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Barefoot Adventure

Barefoot Adventure(1960)

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teaser Barefoot Adventure (1960)

The third movie in his series of surfing documentaries, Barefoot Adventure (1960) follows the successful formula that filmmaker Bruce Brown established in his first feature, Slippery When Wet (1958): beautifully photographed surfing footage, a globe-spanning array of unspoiled beaches, a playful voice-over narration, goofy sight gags and a cast featuring some of the most fearless surfers in the world.

One of the most pleasurable things about viewing Barefoot Adventure today is seeing so many pristine, undeveloped beaches. There's not a condo in sight nor any other sign of encroaching development. Even at the more popular beaches at Waikiki, Laguna, Yokohama, and Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, there's still a sense of unspoiled beauty. Just as striking is Brown's cinematography which captures surfers in action like Del Cannon, Ricky Gray and Henry Priest as they brave killer waves and deadly undertows. Though little more than a glorified home movie, Barefoot Adventure is easily accessible to moviegoers with little interest in surfing due to Brown's quirky sense of humor. Interspersed with the traditional surfboarding footage are toe wrestling matches, slime sliding on algae-covered rocks, hula lessons for elderly tourists and visual jokes like Del trying to create his own foam board (he ends up with huge foam feet!). The film is also educational; you'll learn the meaning of "goin' over the falls," "hero waves," and "big guns" while marveling at Brown's red vintage Studabaker Lark or his collection of the ten worst wipeouts of the year.

One aspect that distinguishes Barefoot Adventure from other surfing movies is the ultra cool West Coast jazz score by saxophonist Bud Shank. A former member of the Lighthouse All Stars from 1953-56, Shank later started his own quartet and became a prominent figure in the West Coast jazz scene (along with Chet Baker and Shelly Manne) in the late fifties/early sixties. Although Shank's score perfectly expresses the free-wheeling nature of the surfer lifestyle, it was guitarist Dick Dale who would become forever linked with the California beach scene, thanks to his numerous appearances in the American-International Beach Party series, films that appropriated and exploited the surfing craze that was first glimpsed in Bruce Brown's charming, unpretentious features.

In his liner notes for the video release of this film, Brown wrote, "Like my other surf movies, the original elements of Barefoot Adventure - film, narration, music - lay in bits and pieces in my attic. Most of the film had been taken apart for use in other projects. Weeks were spent opening unmarked film cans and viewing old surfing footage in search of missing shots. The shots, once found, were often held together by paper tape which, after 30 years, had turned to rock and fossilized onto the film. Removing the tape meant soaking the end of each shot in film cleaner for ten to twenty-five minutes until the tape softened from granite to mud and could be easily scraped off. I figure it took sixty hours of sitting in a darkened room, getting goofy from the fumes, just to remove the tape. I held up well under the strain, mainly because my son, Dana, did most of the work. Looking at Barefoot Adventure I am still amazed how good Del Cannon was as an amateur actor. Dana refers to Del as the "Sir Lawrence Olivier of surf films" which hits the nail on the head and shows that film cleaner fumes don't cause brain damage."

Producer/Director/Writer/Cinematography/Film Editing: Bruce Brown
Original Music: Bud Shank

by Jeff Stafford

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