Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"On Any Sunday" -- No Easy Riders

Cleveland Press September 3, 1971

"On Any Sunday" is a motorcycle movie without a single Hells Angel in sight, nor any other scabrously horrifying creatures. It is about the professional and dedicated amateur motorcycle riders who turn out every Sunday and quite a few other days to risk life and limb in competition.

Turned out by Bruce Brown, the man who followed surfers around the world in "Endless Summer," "On Any Sunday" also follows a handful of the four million or so cyclists who show up at the major and grueling cycle events across the nation and in several European spots as well.

He has made an appealing and often captivating movie that will interest not only the cyclist but even hold the attention of some of us who have never ridden.

Brown's cameras (he also was one of the photographers) are everywhere -- in helicopters, in the crowd and seemingly on the handlebars and in the saddles of quite a few of the bikes.

He never fails to emphasize the danger of the sport, and even though he shows one rider walking away from a spill made at 120 miles per hour it also is clear that many don't make it.

Brown shows us what the men do, how they do it but never why they take the risks they do. For the pros it can't be money -- the top racer in the country is shown spending most of the year away from home, grossing $50,000 a year and netting $20,000 after expenses. Imagine how little the thousand of also rans make?

And for the amateurs it certainly can't be for much more than some sort of self satisfaction for of glory there is little.

But what is it that makes a man knock the cast off a leg broken two weeks before, stuff his swollen foot into a boot and race? Or take a cast off a broken back to ride in competition? Or try again with a broken shoulder less than two weeks after the accident?

Perhaps part of the appeal of Brown's movie is a kind of morbid fascination with the whole thing. Maybe not only the cyclists but audiences as well would provide material for a whole team of psychiatrists.

Meanwhile there is "On Any Sunday" which managed to offer a nice change of pace in spite of the singleness of subjects. There are all kinds of races and Brown examines them all.

He follows them all -- on a track, through a town, cross country in Spain, sweeping across the Mohave desert back here. There is racing on ice in Quebec with two-inch spikes on the wheels and heaven help you if you take a spill and one of those bikes go over you.

He uses all the tricks; slow motion, freeze frames, instant replay. Collisions and spills get the most attention.

Some of the top riders on the circuit are followed closely -- especially Malcolm Smith and Mert Lawwill.

And so are some of the better and dedicated non-pros -- namely actor Steve McQueen finishing 10th at Elsinore, Calif., out of a field of 1500. (He entered as Harvey Mushman. As McQueen he helped finance the movie.)

Clearly any enterprise that causes so many to abandon sanity so completely, even if only on a Sunday afternoon, deserves examination and "On Any Sunday" does the job extremely well and entertainingly.