Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Known today primarily for his 1964 surfing documentary The Endless Summer, documentary film maker Bruce Brown had actually been filming surf action around the U.S. for almost a decade by the time that film was widely released in 1966. Following two early efforts 1958's Slippery When Wet and '59's Surf Crazy, Brown struck again in 1960 with Barefoot Adventure, which followed surfing action in California and Hawaii throughout the year in which it was made. Like the later, more famous documentary, Barefoot Adventure would include comic vignettes in between the fabulous surfing footage, and while it seems somewhat primitive in many respects to the more polished Endless Summer, for the viewer interested in '60's beach culture and surfing, it would be well worth a look.
As with most of these documentaries, the focus for the film is squarely on a variety of surfers as they peruse the coastlines of California and Hawaii in attempts to find good surfing locations. Filmed in various locations in both northern and Southern California as well as several of the Hawaiian islands, Barefoot Adventure includes footage from a variety of surfing conditions. The calm, by comparison, California waves are juxtaposed with monsters that frequently occur in Hawaii, and the resulting footage is pretty astonishing, with 50-plus foot waves crashing around surfers who attempt to stay on their boards in the midst of the spray. The wipeouts come pretty regularly in the film (which closes with "the terrible ten" worst wipeouts of the year), and one gets a sense of the inherent dangers involved with surfing "the big one."
Throughout the film, Brown utilizes some fantastic camera angles to record the action, occasionally venturing out into the water to get up close and personal with the various featured surfers. Mind you, this was made in 1960, so the technical abilities of Brown to film were somewhat limited. Still, watching surfers in the midst of their run while right alongside of them makes for thrilling viewing, even if these glimpses are rather brief and choppy. Additional photography from underwater also provides a unique glimpse of the action and locations.
Barefoot Adventure was designed to be screened for a highly specialized audience, i.e. one specifically interested in surfing, and was shown primarily in special screenings in the areas frequented by the surfing crowd. The narration track, re-recorded in 1990 after the originals were lost, keeps the focus squarely on the on-water action for much of the film, but there is the occasional comic routine, such as one involving the building of a board or detailing the hazards of traveling between various locations, providing an occasional break in the action. Cornball comedy abounds both in the film and on the narration, but the film does provide a fairly illuminating look at the overall culture involved with surfing by following the daredevil, carefree life of its participants both in and out of the water.
Compared with the later, more famous Endless Summer, Barefoot Adventure seems very free-form, in more ways than one. The overall development of the film seems rather haphazard, with no real rhyme or reason for its footage. While Endless Summer had somewhat of a purpose or a journey to take the viewer on, Barefoot Adventures serves mainly to serve up a maximum of surf footage. The soundtrack choice is also pretty interesting and makes this film play quite differently from later genre films. Recorded by Bud Shank, the original soundtrack is more or less free-wheeling jazz: there's nary a guitar in sight, and the overall chilled out numbers create a more laid back feel for the film that retains a sense of fun, but seems fundamentally different from what one would expect from this film genre.
The negative aspects of this film mainly involve the technological setbacks inherent in its production. This film was made with no on-location sound, with only the narration to really tell the audience what they're seeing. The footage in the film tends to be somewhat choppy, as the primitive camera equipment was incapable of recording for lengthy periods of time. Additionally, the constant string of cheesy gags and situations obviously hammed up for the camera becomes somewhat obnoxious and eventually tiresome. Barefoot Adventures was assembled for re-release in 1990 with the re-recorded narration that obviously loses some of the information that would have originally been present. This version also throws in a couple on-camera spots with Brown talking about various aspects of the film, which throws off the pacing and seems cheap in the bigger scheme of things.
Nevertheless, Barefoot Adventures is quite enjoyable to watch, with absolutely gorgeous on-location footage (the footage from Hawaii is incredible), and plenty of surfing action. The film nicely captures the happy-go-lucky life of the participants in surf culture, and is definitely a film that would promote good vibes in the viewer. While not quite as instantly memorable or finely polished as later genre films, this early effort is still quiet worthwhile in spite of some technical set-backs and cheesy additions, and probably one of the more unique surf documentaries due to its soundtrack alone. I'd definitely recommend it to those who enjoy this aspect of '60s culture or the films it produced.
Blood & Gore = A couple scrapes and bruises
Language = Cornball dialogue galore
Fap Factor = No beach bunnies here
Read all 1 Reviews
Write a Review
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8