Big Wednesday (1978)


(director/writer: John Milius; screenwriter: Dennis Aaberg; cinematographer: Bruce Surtees; editors: Robert L. Wolfe/Tim O’Meara; music: Basil Poledouris; cast: Jan-Michael Vincent (Matt), William Katt (Jack), Gary Busey (Leroy), Patti D’Arbanville (Sally), Lee Purcell (Peggy Gordon), Sam Melville (Bear), Robert Englund (Fly), Dennis Aaberg (Slick), Gerry Lopez (Himself, legendary surfer); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Buzz Feitshans; Warner Bros.; 1978)

noteworthy as a cult film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Milius (“Dillinger”/”Conan the Barbarian”/”Red Dawn”) unevenly directs this slight but ambitious ‘coming of age’ surfing film, that crashed at the box office. The screenplay cowritten by Milius and Dennis Aaberg has three pals from Malibu, California–irresponsible and drunken legendary surf-maestro Matt (Jan Michael Vincent), friendly and sensitive straight-arrow Jack (William Katt), and nutso loud-mouth and hothead Leroy (Gary Busey) surf in 1962 and come together again in 1974 to surf again after the Vietnam War. The messy film seems confused of what to make of these surfing ventures and the changes in its lead characters, as it tries to say what The Deer Hunter (1978) said about how the war was affecting everyone in the country.

The film is divided into four acts, starting with the South Swell of the summer of ’62 and ending with the Great Swell of spring ’74. It remains noteworthy as a cult film with great surfing footage and as a pic that offers a sincere personal vision in a lyrical way. It shows its surfers as a dying romantic breed in an era that closes without any more chance for its participants to be innocent dreamers (everything is now just different). But its use of surfing as a metaphor for life seemed a bit overblown.