He famously created and produced the Flipper movies and TV show, so the similarity is quite understandable. (He also brought Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges, to the screen and the underwater scenes of the sunken bomber for the James Bond film Thunderball were filmed in his studios.) He was also a vocal advocate for family-friendly programming, which he believed at the time (and many believe now) was in short supply, casting himself in the mold of Walt Disney.
It’s also one of the few movies that feature Jim and Henny Backus
I first saw this as a youngster on a Saturday night movie, probably on ABC or possibly NBC. Only a few years after its theatrical release, it hadn’t yet dated badly, even though we had already entered in the cynical post-Woodstock, post-Vietnam era. We kids could still look back at the ’60s as a very bright, fun, mod and groovy decade, and this movie brought that all back. This is very much a snapshot of the era, complete with ecological awareness of the oceans. It fit in well in the era of not just Flipper, but also Sealab 2020. Overall, I give it eight stars not really because of the quality of the movie, but mostly for nostalgic value.
The cast was not exactly brimming with movie stars, but they were nevertheless household names, bringing their familiar personas from the little screen to the silver screen. Tony Randall plays the uptight, meticulous father role that likely got him cast as Felix Unger a year later, essentially the same character as Fred Miller with a few neuroses thrown in. Ken Berry plays the clumsy wimp a la Captain Parmenter, with a touch of underhandedness from the evil twin roles he liked to play on occasion. Jim Backus was all money-grubbing blustery blowhard, like Thurston Howell. Berry and Backus also worked together in Wake Me When the War Is Over, a TV movie broadcast only months after this was released. It does drive home just how long ago this movie was that all of the older cast members have left us. It’s been 50 years now, and Randall, Janet Leigh, Berry, Backus, Roddy McDowell, Charlotte Rae, Merv Griffin and Harvey Lembeck are all gone, and the younger members of the cast are well into retirement age.
The script was fairly simplistic and repetitive at times, befitting a movie that wouldn’t strain the attention span of its younger viewers.
It was brought to the screen by producer Ivan Tors, who had somewhat of an obsession with the underwater world
The underwater “action” scenes will be very familiar if you’ve ever seen Flipper. Exciting for children, but reasonable adults won’t get much of a rise out of them. The sharks are Caribbean reef sharks, which almost never attack humans and have never killed one in recent record. In fact, tourists pay good money to swim with Caribbean reef sharks. No sharks were harmed in the filming of the movie. The ones that the dolphins rammed with their noses were fiberglass, not real, and the “blood” gushing from the gills of live ones after the rammings were just food coloring squirted into their mouths.
I was surprised that Richard Dreyfuss played a band member. He would go on to do many movies (including my personal favorite, Let It Ride). Charlotte Rae as Myrtle Ruth, fits her cup of tea, went on to Facts of Life. Let’s not forget talk show host (and the man behind Jeopardy! when this movie aired), Merv Griffin.