My DVD Shelf: 'Stone'
One of the movies you'll notice me writing about or referring to frequently this coming year is the Ozploitation documentary "Not Quite Hollywood," a preposterously joyous celebration of a time when all it took to make a great film was a camera, an absolute lack of moral constraint, and a team of Aussie stuntmen willing to die as long as the shot looks good.
A biker drama called "Stone" is featured quite prominently in "Not Quite Hollywood," and by coincidence, exploitation label Severin Films has just released "Stone" as a special two-disc edition. Severin is a label whose titles really do push the envelope of exploitation, ranging from extreme gore to explicit sexuality. They've released such treasures as the "Black Emmanuelle" box sets (two volumes so far), Fulci's "The Psychic," "In The Folds Of The Flesh," and "Malabimba: The Malicious Whore." These are my kinds of people. I've been on their mailing list for a few years now, and it's always a pleasure to open any envelope they've sent.
With "Stone," they prove again why it's important to support distributors of this kind of fare. They're the ones who are willing to dig through piles of crazy movie ephemera just so they can discover these forgotten gems, movies that absolutely deserve to be part of the film freak canon but that just haven't gotten the right exposure for whatever reason.
The easiest way to describe the film is "Australia's 'Easy Rider'," but that's not entirely accurate or fair. "Easy Rider" is a romanticized view of the biker lifestyle, and even the tragic ending reinforces the notion that these characters will choose freedom over anything else. "Stone," on the other hand, is anything but romantic. These bikers are thugs, animals, creeps, and losers. There's a dirty, ugly quality to the film, and that near-documentary feel is what gives it such a charge.
Sandy Harbutt stars in the film, and he wrote and directed it, too, filling out the rest of his cast with real bikers as much as possible. There's an underlying plot that drives the film - one member of the club witnesses a political asassination while frying on acid - but the idea of someone killing off bikers one by one is less interesting than the candid look at the lifestyle that the film offers.
And as good as the film is, the documentary about the making-of that shows up on disc two is even better. Keep your eyes open for cast members from other iconic Australian films of the era (like the great Hugh Keays-Byrne) and buckle in for one of the stinkiest, hairiest, most authentic biker pictures made in any country or any decade.