Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
What's it about
Somebody is offing members of a motorcycle gang called The Gravediggers. A cop named Stone infiltrates the group and talks his way into posing as one of the bikers in an attempt to crack the case and catch a killer.
Is it good movie?
ďBefore MAD MAX and THE ROAD WARRIOR there was.... STONE.Ē Or so the two-disc special edition of STONE tells me. While it features lots of bike stunts and comes from Australia, STONE is not post-apocalyptic, and features a cast of actors and real-life bikers who would have seriously messed-up Mel Gibsonís pretty boy face back then. Writer-director Sandy Harbutt obviously wanted to make a movie that was true to bike culture, and it seems the movie connected with the intended audience, becoming a surprise hit upon its release in 1974. I never set the bar too high for these types of films, but I seem to have underestimated STONE. I feared the movie could be a grubby, dirty, disastrously shot piece of exploitation. Itís actually raw, gritty and exciting, with a few stunts and enough commitment to its subject that it turns out to be a pretty cool relic of 70s B-movie cinema.
The film is short on plot development and characterization and long on protracted biking montages and weird, tripped-out music. The Gravediggers themselves are major badasses with names like Pinball, Toad and Septic. Their leader is Undertaker (Harbutt), who has a dungeon-like hideaway overlooking the water, where pretty much everything goes down - everything except bathing. The acting boils down to a lot of one-note macho swagger, but there are some colorful characters. I wonít give away an early scene with Dr. Death (Vincent Gil) as the gang buries a fallen member, but it tells us instantly that the Gravediggers are also Satanists, and itís the most hilarious eulogy Iíve seen in a movie in some time.
Stone is played by Ken Shorter, and after his first appearance the story does move ahead, if only in fits and starts. While the members of the Gravediggers are skeptical about having a ďpigĒ in their midst, they grudgingly allow it. And Stone, of course, comes to admire their code of honor. It all leads to an ending that I was thinking is intended to be ironic. But no. Itís just meant to be brutal and true-to-life, I think. I havenít been in too many motorcycle gangs lately to tell you for sure.
Harbuttís handling of the bike scenes is at times fairly exhilarating, setting up cameras to capture the gang as they blaze along at about 100mph. He also distorts the focus and tries various tricks to simulate a drug hallucination in a few scenes when the characters pass around a joint. There is some innovative stuff going on here for a low-budget early 70s film. STONE certainly feels long enough at about 100 minutes. Apparently the original cut to hit Australian theaters was around 125 minutes, and I canít imagine the amount of useless filler that was crammed into that. The trimmed version still has a threadbare plot, but thanks to Harbuttís successfully gritty approach, STONE works as a great guilty pleasure.
Video / Audio
Video Widescreen 1.85:1 - the film looks surprisingly good. I was expecting something a bit more "raw" I guess, and although the print is showing some age it still looks pretty good.
Audio Dolby Digital and Mono
The amusing Theatrical Trailer is the only extra to accompany the film on Disc One.
On Disc Two, the major attraction is Stone Forever, which runs over an hour and is an extensive documentary with new cast and crew interviews. It also chronicles the 25th anniversary of STONE in 1999, where 35,000 bikers (holy crap) showed up to watch the film. At least one of them died in a collision on the trip there. You do get a real sense of the impact that this film left on its audience, and there are some good insights into the motorcycle culture.
The Making of Stone is about 22 minutes long and is a promotional tool back from the filmís original release.
Stone Make-up Test shows raw footage of make-up tests on various actors to make them look dirty enough to be a Gravedigger. Thereís no sound to this extra.
Rounding everything out is the Director's Slideshow, which features a whole whack of still photographs from Sandy Harbutt.
If you like bikes, bike movies, or retro 70s cinema (or all of these things), I think you should watch STONE one night. The 2-disc special edition certainly comes packed to the rafters with extras for fans. And the film itself remains audacious enough to still be of interest today.