This movie is it all; everything; it has something for everyone, including a tanned and toned Young Michael Vincent. There is action, a romance, funny moments, some action, good script and stunning surfing footage, as well as plenty of action, but not too much. Yes, Big Wednesday is a classic ‘coming out age’ story set in Vietnam era America involving a group of school friends who love to surf. As is typical of these types of films we get a group of friends on the verge of growing up, setting off on their own path, possibly parting ways, and having one last kick ass summer. It reminds me of my own last kick ass summer with my friends. There was me, Neville, Bobert, Shawsy, Wee Scott, Bunter, Fitz, Simon, Murph, Stoat, Biggles, Rodger, as well as a few girls like Jem, Lee, Gree, Corky and of course my little brother Andy tried to tag along. That fool Brendan and his scumbag mates tried to spoil it on us, wherever we went, he was there too, looking at us with his eyes. Sure enough the exams were done, we knew that we would all be getting jobs or going off to university, or being mauled by bears, or moving away. None of us were going to fight in Vietnam (though Neville claimed he had already been and would have frequent flashbacks), and none of us were into surfing, but you can see the comparison.
Jan Michael and Co- they just wanted to ride one last big wave, but the real wave (the Tsunami of life) was washing towards them at an unstoppable rate, unavoidable and inevitable. Crazy Gary Busey also stars in this Milius film (Milius would go onto wide spread acclaim and fame with Knightriders, having already made a name writing The Godfather), and Vincent would go off to become TV’s biggest star in Airwoof. The army comes to town to draft any young, fit men into the army- any injured or crazy types had to stay at home (this is based on actual events) so Busey stayed and got a job stealing motorcycles, all the smart guys could go to college or become a military strategist. The remainder of the gang, including Vincent go off to War and experience some terrifying events- being locked in cages filled with water and rats, but no surfboards, and being forced to play Vietnam Roulette with each other. The game is thus: 5 cups are presented, each filled with same coloured liquid. The treat is that one of the liquids is actually so disease filled that as soon as it is swallowed the drinker begins to convulse, blood pours from every orifice and they eventually melt. Later they escape and before they go home they ask one request of one of their friends (a young Freddy Kruegger) who has now become their commanding officer- will you surf before we go home. He has however succumbed to the madness of war, wishes to stay, and heart breakingly replies ‘Charlie Don’t Surf!’ This proved to be one of the pivotal moments in 70s cinema, and indeed in American History, signifying loss of innocence, tainting The American Dream, and squirting out the final puff from the spliff of the Hippy Movement and Freedom.
I was fortunate enough to go off to University and subsequently get a 6 figure salary, some of my friends came along too, more went further afield, or stayed at home and began to fade away, losing the beautiful fire of youth that once burned ever so brightly. I sometimes wander through my home town now, and occasionally see one of the old gang across the street. I wave to them, but time and circumstance has been unkind to us, fate conspiring to gouge an impenetrable void between us. They don’t wave; they barely look; in fact, they don’t even recognise me. Who would have though that all those jokes we shared, all those lazy days walking through the forests together, all the sunsets we watched and the nights we hoped would never end, all those great times which would never come round again; who would have thought that now it is as if they have never happened at all? I refuse to give up though- I still chat with a few of them, those who made it. Some are married, heck- some even have kids! I know when we have a few drinks, I see the old glint in their eyes that our youth is still alive and well inside, it’s just having a lie down. Sure I have new friends now, but it’s our oldest ones that count most, those we shared our defining moments with. We don’t say anything; we don’t need to. We may have lost some along they way, but as long as there is at least one of us, we know we’ll be okay.
Best Scene: The flashback to the group of friends hugging and laughing- when times were good. The slow motion, the smiles, the memories, the music. It is my life. I wish I could jump in, take off my shirt, and hug them too.