21 August 2017



This is supposed to be the best film about motorcycling ever made. There's more than one movie about motorcycling out there? News to me, haha. Anyway, not only is it supposed to be the best film ever made on the subject of men and their motorbikes, but film critic Roger Ebert actually said that it 'does for motorcycling what THE ENDLESS SUMMER does for surfing.'

And that's a massive coincidence, because that's a Bruce Brown documentary film as well and it's being released by SECOND SIGHT FILMS in conjunction with ON ANY SUNDAY. First though, we're taking a look at 'motorcycle sport and the men who ride... on any Sunday.'

Bruce Brown the film-maker tells us that he was first turned on to motorcycles after seeing his friend and fellow bike-nut Steve McQueen scaling the barbed wire fence in THE GREAT ESCAPE. So it's all Steve's fault, haha. Steve is in the documentary quite a bit. Apparently he adored racing cars and motorcycles and owned quite a few of each.

I liked the stories about how brave Steve McQueen was and how he once finished a race with a broken foot. There's a lot of that kind of thing in the film, foolhardy men disregarding pain and injuries in order to finish a race because finishing that race meant more to them at that moment than kith, kin, faith or work. Leastways, that's how it seems to me. Your missus could have been giving birth to octuplets out in the car-park but it wouldn't have made no-never mind to you if finishing that race was on your mind.

To get back to the handsome, broody Steve McQueen, I also liked the story about how he personally found a hand specialist to fix his mate and fellow motorbike racer Mert Lawwill's busted hand after an accident so that Mert could ride again. That seems typical of the generous and kind-hearted actor who contributed so much to the children's home where he spent some of his traumatic and difficult boyhood years.

Steve used to love a bit of motocross racing, which apparently, according to scientific studies, is the second most physically demanding sport after soccer. Excuse me? Soccer? How is soccer demanding? I mean, once you've gelled your barnet perfectly into shape and picked up your weekly pay-packet for a quarter of a million euros or whatever it is, what's left to do?

But Stevie did love his motocross, which differs from road racing in that the terrain covered can be rough, bumpy, uphill, downhill, watery, mucky, stony, sandy, you name it. Look at me, knowing stuff...! It's such a dangerous sport that we're told in the film that 'if the movie studio knew what Steve was getting up to on a Sunday, they'd have had a coronary...!' Hmmm. Quite.

Anyway, the film is about the motorcycle fanatics who spent every Sunday racing, back in the day, whether it was for fun, like the happy-go-lucky Malcolm Smith, or professionally. If you're a professional racer, you'll do anything to obtain and then hold onto that Number One plate you get when you win.

According to the film, the aforementioned Mert Lawwill, a motorbike-racing champion, spends over a thousand hours a year alone in his garage maintaining his motorbikes. No offence, mate, but you must have been the most boring guy on Earth back then...! Like Doctor Bushwell, the monkey scientist in THE SIMPSONS when they went to Africa. 'And then I go home and think about chimps until it's time for bed...!' Party animal much...?

As the racing season lasts a whopping eight months of the year, I doubt if Mert's wife and kids got to see a whole lot of Daddy during that period, or even recognised him when he finally fell through the door, exhausted, because racing takes so much out of you. Racing's like an insatiable woman who drains you dry and then immediately expects you to go again, the hideous bitch-goddess that she is. Only the strongest and fittest of men can keep up with her.

I liked hearing about the young, really good-looking professional racers like Gene
Romero, David Aldana, Dick Mann and Jim Rice, and the scrapes they were always getting into. There's some footage in the film of Jim Rice, a young blonde-haired fella, breaking his nose in a terrible bike crash, for example. There's a shot of him getting into the ambulance beside his sobbing girlfriend. Cue dramatic music, and fade to black or something.

I thought there was going to be a voice-over then saying that 'Jim Rice never rode again.' Not a bit of it. In the next scene, he's getting back up on his bike with a rag tied around his busted schnozz. Honestly, I don't know whether that's bravery or just plain stupidity. I do know that I would hate to be his girlfriend, having to watch him risk his life like that once a week.

