Much ado has been made of the cinema of the 1970's. The studio system of early days had collapsed and huge spectacle productions were out. Small, intimate stories of people and everyday lives became much more prominent. I could list some of the more prominent movies from the era, but you all know them by heart. However, there is one picture that I feel gets overlooked. That movie is Big Wednesday.
On the surface, Big Wednesday is a movie about surfing. And it does deal with the subject. In it you'll see some of the most exciting surfing footage you'll ever see. At least outside the Endless Summer movies. But Big Wednesday is about more than riding a board on waves.
As Big Wednesday opens, we are introduced to three young surfers. One, played by William Katt, is a straight-laced good guy. Jan-Michael Vincent plays the king of the hot dog surfers, but he has a fairly serious alcohol problem. And finally, Gary Busey appropriately portrays a big galoot who seems to be missing a few of his marbles.
Surfing becomes a metaphor for the dreams and aspiration of the three guys. We watch them grow from boys to men, and the currents of time and the tides of social upheaval change them. The 1960s unwind as the film progresses, from the joyful innocence of the early years of their lives and OF the decade, to the Vietnam War and beyond.
The three characters all take different courses in their lives, but the one constant is their love and skill at surfing. And the climax of the movie is when they fulfill the prophesy of the board-making guru, Bear, who says that a day of waves will come that is so big it will wipe out everything that has come before it. A cleansing sweep that will provide redemption for the three surfers.
Also, horror fans will be glad to see Robert Englund in not only a cameo, but he also provides the voice of the narrator of Big Wednesday.
Big Wednesday is a beautiful movie that is filled with wit, charm, love, rage, pain. It's also almost certainly the best fictional movie about surfing ever made. I highly recommend it to surfers and hodads alike.