DVD Review – On Any Sunday

Bruce Brown is a director who really found his niche early on and kept turning out documentaries. Most were on surfing, like his best-known film, Endless Summer, but he was also a keen motorcyclist. On Any Sunday (1971) is about motorcycle racing, from local amateurs to the big names of its day.

The approach varies, showing the more straight-laced riders who were making cash from the racing circuit but also showcasing the more eccentric riders who were living a more hippy carefree life, where motorcycling was a part of their life philosophy. Part of the reason for making the film was that Easy Rider had recently come out and been a major success. It has brought ideas about the motorcyclist lifestyle to the public consciousness, as had Hunter S. Thompson’s book Hells Angels.

Brown’s footage was really groundbreaking for its time with the use of helmet cameras, which, due to the bulkiness of cameras, then were rarely used in similar documentaries. The budget was low, so Brown had to improvise his own high-speed cameras by using 24-volt batteries in the 12-volt film cameras. The results were both effective and very dramatic.

Brown narrates the film himself, a long-standing practice for this director. When Brown first started making movies, the films themselves were silent, and would be shown with live narration and music chosen by the director. More modern viewers may find the format perplexing, as the director doesn’t attempt to construct a narrative from the footage but instead explains what you’re seeing.

The soundtrack includes a super-cheesy theme song that will stick in your head for a few days afterwards, and a selection of almost comic music.

The film is notable for featuring Steve McQueen, who was a very fine amateur motorcycle racer in his own right, and also funded the film himself. The DVD includes a personal tribute to McQueen from Brown, and a hour-long companion film, On Any Sunday Revisited.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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