One of my favorite less known 80’s movies is White Water Summer (released in 1987). It’s the story of a tour guide named Vic (Kevin Bacon) who takes a nerdy city kid named Alan (Sean Astin) and three other boys out into the wilderness to hike and experience how to live off the land for a few days. Things start out okay but Alan starts making mistakes making the other kids dislike him. Vic decides that the only way to make Alan toughen up is to make him figure out his own way to make up for his mistakes. When he takes that theory too far and leaves Alan dangling from a cliff, the other boys turn against Vic and demand to go home. Eventually Alan finds his way back onto the trail and joins the other boys as they run away from Vic and try to make their way home. After Vic catches up with them, he falls and breaks his leg and relies on the boys to help him get out of the wilderness alive.
At times the story is broken up and told by an older Sean Astin as a narrator to the movie. Astin appears to be much a couple of years older in these scenes. Curious about why Astin looks different in many of the scenes, I Googled it and found this quote from a GenCon Q&A session from 2003:
It took a long time to get the movie made, for a number of reasons, and the amount of time that it took to get the movie made was in the sweet spot of my puberty. (laughter) I started it at like 13 or 14 and then we finished the movie and there was a change of studio heads; David Putnam was the head of Columbia and he left as head of Columbia and then somebody else came in and the new regime at Columbia didn’t know what they wanted to do with the movie. And the movie had some problems and then we went back like six months later to shoot some scenes and they STILL couldn’t figure out what to do with it so we went back six months after that; we went down to New Zealand, did some white-water sequences, then we went back like three months after that AGAIN and then like a year later they called me and said ‘listen, we just want to shoot some on-camera narration. So, I was like 13 when we started and 16 or 17 when we did the narration and. yeah. So, that’s why.
The soundtrack to the movie is pretty awesome and features a lot of good 80’s bands. Some of my favorite songs from the movie include:
- Bruce Hornsby – Wild Frontier
- Bruce Hornsby – On The Western Skyline
- Cutting Crew – Life In A Dangerous Time
So I get why this movie was never really popular. Sure it drags a bit towards the middle and isn’t always too exciting but there’s some pretty decent acting from Bacon and Astin combined with nice scenery and a killer soundtrack and it came out when I was about the age when I started getting into the outdoors more so I could relate. To this day I still find this movie watchable and will continue to watch it and show it to my kids one day.