Big Wednesday [1978]

Director: John Milius
Stars: Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, Gary Busey, Patti D'Arbanville, Lee Purcell
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sport
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 120 minutes

John Milius charts a decade of social change as three surfing buddies use the sport as a personal touchstone for their lives while growing up in the turbulent 1960s. Irresponsible hot-dogging legend Matt (Jan-Michael Vincent), serious and stable Jack (William Katt), and mad misfit Leroy, a.k.a. "Masochist" (Gary Busey), are teenage surf bums in 1963, living at the beach in a perpetual summer under the sway of surfboard-maker Bear (Sam Melville), guru, mentor, and keeper of the lore. But the times they are a changin' and boys grow up in the shadow of Vietnam while adulthood pushes them into hard decisions. John Milius mixes the nostalgia of American Graffiti with the reverence of a John Ford cavalry drama. Surfing becomes a kind of spiritual quest spoken of in awed mythic tones and photographed with the epic grandeur of a rite of passage. Milius's heavy-handed direction and reverent attitude slows the films and will turn off some viewers, but Milius fans will appreciate his macho stylings and philosophical musings, and surfing fans will love the spectacular surfing footage, including the dazzling stylings of world champion Gerry Lopez (who Milius later cast in Conan the Barbarian). Lee Purcell costars as Matt's supportive wife, with Patti D'Arbanville, Barbara Hale, and Robert Englund in supporting roles. Look for Ford stock player Hank Worden in a small role and Milius himself in a cameo selling marijuana in Tijuana. --Sean Axmaker

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