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Hollywood 1978: 12 Neglected Features

Wednesday, August 22, 1979
7:30 p.m. Big Wednesday & Corvette Summer
John Milius
Matthew Robbins (USA,1978)

Big Wednesday
“...I’ve been fascinated by Milius - one of the most interesting, original, brilliant (and crazed) of the young Hollywood filmmakers. He’s one of the few with a feeling for adventure and a cinematic style of storytelling. As writer and/or director he’s had a hand in Dirty Harry, Dillinger, Magnum Force, The Wind and the Lion, even Apocalypse Now.... Sometimes his energy is raw and uncontrolled, but often it’s honed to an edge of cutting ideology, as in The Wind and the Lion....

“So I was dumbfounded at the savage antagonism which met Big Wednesday on its initial release.... Milius was deeply distressed; word has it he does not intend to direct again. And yet Big Wednesday is thoroughly exciting and entertaining; it works as an action film, it’s packed with thrilling surf-level photography, and it’s shot through with psychological insight....

“Big Wednesday is a surfing movie the way ‘Moby Dick’ is a whale book. On the surface it’s a chronicle of 20 years in the lives of three great, early California surfers, but its real concerns are loss, legend and the inevitable triumph of time. Although his three aging surfers (Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt and Gary Busey) are the main characters, the thematic center of the film is reserved for Bear, crafter of surfboards and keeper of legends... the most interesting character... because he loses the most - even if Milius allows his metamorphosis from demigod to drunk to take place largely off-screen.

“...The film’s passion transcends its problems. Milius is working a classic vein in classic style... reaching for a dangerous, slippery metaphor... and he gets it....”

—Michael Goodwin

• Directed by John Milius. Screenplay by Milius and Dennis Aaberg. Photographed by Bruce Surtees. Original Music by Basil Poledouris. With Jan-Michael Vincent, William Katt, Gary Busey, Patti D’Arbanville, Lee Purcell, Sam Melville. (1978, 125 mins, 35mm, color Print from Warner Bros.)

Corvette Summer
“Corvette Summer is a misleading title that suggests not much more than a tossed-off beach party epic... this disarming film absolutely defeats that expectation. Some of the surprise might have been diminished by foreknowledge that... the collaborators on the script for Steven Spielberg’s The Sugarland Express, Matthew Robbins and Hal Barwood, make, respectively, their directing and producing debuts. There is also Mark Hamill, who, in Star Wars, was just another pretty face... but in Corvette Summer... acts too.
“The film has a strong script - on which once again Robbins and Barwood collaborated - that keeps taking unexpected turns... (Hamill plays a Los Angeles high school student whose great passion is rebuilding a candy-apple red Corvette Stingray in his auto shop class. When the love of his life is stolen, Hamill takes off for Las Vegas, following a tip which leads him into the underworld of car thieves who steal on consignment.)
“What is also remarkable about the film is the myriad ways the filmmakers have used vehicles and the American obsession with vehicles to make their ironic comments upon fallible humanity.... All in all, it is a warm, rich, purely American ‘Candide’ set in the country’s glittering, neon-lit wasteland, Las Vegas.” -- Independent Film Journal
• Directed by Matthew Robbins. Produced by Hal Barwood. Written by Barwood and Robbins. Photographed by Frank Stanley. With Mark Hamill, Annie Potts, Eugene Roche, Kim Milford. (1978, 104 mins, 35mm, color, Print from United Artists)