Sunday, December 28, 2008

STONE (1974) d. Sandy Harbutt

Reviewed by Simon Oakland

After a member of the motorcycle club called "The Grave Diggers" witnesses a political assassination, the entire gang finds themselves on the hit list. At wit's end and with extreme reluctance, they allow an undercover cop to ride with them in the hopes that the killer or killers will be apprehended. Initially suspicious, over of the course of the film The Grave Diggers come to respect Stone as one of their own. Although the plotline of "outsider becomes accepted" is familiar and the fodder of many a mainstream Hollywood movie (consider KUNG FU PANDA, if you will), may I remind you that this is an early 70s Biker exploitation film. True to the form established by EASY RIDER some five years earlier, everything culminates in a typically downbeat, nihilistic fashion unbecoming of the usual disney movie.

If you're going to bother watching a biker flick you certainly can't do much better than STONE. I don't know if it's the Australian take on the genre or what, but I found this film to be extremely entertaining and enjoyable from start to finish. I'll confess that I really have no love for biker films. For every EASY RIDER there's about ten SIDEHACKERS, and even when the genre is crossed with horror like WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS the results are tedious at best. But STONE is well written, expertly photographed with, at times, amazing "psychedelic" visuals, and has a killer Rock 'n Roll soundtrack. I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone everywhere go buy this sucker this instant! To slightly paraphrase our good friend Wilford Brimley: "You'd be a fucking dickwad not to." If I have one negative comment to make about STONE it's about the character of Stone himself. As he is portrayed by Ken Shorter he's much too lackluster of a personality to warrant being the focus of the story. Still, there are plenty of other far more interesting secondary character's on hand to keep one's attention from drifting, such as director Sandy Harbutt himself as the leader of The Grave Diggers.

Severin offers STONE in two slightly different packages: There's the barebones edition with the only extra being a theatrical trailer, and a 2-Disc Special Edition with the nearly feature length documentary "Stone Forever" which features interviews with the cast and crew during the 25th Anniversary celibration of this certified Australian cult classic. If you love STONE then you'll love STONE FOREVER as well because it's just as entertaining as the main feature itself. Also included: The STONE Makeup Test, the Director's Slide Show, and "The Making of STONE", the original black and white documentary that was produced at the time of the original filming and which is continually referenced to in STONE FOREVER. If you are a STONE fan like I am now, then the 2 Disc Special Edition is the only way to go. Best release of the year!


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