The Vintagent Classics: The films that inspired us. 


Run Time: 1:30:00
Producer: Bruce Brown Films
Director: Bruce Brown
Key Cast: Mert Lawwill, Malcolm Smith, Steve McQueen


Some men hunt the great white shark. Some men join roller derbies, while others go to the moon. Some men like to knit. Some are freefall parachutists. Some spend their lives searching for the perfect woman or the perfect movie or the perfect wave. With the possible exception of knitting, all of these endeavors involve an element of risk, either physical or psychological, to such an extent that the attainment of the end becomes less important than the excitation provided by the pursuit itself.Five years ago Bruce Brown recorded one, round-the-world search for the perfect wave in “The Endless Summer,” which was a very beautiful movie to look at (especially from the relative safety of a cloudy smoking section) and—I’ve now come to think—much less simple-minded than it originally sounded. – The New York Times (1971)


On the basis of his new film, “On Any Sunday,” a feature-length documentary about motorcycles and the men who ride them in apparent pleasurable competition, Brown stands in way of becoming the unofficial poet of the sports world. He not only records and shares with us the often extraordinary physical sensations experienced by the cyclists, but he also manages to suggest, in the absolutely flat language of the nonverbal participants, that the joy of the sport may also be the mask that hides a curse.Like clean-cut, monosyllabic Flying Dutchmen, Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith, the professional cyclists whose exploits Brown follows through the film, lead lives of enchanted circularity: the winning of one event is not as much a goal as the preface to still another competition, and another after that. The monetary rewards are never great and, often enough, the prizes are simply trophies. At the end of one race in which death might not have been too far removed, Brown, as his own narrator, is likely to say with his unerring knack for the anticlimactic comment: “There stands Malcolm with a big grin.”Malcolm himself is likely to say: “That was really neat:”It is not as silly as it sounds because the shape of the lives recorded by Brown are almost necessarily anticlimactic; that is, until someone gets hurt or (off-screen) killed.The movie itself is anything but anticlimactic. By putting his cameras on the cycles, Brown achieves audience-participation effects with speed that amount to marvelous delirium. The camera work is fancy, but it’s a fanciness for a specific purpose, and “On Any Sunday” is the first film I can remember in months in which I thoroughly enjoyed the slow-motion, the zooms, the helicopter shots, the superimpositions and all those other techniques that are the tired rhetoric of the narrative cinema.There is, I suspect, no other way by which to communicate the sense of the intoxication that is the real goal of the cyclists, and that can only be realized through the intensification of all the perceptions.Brown records just about every kind of cycling competition there is, going from southern California to Spain and back again, catching drivers who insist on racing with broken legs, broken noses, and, in one instance, with a back broken six weeks before in an especially hazardous competition. “What kind of men are these?” Brown asks, and the answer comes not from what anyone says, but from the crazy, sensational motion of the film, which is, I feel, in its own way, a remarkable adventure, as simple and as unique to film as the picturization of movement.”On Any Sunday” which opened yesterday at the Murray Hill, was, I understand, financed by Steve McQueen, who also shows up in the film from time to time as the very creditable cyclist he is.

The Cast ON ANY SUNDAY, a documentary directed, written, produced and narrated by Bruce Brown; photographed by Bob Bagley, Don Shoemaker, Bruce Brown, Allan Seymour, Gordon Brettelle, Bob Collins, Dan Wright, Richard Carrillo, Nelson Tyler, Mark Zavad, James Odom and Mark Brelsford; released by Cinema 5. At the Murray Hill Theater, 34th Street, east of Lexington Avenue. Running time: 90 minutes. (The Motion Picture Association of America’s Production Code and Rating Administration classifies this film: “G — All ages admitted, general audiences.”) With: Mert Lawwill, Malcolm Smith, Steve McQueen and others. – The New York Times (1971)


Bruce Brown Films