Warner Bros./Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 114 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Don’t be too fooled by the title and the cover shot, this isn’t a film just about surfing. Sure there is a good deal of surfing and surf culture in it, but it is much more than that, and is an interesting look at the lives and friendships of a group who just happen to surf – a lot.
"Everybody's gone surfin'..."
The three main players, Matt (Jan-Michael Vincent), Jack (William Katt), and Leroy (Gary Busey), are typical ‘60s west coast, Californian type kids. They are the best surfers in their area, and local grommets idolise them. Their summers are spent surfing, partying and chasing chicks they have no intention of honouring. Their lives, like many teenagers, are really pretty easy, idyllic and free from any real responsibility.
It is when the three pack up for a quick trip down to Mexico that they get their first rude awakening about life, and learn that not everyone is as carefree and free-living as they are. After a fatal bar fight, their car is trashed, their boards are stolen, and everything seems a little less light.
From here on, reality sets in and their lives take new paths. Their last real hurrah as a group is their attempt to dodge the draft, although one of the boys decides that it is time he took responsibility. The other two seem unable to understand his motive, and their lives take different turns - but not necessarily for the best.
Their paths cross from time to time, culminating many years later back on their beach, on Big Wednesday. It is the kind of surf the three boys dreamed about, and the stuff legend is made of. Is this the chance they have been waiting for to prove that their reputation as the area’s best surfers was justified? Time may have moved on, and many have forgotten them, but they still know who they were. Will it be the thing that unites their divergent friendships, or confirmation that things really have changed forever?
Directed and written by John Milius, Big Wednesday flopped upon release in 1978, not aided by the critics' less than favourable reviews. Time has been kind to this film, and it has earned a place in the hearts of many surfers and even non-surfing youth. It is a story about friendships and growing up. The story is told over 12 years and this is well portrayed in the actors’ makeup, costuming, and circumstance.
The acting is not exactly Oscar winning material, though it is acceptable. The surfing scenes are well shot, and the stunts are realistic. There are plenty of hard young bodies if that’s your thing, and some great cinematography of wide-open beaches and colourful sunsets. Big Wednesday is a better film than the critics in 1978 would have had you believe, and is a gentle and introspective look at friendships.
For a film 25 years old, this is a very nice presentation. The aspect ratio is 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. The image is good and sharp, even the surfing scenes. Colours are solid and bold. The ocean and sunset scenes look particularly colourful. Black levels are very good and even shadow detail holds up well.
There is no edge enhancement or shimmer, but there are a few film artefacts, being mostly some infrequent white specks and dirt that appears from time to time. Grain is not an issue, and there are no problems with film noise. The layer change occurs in a fade out, and is hard to detect at 67:14.
The only English language option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that has minimal separation, most noticeable in the music and the ocean scenes. Dialogue is mostly audible, though a few lines are slightly drowned out by the background sound of wind and waves. There appears to be no post-dubbing.
The sound is not exactly wide ranging, but some of the final scenes with the big waves sound deep and menacing. It may have sounded even better in a 5.1 mix, but I guess we’ll never know.
The few extras are a nice touch. The most notable is the audio commentary from director John Milius and it's easy listening. He covers all the things that you expect of a writer/director, including his own experiences, the real people that the characters were based on, surf culture, location filming and some technical hints and tips. The commentary has some gaps from time to time.
The Featurette we're given is a 15-minute interview with John Milius and includes footage from the film. It offers some interesting trivia and memories of his surfing days that provided the inspiration for the film.
Lastly, there is a Theatrical Trailer that has the same technical specifications as the feature. It does a good job delivering the feel of the film and manages to move the emphasis from surfing to the lives of the three friends.
Big Wednesday is to guys what Beaches is to the gals - almost. It is a story about friendships and the changes that we go through as we mature. The film would have worked almost as well in any other number of sporting arenas, but there is the added bonus of the cinematography and the beauty, power, and lure of the sea. The film may take a while to appear as if it is going somewhere, but your patience will be rewarded.