Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Great Scott! You'll flip over this picture

Cleveland Press December 21, 1973

"The Day of the Dolphin" is playing here. Adventure drama; adults, teens. In the cast are George C. Scott, Fritz Weaver, Paul Sorvino, Trish Van Devere. Running time: 105 minutes.

"The Day of the Dolphin" is the thinking man's "Flipper."

Director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry (working from Robert Merle's novel) have fashioned a film that works at several levels, all of them entertaining.

There is the simple plot line itself, one that involves intrigue and suspense in addition to the story of a man working and communication with dolphins.

It also is a motion picture about the scientist's role in society, whether there is such a thing as pure research and the dangers of innocent studies being turned into the pursuit of evil by evil men.

It is the story of loyalties, of man and beast as well as man and man; a story of devotion.

George C. Scott is the scientist of the story and actor Scott gives the movie a dimension it might otherwise lack. It is the dimension of rugged honesty and sincerity.

Too many man and animal pictures, built along fairly simplistic lines, reduce most actors to fairly simplistic responses. But Scott, working with a man or beast, in or out of water, is as complex as any dimensional character could be, and just as believable.

The scientist (a marine biologist) an his assistants, after several years, have managed to teach a dolphin, Alpha, to speak. These are not parrot-like mimickings, but speech as a verbalization of thought. Alpha is able to respond to questions.

A foundation supports this research. Scott has demanded complete privacy lest Alpha and the other dolphins become sideshow spectacles.

But the foundation, by way of its representative played by Fritz Weaver, wants to know what it is getting for its money.

A mystery man who claims to be a free-lance writer (Paul Sorvino) also wants to find out what is going on at the marine biologists island retreat.

Soon there are people skulking around the island by night, a mysterious yacht riding at anchor, a murderous attack, kidnapping of the dolphins and a plan to use them for destruction.

"The Day of the Dolphin" is a movie of surprising twists and turns, a mixture of melodrama and science fiction with thoughtful commentary and yet none of it -- commentary or melodrama -- is terribly heavy handed.

Director Nichols can be involved to the point of obtuseness a sin "Catch 22" or elliptical and condensed as in Carnal Knowledge."

In "The Day of the Dolphin" he is a straight away story teller (as in "The Graduate") but an economical one, not wasting scenes for isolated effects but building with them for a cumulative effect.

The cast is excellent -- Weaver as the foundation official, Broadway actor Sorvino as a menacing but strangely intriguing stranger. Trish Van Devere, Mrs. Scott off screen, is decorative as Scott's movie wife.

And Scott, even when dripping from head to toe, makes most actors look wet behind the ears.