Starring: Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, John Jarrett, Phil Avalon
Director: Christopher Fraser
Rated: M 15+
Distributor: AV Channel
Sometimes B Grade films graduate to the realm of cult either through their association with actors who later went on to become major stars or because they’re simply so bad, they’re good. Summer City fits the former category in that it is the first film to feature Mel Gibson. He was studying at NIDA with his buddy Steve Bisley and both were cast as low-life surfies in the film which was shot in their ’75/’76 summer break. Bisley has the bigger part of the womanising Boo while Gibson is the cheeky Scollop, acting the lout in his thongs and stubbies. The boys are scooped up in a black Chevy by Phil Avalon (who also wrote and produced the ultra low budget film) and, with the more serious Sandy (John Jarrett) in tow, hit the road on a surfing safari to Catherine Hill Bay, on the east coast of New South Wales.
Along the way they behave like total wax heads, chucking brown eyes at old ladies out of the car window and lusting after every female in sight. When they arrive at their destination Boo succeeds in seducing a local lass in the town’s water tower, but the fun shifts into fear gear when her father decides to hunt him down. The old bugger is played by James Elliott from the cult ’70s TV series Number 96 and there’s also an appearance by that shows’ notorious sex bomb, Abigail as ‘woman in pub’ who strangely turns in one of the best performances in the entire film.
Summer City is set in the ’60s and there’s plenty of classic surf frenzy music in the soundtrack to make you aware of the fact as well as some amusing wave action on big mals. But this is one film I’m sure the actors would wish could be buried in Davey Jones’s Locker. Instead, it’s out on DVD for a whole new audience to see. Avalon calls it ‘a stepping stone’ and indeed Bisley and Gibson both went on to make the seminal Mad Max just a few years later. So if you want to know how it all began for these guys, take a look at this early attempt to set a dramatic story in the Australian surfing milieu and have a chuckle at how badly it flounders. ‘Surfing Life’ might have called it ‘the pinnacle of surf movie-making’ at the time, but boy (and phew), have we come a long way since then.