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Published on Oct 21, 2012
This cult surf film uses surfing and the beach as a coming-of-age metaphor where three California friends reunite after the Vietnam War.
Charting a decade of social change as three surfing buddies use surfing as a personal touchstone for their lives while growing up in the turbulent 1960s. Irresponsible hot-dogging legend Matt (Jan-Michael Vincent), serious and stable Jack (William Katt), and mad misfit Leroy, aka "Masochist" (Gary Busey), are teenage surf bums in 1963, living at the beach in a perpetual summer under the sway of surfboard-maker Bear (Sam Melville), guru, mentor, and keeper of the lore.
But the times they are a changin' and boys grow up in the shadow of Vietnam while adulthood pushes them into hard decisions.
John Milius mixes the nostalgia of American Graffiti with the reverence of a John Ford cavalry drama. Surfing becomes a kind of spiritual quest spoken of in awed mythic tones and photographed with the epic grandeur of a rite of passage. Milius' heavy-handed direction and reverent attitude slows the films and will turn off some viewers, but the director's fans will appreciate his macho attitudes and philosophical musings, and surfing fans will love the spectacular surfing footage, including the dazzling stylings of world champion Gerry Lopez (whom Milius later cast in Conan the Barbarian). Lee Purcell costars as Matt's supportive wife, with Patti D'Arbanville, Barbara Hale, and Robert Englund in supporting roles.
Look for Ford stock player Hank Worden in a small role and Milius himself in a cameo selling marijuana in Tijuana.