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Follow Me
(1969)

Director: Gene McCabe  
Cast:
Claude Codgen, Mary Lou McGinnis, Bob Purvey


If you have been a regular reader of The Unknown Movies, you probably have some idea from my writings as to what kind of person I am in real life. One thing you probably have correctly guessed about me is that I have a big imagination and I am a dreamer. Indeed, I find myself several times a day, no matter the time or the situation I am in, daydreaming about my life and what I could do to make my lifestyle more exotic and interesting. One dream that goes through my head at least once every month consists of me throwing everything away and going on a trip around the world, and experiencing various unique and pleasurable leisure activities in each country that I would visit. Sounds nice... at first, that is. When I think about it some more, some problems that seemingly would inevitably happen run through my brain. The most obvious of these problems is money. I don't have a great deal of money, and it would soon run out with all those world travelling expenses, leaving me stranded. I don't know about you, but while Liechtenstein may be a swell place to visit, I wouldn't want to be stuck there for the rest of my life. Even if I was able to go back to my home country, I would no longer have my job or apartment, and I would be forced to live on the streets. Worst of all, I would then be unable to indulge in my main hobby, which is (of course) watching unknown movies and subsequently writing reviews of these movies in the hope of convincing other people to seek out and watch the unknown movies that have given me an overall pleasurable experience.

There's no doubt about it - real life, and the problems that it comes with have spoiled many a person's dreams to the point where many people won't even try to act out their dreams. But there is a way where you can kind of live out your fantasies, and that is with motion pictures. While you might not be able to act out your dreams, you can easily rent a movie that has the same subject matter and see people onscreen doing the things that you dream of doing yourself. When I think of the people who gave me a miserable time in school and I wish I could track down and beat them up, the fact of the criminal code stops me from doing so. (I know all too well what Charles Dickens meant when he said, "The law's an ass.") But I can rent a movie like Martial Outlaw and see people get beat up in spectacular ways, and that makes me feel better. With movies, I am also able to satisfy what I told you in the previous paragraph, my craving for traveling to various exotic locations. The "road trip" genre is one of my favorite movie genres. If you look at movies I have reviewed in the past, you'll see road trip movies that I have enjoyed, ranging from Your Three Minutes Are Up to Interstate 60. But it isn't just fictional road trips that I enjoy - I also enjoy documentaries that deal with real people leaving their humdrum lives behind and making big journeys to find themselves or to indulge in one of their hobbies. Biker Dreams was such a documentary I enjoyed, and so was On Any Sunday. I may never have ridden a motorcycle, and I don't care to ever do so, but those two documentaries had such a passion for freedom and having fun that I followed the people in those documentaries right to the end and wished I could have so much fun doing my own thing.

Of course I am not just interested in documentaries that have to do with motorbike riding. If the people in the documentary are making some kind of a trip, just about any indulgence they do along the way can interest me. This includes surfing. In the past, I have enjoyed surfing documentaries such as the two Endless Summer films. So you can imagine I was happy Follow Mewhen I got a chance to see the surfing documentary Follow Me, especially since it could also be considered an unknown movie, one that seems to have completely disappeared from view right after its theatrical release, only getting resurrected on DVD just a few years ago. True, some long-withdrawn movies have turned out to be not very good when resurrected years later (like Stanley Kubrick's Fear And Desire), but I like to think of all the times a great movie has been rediscovered. It promised to focus on several surfers making a world-wide trip to look for that perfect wave, but there were other things about it that interested me. For starters, it was handled by a fairly major Hollywood studio (Cinerama) of the time instead of an independent distributor like other surfing documentaries had to work with. Also, the musical score was provided by both Stu Phillips as well as the rock group Dino, Desi & Billy, a group that had a couple of top 40 hits during their run in the '60s. Not only that, from the description of the movie on the back of the DVD box, it promised to be a rip-off of The Endless Summer, with its surfer subjects travelling from one exotic place to another. As I said, I enjoyed The Endless Summer, so I was looking forward to reliving the great experience I had with that film.

Before the opening credits unfold in Follow Me, we are treated to a pre-credits sequence of a young woman driving down a stretch of highway that's almost deserted except for a hitchhiking surfer that she stops for. As the surfer climbs into the car, the camera makes a leery pan over the woman's cleavage and her bare legs. They drive off, and just as we think we'll take the movie's advice and follow her, the opening credits start to unfold. While they unfold, we are suddenly transported to the ocean to see a surfer (it's unclear if it's the same one who was hitchhiking) catch some waves while being pulled by a line attached to an (offscreen) motorboat. Shooting from a helicopter, the camera shoots the action at some very odd angles that you usually don't see in a surf movie. Far out. As the rest of the credits unfold, the movie makes another big jump to another location, the Los Angeles airport. We see two young men and a young woman fooling around on various locations around the airport, ranging from sitting on top of the terminal building to running around on the runway - stuff that should have gotten them arrested by airport security even back then. As the credits end, they board a jet, which promptly takes off into the sunset. While they sit and relax in their seats, a voice begins to narrate. "Some people might call this a wild adventure. We call it surfing around the world! We've done the surfing scene from the east coast to the west, and now we're off to foreign waters!" Continuing his narration, the speaker introduces his companions, a Mary Lou McGinnis, a Claude Codgen, and the speaker himself, Bob Purvey. At this point, you might think we will learn more about this trio, such as their backgrounds, relations with each other, or even their passion for the sport. But all we learn is that they've decided to call themselves "The Surf Corps", and that Bob likes to leer at stewardesses, which eventually gets him a pillow in the face by one of them.

