I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into with Stone (1974). I love exploitation flicks as much as the next guy, but biker films have always been a mixed bag for me. The same goes for Australian exploitation movies (or "Ozploitation", if you will) — I am quite possibly the only person in the world that wasn’t blown away by the Mad Max series.
Naturally, when I found out Stone was an Aussie biker flick (or “bikie” films, as they call them in Oz), I was a bit apprehensive.
My fears were quickly put at ease.
Stone tells the hard-hitting tale of an undercover cop (pretty boy Ken Shorter) who is given the opportunity to ride along with the Grave Diggers (led by the oddly-named Sandy Harbutt), after their gang members start getting bumped off one by one at the leather-gloved hands of a crafty assassin (hired by corporate bigwigs who want to rid their prime real estate land of those pesky motorcycle riders).
As campy as it may be, Stone is still a well-made independent feature. Sure, it has its downsides: the editing (a result of writer/producer/director/actor Sandy Harbutt’s dissatisfaction with his own original cut) often leaves you with a feeling of “Huh? What?”; the ending (as realistic as it may be) may leave the viewer feeling a bit disappointed (or depressed); and Ken Shorter really doesn’t cut it at all! That said, though, Stone still succeeds in making more of an impact than Mad Max did.
Witness the incredible funeral procession scene with 400 bikers, including members of Sydney’s Hell’s Angels. Be engulfed by Billy Green’s trancelike rock ’n’ roll soundtrack. And, most importantly, feel every blow to the body when the Grave Diggers make their final impact at the conclusion of Stone. And enjoy every minute of it.
As is far too often the case, legal issues prevented Stone from receiving a proper home video release in America. Thankfully, the matter has been cleared up (for a bit at least — you never know these days), and the twisted minds at Severin Films present Stone via a wonderful transfer and in an anamorphic 1.85:1 ratio. The picture (while grainy, occasionally soft, and having a bit of debris) looks great, and the film’s English Mono Stereo soundtrack comes through without a hitch.
Severin has also opted to release Stone in two different versions: a single-disc edition sporting a theatrical trailer (3:21) as the only special feature, and a two-disc special edition that contains additional goodies. The bonus material on the Special Edition starts out with Stone Forever (1999) (62:57), a making-of documentary from Richard Kuiper featuring cast and crew interviews, locations then-and-now, and footage of the Stone 25th Anniversary celebration in Sydney (which featured 35,000 bikers). Next up is the vintage featurette The Making Of Stone (22:48); a collection of silent make-up tests (8:10); and a Director’s Slideshow (21:23), narrated by Harbutt.
Even if you find it difficult to sometimes sit through a biker flick, Stone deserves a look.
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