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Endless Summer, The (Blu-ray Review)

9 Jan, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 1/11/11
$29.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Featuring Robert August, Mike Hynson, Bruce Brown.

Five years before releasing On Any Sunday, the 1971 seminal documentary showcasing the allure and people (including Steve McQueen) associated with motorcycles and dirt bikes, director Bruce Brown cut his teeth and established a legacy with The Endless Summer.

In its wake, Summer helped mainstream the former “extreme” sport of surfing by following two Southern California archetype beach boys — Robert August and Mike Hynson — on a global quest (and fantasy) to ride the best waves year-round in summer-like weather.

Despite its home-movie feel and, at times, naïve narration by Brown, the low-budgeted ($50,000) Summer remains an entertaining retrospective (even for non-surfers) precisely because of its perceived shallowness, dated look and quirky soundtrack reminiscent of “Gilligan’s Island.”

A reminder of a bygone era is immediately clear watching nattily attired August and Hynson (air travel in the 1960s was considered a luxury, and passengers dressed accordingly) lugging surfboards, primitive transistor radios and suitcases through Los Angeles International Airport.

First stop is the African nation of Senegal, where the boys — due to government directives — are forced to stay in the priciest hotel, where a room cost $30 a night each, and a cup of coffee sets them back as much as a gallon of gas: $1.

“As you walk through the doorway, they stamp ‘sucker’ on your forehead,” says Brown, who could never have imagined his film would reportedly gross nearly $30 million at the box office.

Subsequent landings include Ghana, Lagos and South Africa, followed by Australia, Tahiti, New Zealand and Hawaii — with all native travel done hitchhiking and befriending locals. Interludes with female admirers (a few even surf) include requisite bikini shots decidedly staid by today’s standards.

Summer, which spawned a sequel in 1994, was digitally re-mastered and re-released in November (also by Monterey) as a two-DVD Director’s Special Edition featuring retrospectives with Brown and his son (who made big-wave doc Step Into Liquid). This Blu-ray release, unfortunately, includes only access to a digital copy.

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