by Corky Carroll
Ah, memories of surfing's “golden years.” Great news from MacGillivray Freeman Films is the 50 year anniversary re-release of their epic surf film, “Five Summer Stories.” If you talked to pretty much anybody who was around in 1972, and deeply involved in surfing, they would almost all agree that this was the greatest surf film ever made. And if you talked those same people, if they are still alive today, I am pretty sure that they would agree that this is still the case.
5SS is just out and out a fantastic surfing movie on all kinds of levels. The photography is incredible. The music by the great Honk band from Laguna Beach is amazing. The editing is perfect. And the underlying storyline of the massive changes taking place, not only in surfing but in the world at large, at that time is spot on. The times were “a changing.”
Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman were the cream of the surf movie crop at that time, both incredibly creative and expertly skilled in their craft. Jim had previously put together a 3-D surf movie in the earlier 60’s that was groundbreaking for that time. He later went on to invent a camera mount for helicopters that would enable totally smooth and bump free photography from the air. This was far pre-drone.
Greg went on to totally dominate the IMAX kingdom with such great hits as “The Living Sea,” “Everest” and many more. He is a master movie maker in every sense of the word. And, added side cool thing, he is and always has been a dedicated and full time surfer. Super cool dude too. MacGillivray Freeman Films were the first to actually pay the surfers, who took part in the movie, a percentage of the profits. This was unheard of up until that time. And, coming as one of them, GREATLY appreciated.
The film will be showing in select theaters in the United States and Canada throughout this fall. This brings back the vibe of the days of actually going to a surf film, seeing it with a live audience and the rich pageantry that went along with those wonderful nights. Going to see a new surf film was a “thing” in the late 50’s thru the 70’s. The rush of the crowd going crazy at the first deep tube ride or giant wave to hit the screen. The joyful laughter and “oh’s and ah’s” during the wipe out scenes. Everybody loves a great wipe out, as long as it’s somebody else taking it and not you. When the movies came around to your town THAT was the place to be on that night.
I still remember when 5SS had its premier at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1972. One of my most embarrassing moments ever. There is a scene in the film where they duct taped a microphone onto my chest and sent me out to surf at Pipeline. The deal was I had to keep talking the whole time, for me not a hard thing. But try talking while you are riding a wave, not easy. The more I talked the less I did. I yell “off the bottom,” but by the time I say that it’s too late to do it and nothing happens. A bunch of nothing happens happened. And then a guy on a boogie board dropped in on me and I did a kick out to get out of the wave. From the angle with the big telephoto lens it looked like I was trying to nail the guy, but I wasn’t. The guy thought that too and was yelling at me after the wave. Again, the camera and sound made it look like I was yelling at him. Truth was the guy was huge and was telling me if I didn’t like it he was gonna stuff me into a hole in the bottom. I was backing down big time. But it looked just the opposite. Some people were going “yeah, nail the sponger.” But most I am sure thought I was a jerk for trying to hit somebody with my board. I felt like crawling under my seat and sneaking out so I didn’t have to face anybody after the movie was over. Did I mention how not fun it was getting the duct tape off?
So, I started my day this morning by watching the new version. Amazing how it holds up after 50 years. Gerry Lopez, Billy Hamilton and Barry Kanaipuni in particular were really surfing at an extreme high level. It was at the time when the boards had gone short and were in the “mid size” transition era. Everyday was some kind of breakthrough. The movie does a great job of showing that as well as the real need for change on so many fronts. And the music is as great as we all remember it to be. Honk is just one of the great bands of all time and this stuff proves it. They still rock.
All in all, this is really an event that you will want to take in personally when it comes to a venue near you. Be ready to hoot, holler and roll. For a listing of screenings and a preview go to www.fivesummerstories.com. AWHOOOO!!!!