ve spotlighted this month on here, you can quote me on that!



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