Big Wednesday (1978)

“A day will come that is like no other . . . and nothing that happens after will ever be the same.” This is not your typical surfing movie. In fact, Big Wednesday is more of a nostalgic, coming-of-age film with comedic interludes that follows the trials and tribulations of three California surfing buddies – Matt Johnson (Jan-Michael Vincent), Leroy “The Masochist” Smith (Gary Busey) and Jack Barlowe (William Katt) – between the carefree summer of 1962 and the “Great Swell” of 1974 (the final scene was filmed at Sunset Beach in Hawaii). One of my favorite scenes is when the surfers use various absurd techniques to try to avoid the draft. Leroy, for instance, opts for the total insanity approach: “I like fights, I’ve dove through windows, I’ve eaten light bulbs, I like sharks, any kind of blood …” Believe it or not, Big Wednesday was co-written (with Dennis Aaberg) and directed by John Milius, who co-wrote Apocalypse Now (“Charlie don’t surf!”). Patti D’Arbanville, Lee Purcell, Sam Melville (as “Bear”), Celia Kaye, Darrell Fetty, Gerry Lopez (aka “Mr. Pipeline”), Hank Worden (as “Shopping Cart”) and Joe Spinell round out the stellar cast. Also look for Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) as the film’s narrator who also portrays “Fly,” and Charlene Tilton as “Party Girl.” Jeff Bridges reportedly turned down the role of Matt. A box office flop upon release, Big Wednesday has developed a strong cult following over the years. In her last film role, Barbara Hale (best known as “Della Street” from the Perry Mason TV series), who is Katt’s mother in real life, also portrayed his mother in Big Wednesday.

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