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Film / On Any Sunday

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On Any Sunday is a 1971 feature film directed by Bruce Bowen.

It is a documentary about motorcycle sports. Many different types of motorcycle races and events are shown: time trials, desert races, multi-day cross country marathons, motocross, regular old races on closed tracks, and oddball events like sidecar racing and racing on ice. Two motorcycle riders receive the most attention in the film. The first part of the film concentrates on Mert Lawwill, who specialized in dirt-track racing (and unlike many of the other cyclists in this film was a full-time racer). The second part of the film mostly follows Malcolm Smith, who was an off-road racer, and is shown competing in the International Six Days Trial.

Steve McQueen, a motorcycle enthusiast (he insisted on a motorcycle scene in The Great Escape) and amateur racer, produced the film. He pops up on screen several times, including as a racer in the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix. (He finished 11th.)


  • The Big Race: A big dirt bike race in Sacramento, with the points championship for the season on the line and four racers with a chance to win it.
  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: A camera shot shows a tight closeup of a dandelion, as motorcycles race by out-of-focus in the background.
  • Camera Abuse: One P.O.V. Cam shot shows the lens on Mert Lawwill's forehead getting slowly spattered by dirt as he zooms around the track.
  • Canine Companion: One motorcyclist in the desert race is shown racing with his dog. The dog hangs on to a rug in front of the cyclist.
  • Documentary: Motorcycle racing in all its various forms.
  • Failure Montage: An entire scene consists of a montage of spectacular high-speed motorcycle crashes.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: One of the odder events is a challenge in which motorcyclists attempt to ride to the summit of a 500-foot hill, up a slope that is nearly 45 degrees. Over seven years, says the narration, no one has ever done it. The hill is called "Widowmaker Hill".
  • Narrator: Only a few scenes have synchronized sound; most of the film is carried by Bruce Bowen's narration.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Almost! There's a shot of Lawwill, Smith, and McQueen riding off into the distance on a Camp Pendleton beach by the water, but right after that there's a last shot of Smith silhouetted against the sun, before "The End" pops up.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Both Whitey Martino and Mert Lawwill had cameras affixed to their helmets. The narration says "Here's how it looks for Whitey" as Martino is zipping through the California desert at 65 mph or so, trying to dodge all the little scrub brushes that could send him flying.
  • Sarcasm Mode: The narration snarks that Lawwill and his assistant, while driving cross-country, are "hitting the gourmet restaurants along the way." Lawwill is shown contemplating a ghastly-looking hamburger at a roadside stand.
  • Stock Footage: Most of the film appears to be original footage, but there are a couple of interviews of Malcolm Smith from ABC's Wide World of Sports.
  • Stop Trick: The narration points out the danger of unseen ditches or mine shafts in the desert, then says "You can tell how someone found one by the way they disappear so quickly." Then a motorcycle disappears via a Stop Trick. (The next shot does in fact show a motorcycle at the bottom of a ditch.)
  • Undercrank: An experimental high-speed camera was used for many dramatic slo-mo shots of motorcycles flying through the air, spinning through turns, crashing, etc.
  • Vapor Trail: In what is almost definitely a staged comic sequence, a biker lost in the desert does what he's supposed to do, start a fire so the rescue squad will see the smoke. He dumps motorcycle fuel on a bush to get it to burn. What he neglects to consider is that he's dribbled a trail of fuel from the bush back to his bike. His motorcycle catches on fire.