Ring of Bright Water
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJack Couffer
Written byJack Couffer
Bill Travers
Based onRing of Bright Water
by Gavin Maxwell
Produced byJoseph Strick
StarringBill Travers
Virginia McKenna
CinematographyWolfgang Suschitzky
Edited byReginald Mills
Music byFrank Cordell
Betty Botley
Theme song performed by Val Doonican
Distributed byRank Film Distributors (United Kingdom)[1]
Cinerama Releasing Corporation (United States)
Release dates
  • 2 April 1969 (1969-04-02) (London)
  • June 18, 1969 (1969-06-18) (New York City)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box officeUS$2,400,000[2]

Ring of Bright Water is a 1969 British comedy-drama film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. It is a story about a Londoner and his pet otter living on the Scottish coast. The story is fictional, but is adapted from the 1960 autobiographical book of the same name by Gavin Maxwell.[3] It featured the stars of Born Free, another film about a close relationship between humans and a wild animal.


Graham Merrill (Bill Travers) passes a pet shop on his daily walks about London, and takes an interest in an otter (specifically, a male river otter) he sees in its window; eventually, he buys the animal and names him Mijbil or "Mij" for short. The otter wreaks havoc in his small apartment, and together they leave London for a rustic cottage overlooking the sea on the west coast of Scotland. There they live as beachcombers, and make the acquaintance of Dr. Mary (Virginia McKenna) from the nearby village, and her dog Johnny. Mij and Johnny play in the water and bound across the fields together.

One episode involves Graham trying to find live eels for Mij, which is very difficult because during the winter the eels swim in deeper waters, making it tough to fish them out. Also, no fish place in town carries live eels.

Mij's inquisitive and adventurous nature leads him some distance from the cottage to a female otter with whom he spends the day. Ignorant of danger, he is caught in a net and nearly killed. The humans find him and help him recover. Graham spends a significant amount of time drawing Mij, but realises that to show the true agility of the otter he must draw it underwater. He builds a large tank out of old windows so that he can do this.

Not long after, Merrill goes to London to look after some affairs and leaves Mary in charge of Mij. While being exercised afield, Mij is killed by a ditchdigger, who did not realize he was a pet. Merrill returns and is crushed to discover the death of his beloved otter. Some time later, Merrill and Mary are surprised by a trio of otter youngsters, accompanied by their mother otter, approaching the cottage. He happily realizes they are Mij's mate and their children who have come to play in their father's swimming pool.

Graham has been trying for years to write a novel about the Marsh Arabs; however, after seeing the baby otters playing, he takes pen and paper and begins to write about Mij and what the otter has taught him about himself.

Cast and characters


Part of the film was shot in Ellenabeich on the Isle of Seil.


The film held its premiere in aid of the World Wildlife Fund on 2 April 1969 at the Odeon Leicester Square attended by the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[5]

Reception and critical response

The film earned rentals of US$1 million in North America and US$1.4 million in other countries. After all costs were deducted it recorded an overall loss of US$615,000.[2]

In a contemporaneous review, Variety called the film "engaging" and noted "Travers and McKenna unselfishly subdue their performances to the star demands of the lolloping young rascal, Mij, but keep the interest firmly alive by their tactful playing."[6] The National Board of Review placed Ring of Bright Water on its list of the Top Ten Films for 1969.[7] In 2005, The Daily Telegraph called it "one of the best-loved British films of all time."[8]

Comic book

Dell Comics published a comic-book adaptation of the film drawn by Jack Sparling in October 1969.[9]


The documentary film Echoes of Camusfearna (1995) contains previously unseen footage of Gavin Maxwell with the otters, and is introduced and narrated by Virginia McKenna. It was released to DVD in 2007.[10]

Home media

DVD packaging (2004); the artwork differs substantially from the original film poster.

The film was released as a region 2 DVD in 2002,[11] and as a region 1 DVD in 2004.[12] Previously, it had been released as a VHS tape in 1981 and 1991.[13][14]

See also


  1. ^ "Ring of Bright Water (1969)". BBFC. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses". Variety. Los Angeles. 31 May 1973. p. 3.
  3. ^ Maxwell, Gavin (1960). Ring of Bright Water. Illustrated by Peter Scott, Michael Ayrton and Robin McEwen. London: Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd. Paperback reissue: (1984) ISBN 0-14-003923-6.
  4. ^ "Mabel Beecham". Price County Review. Ashland, Wisconsin: APG Media of Wisconsin. 8 July 2010. Archived from the original on 30 October 2016. She and her family spent half a year in Scotland while she managed the otter for the movie Ring of Bright Water.
  5. ^ "Personal". The Guardian. 8 March 1969. p. 5.
  6. ^ "Ring of Bright Water". Variety. 16 April 1969. p. 30. Archived from the original on 25 July 2018.
  7. ^ "1969 Award Winners". National Board of Review. New York City. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  8. ^ Hastings, Chris (11 September 2005). "The dark love behind A Ring of Bright Water". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014.
  9. ^ Ring of Bright Water at the Grand Comics Database
  10. ^ McKenna, Virginia. Echoes of Camusfearna (DVD). Beckmann. ISBN 9780792860242. OCLC 754475575.
  11. ^ Ring of Bright Water (DVD). Fremantle. 2002.
  12. ^ Ring of Bright Water (DVD). MGM Studios. 2004. ISBN 9780792860242. OCLC 54884363.
  13. ^ Ring of Bright Water (VHS). Palomar Pictures International. 1981. OCLC 7620649.
  14. ^ Ring of Bright Water (VHS). MGM Studios. 1991. OCLC 24178122.