By Daniel Austin
I'll admit that I didn't "get it" right off the bat. As I sat in an aisle seat in the front row of the Cochrane Movie House, I was trying to wrap my head around why exactly so many people had turned up to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the movie RAD.
I could appreciate how beautifully the BMX scenes were shot. My crush for Lori Loughlin—a crush I share with any male who grew up watching Full House in the early 1990s—reached a fevered pitch the moment I saw her driving down 1st Avenue and didn't let up until the closing credits. And seeing Cochrane in all its mid-1980's glory was certainly interesting.
But there had been people stopping into the Cochrane Times office last week who had travelled from as far away as Atlanta, Georgia to celebrate the movie's anniversary, and for the film's first 45 minutes, I just couldn't wrap my head around why.
But then, something happened.
It was right as the film's main character, a local BMX rider named Cru (I think I may just have found a name for my future son), was lining up at the starting gate for the final race of qualifying.
The chant started quietly at first, just one or two people. But soon, the entire crowd was ecstatic and I was on the edge of my seat yelling along with them.
"Cru! Cru! Cru!"
From that moment on, I understood. RAD may not crack the American Film Institute's top 100 films list any time soon, and most people may not even know it exists, but for the people in that theatre on Saturday night, it meant something.
The people who filled the Cochrane Movie House weren't appreciating RAD with some ironic hipster distance. No, the people I spoke with after the show had all discovered the movie at some point in the last quarter-century, and they had fallen in love with it.
Whether it was seeing their favourite sport on the big screen, with some of the top athletes in mid-1980's BMXing shot in the beautiful Alberta light, or the simple story of a local guy beating the odds and becoming a hero, RAD had resonated with a lot of people over the years. And on August 20 in Cochrane, it was their night to celebrate.
When the final credits rolled and the cast and crew took to the stage, the audience roared before settling in and giving them the chance to reflect on the time they spent in Cochrane filming. Bill Allen, who played the aforementioned Cru, was asked about how many of the film's BMX stunts he performed personally, and he didn't hesitate before answering.
"Every single one of them," he laughed. "No, I can't do anything, I can barely stay on a bike and drive straight. That's why they had the best stunt riders in the world come in."
Director Hal Needham then took the time to tell the story about how he chose Cochrane to film. He said he'd previously filmed Little Big Man in Alberta in 1969, and came up to scout locations around Calgary for RAD with the Calgary Film Commission. When he got to Cochrane, he called off the search.
"They brought me out here and I just said 'this is it,''' he said.