The Day of the Dolphin (1973) – Mike Nichols

The next title to be featured on the list of ten films that made me cry from the Ten Bad Dates With De Niro book is this Mike Nichols film from the early seventies. I won’t say that it made me cry by the ending was sad, poignant and necessary.

George C. Scott headlines as Jake Terrell, a scientist working with dolphins, in this adaptation of the French novel, by Robert Merle. Adapted for the screen by Buck Henry, the writer also serves as the ‘voice’ of the dolphins as they begin to learn the English language.

Terrell and his wife, Maggie (Trish Van Devere) are working with a pair of dolphins, Alpha and Beta, as they seek a way to communicate, and slowly teach the aquatic mammals English.

Through it all, it is very clear that Jake and the dolphins one another, and that is why they are able to work together. Not for each others’ betterment but for the sheer love of contact and understanding.

But there are shadowy forces at work all around Jake, and it’s unsure how he and the dolphins can trust – there’s a supposed writer, Curtis (Paul Sorvino) sniffing around the edges of their work and the company that bankrolls his research, overseen by Harold DeMilo (Fritz Weaver).

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When the dolphins end up in danger, and being used for sinister purposes, Jake has to decide what is best for all of them, and comes to a heartbreaking decision to keep them all safe.

I was absolutely delighted to see Edward Herrmann in a small role in this film, and I loved the work with the dolphins (who apparently escaped into the ocean once they were wrapped shooting).

The film was nominated for Best Original Score (by Georges Delerue) and Best Sound, it didn’t walk away with either, and while Nichols proclaimed the entire film a difficult shoot, it ends up being fairly enjoyable with a recognisable story. There are no real surprises, though there were a couple of moments and reveals that I rather liked.

Scott seems like an unusual choice for the lead in what plays as a bit of a family adventure, but he does an admirable work, and honestly, if I had been him, I would have signed on just to be able to spend all manner of time with the dolphins – I would have been on set all the time.

And while it didn’t make me cry, I can see how it would have done so for some viewers, especially the younger ones.

So far Ten Bad Dates With De Niro has been a fun exploration of some pretty enjoyable films, and some not so much. I can’t wait to see what is coming up next.

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