Guess what the in-flight movie is? That's right - a surfing movie! So for the next few minutes, we see mediocre-to-okay footage of anonymous California surfers riding the waves, intercut with footage of our three subjects acting really goofy in their airplane seats. The movie's first sung song plays over all this, and it's not a promising start, with lyrics like, "When you're flying high / When you're flying high / See the world go by / See the world go by / When you're flying high..." Eventually, the surf film ends, and it's just when the jet is ready to land in their first stop, Lisbon. Next thing we see is the trio driving through the Lisbon countryside, which might have been nice to look at had the cameraman not slapped a "Day For Night" filter on the camera lens. When they get to the deserted beach, they discover that the weather is rough and the water is 40 degrees. But they hit the surf neverless, and the next few minutes show their attempts to surf the rough waves and look interesting while the overcast conditions make everything look grey and miserable. Things pick up subsequent days when the trio go under sunny skies to new beaches to surf, and we subsequently get some decent surfing footage. There is also some attempt to examine the local culture - that is, if you call stuff like doing laundry with some local women for about fifteen seconds. You never get a good idea as to what these Portuguese people think about these Americans and their unusual sport.

Next stop is Morocco, and the movie makes sure to start sterotypically with footage of a belly dancer. In the city of Casablanca, the trio bump into several other surfers from distant places like South Africa. My interest perked up here because I though we might get some interesting talk between all of these people. No such luck - the movie is in a hurry to get back to surfing, so these new people are quickly abandoned so The Surf Corps can hit the waves. (Maybe just as well, since the accents of the other surfers in this brief footage were too thick to make out.) More surfing footage. Then the trio heads to the local market while dressed up in local clothing in an attempt to be "cute", though I'm surprised the locals weren't insulted and didn't tear apart these kids.

After they are finished in Morocco, The Surf Corps head to Ceylon, where the first few minutes are spent absorbing the local color, from elephants to snake charmers. "Ceylon is one colorful happening!" exclaims Bob. But most importantly, at the beach it's, "Warm weather, good waves, and uncrowded conditions!" Needless to say, this prompts several minutes of surfing.

After they have finished with Ceylon, the trio takes a short trip to India. As they take the scenic route to the beach, Bob notes there are 500 million people in the country. He doesn't mention that neither he nor his friends make any effort along the way to talk to or get to know any of them. Well, when they reach the beach and spend several minutes surfing, they hand over their boards to the local kids to give them an opportunity to try and surf. Though that might be because The Surf Corps found surfing the challenging waves difficult, and needing enough footage decided that several minutes of amateurs falling off surfboards would bring some comic relief.

From what previously knew about Hong Kong, I never imagined it would be a surf spot. So when the trio next headed there, my interest perked up. Unfortunately, it was a letdown, not only just because the movie doesn't give any kind of local perspective. The trio does find a surfing spot, but the waves don't get any higher than two feet. Even the movie finds this particular surfing location boring, since it quickly moves from the beach to the trio running around a local temple (with no one else around.)

Japan is the next destination for the trio. In Tokyo, they are taken to "Summerland" - an indoor water park that has a gigantic pool that can generate waves. I thought this might be an interesting segment. Alas, we learn next to nothing about the pool or the people that use it. The Surf Corps eventually gets the pool clear of people so they can take their boards out and try this new kind of surf. But to be honest, seeing them surf in this environment didn't seem interesting. Surfing in the wide wild can look exciting, but somehow this artificial and cramped environment sapped out the excitement. The film seems to realize this, since in short notice Bob and Claude find a seventeen year-old Japanese girl that, according to Bob, "never seen a surfboard before in her life" (?) and get her to try surfing and fall off her surfboard like they did with the locals in India.

Finally, The Surf Corps make their last stop - Hawaii. Bob's narration praises the weather and the surf of Hawaii, so you might think that they would hit the beach right away. But the next few minutes are spent with them wandering around in the city. The reason for that probably is that the movie is only around the fifty minute mark when they reach Hawaii, and with no more scheduled stops they have to do something to stretch out the running time. Eventually, they get around to trying the Hawaiian surf, and for over twenty minutes - which is longer than all the previous surf footage we've seen put together - they try the surf in famous Hawaiian surf spots like Waimea and Sunset Beach. When the movie gets to an acceptable running time length, it wraps things up with Bob philosophizing about the three months he and his friends have spent travelling the world. What do they think about their experiences? They are "stoked". The end.

If you got the idea from reading my description of Follow Me that I am knocking this film, you would be right for the most part. Whether you are a surfer or a non-surfer, the odds are strong that you'll be very disappointed with this film. The movie makes no effort into making the three central figures particularly compelling in any way; you'll be wondering why the movie thinks they are worth following. There is very little insight into the various cultures and people the trio experience. There is also too little surf footage in most of the locations except for the last destination of Hawaii, which has too much footage. As well, unlike many other surf documentaries, you don't feel here that there is a love of surfing by the filmmakers. The movie is put together in a way that feels more mechanical than in a manner that has more passion. Still, the film is not completely worthless. Some of the surfing footage isn't that bad, and it's aided by the tuneful Stu Phillips background music as well as a few decent Dino, Desi & Billy songs. This isn't a movie to pay close attention to, or you'll see its many flaws. If you decide to watch it, choose a time when you are simultaneously working on something else - your taxes, ironing, or chopping vegetables for dinner. That way, your chore will be a lot easier to work on and you'll get out the limited amount of entertainment Follow Me has to offer without closely observing its many clunky moments.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Biker Dreams, In God's Hands, Skateboard Madness

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