Dick Mann was another guy who did an utterly crazy thing for the sake of motorcycle racing. He sawed the cast off his broken leg, broken only three weeks ago at the time of filming, and he got up on his bike and raced. From what I remember now, his foot didn't heal right in the end but I guess that's to be expected after that darned fool thing he did to it...!

They're like crash test dummies when they crash, these men, rolling over and over in slow motion like, well, crash test dummies. 'There's a certain beauty to road racing,' says our film-maker Bruce Brown in the voice-over, 'but it's also very dangerous.' Well, no s**t, Sherlock.

Why do they do it, these crazy men? What is it with men and speed? More to the point, what the f**k are they running away from? In Steve McQueen's case, I've read enough about his formative years to understand perfectly why he might have wanted to hop onto a bike or into a car and just roar off down the highway or across the lonely desert.

Those other guys, well, I guess they get off on the thrill, the excitement, the dusty glamour of it all, the adrenalin rush, and part of it has to be that they want to shake off the shackles of everyday life as well. Leave the wife and the kids and the chores and the yardwork behind, and hang out with other men in an environment so fuelled with testosterone that you can almost smell it.

It's a very male environment, the only mention of women in the film being in terms of wives and girlfriends, although there's a brief reference to a group of Sheilas calling themselves The Desert Daisies who presumably like to ride across the desert of a weekend.

If the actor Steve McQueen was indeed the poster boy for the sport, well, they couldn't have picked a more handsome, ruggedly masculine daredevil-type to do the job. He said that riding a motorbike made him 'feel good about life.' Anything that does that for a person should be encouraged. Within reason, of course...!

I'm not at all averse to riding myself, but of course it's a different kind of riding, heh-heh-heh. You mucky-minded lot, you all thought I was talking about sex, didn't you? Well, how wrong you all were. I was merely referring to my darling pony, Arabella. I keep her in Daddy's and Step-Mummy's stables and we've won tons of rosettes together, so there.

Check out the bit in the film about the annual Six-Day Trials in Spain, known to the motorcycle racers as 'the ultimate test of man and machine.' You ride two hundred miles a day for each of the six days, you keep to a strict time schedule, you maintain your own equipment and you can be disqualified if someone so much as hands you a wrench! You also lose marks every time you're, like, even a minute behind in your time schedule. The rules are unbelievably strict.

Steve McQueen's buddy Malcolm Smith has won the gold medal for this competition, which is an incredible achievement for any rider. Even when you've done your two hundred miles a day, you still have a load of special tests to do which sound dead hard. And can you imagine the chafing? Jaysis. Their inner thighs must be red-raw after a feat like that, not to mention their poor posteriors. Haemorrhoid cushions all round, eh what, chaps?

Anyway, this film is so accessible to the viewer that you don't at all feel like you're being hit over the head with technical terms like throttle, clutch and brake. The music is brilliant, there's tons of lively humour and attractive men from the early 'Seventies in it and a good few clips
of the sun-tanned and sun-bleached Steve McQueen, including an extra feature in which Bruce Brown reminisces fondly about his old friend. 

Men were still men in the 'Seventies. They had body hair and a musky odour and they didn't sit around the place crying about their problems like they do today, snigger. I like that there are men like that in this film. It's nice to be reminded of what men were like before political correctness, gender confusion and metrosexuality ruined 'em forever. Thank you, Bruce Brown, for this peep into a forgotten world of ultra-manliness. Oh, and I learned that tyres are an exact science as well. Feckin' hell...!

ON ANY SUNDAY is available to buy now from SECOND SIGHT FILMS in conjunction with AIM PUBLICITY. So too is THE ENDLESS SUMMER, a surfing documentary also by Brian Brown. Described by THE NEW YORKER as 'the perfect movie,' it is considered to be the definitive surf movie of all time.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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