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The seventies hold a special place in time for me. 1974 was all about
(in no particular order) Motorcycles, beer, LSD, marijuana, underground
comics (freak brothers), Hawkwind, my girlfriend Karen and of course
Stone (the movie).
Outlaw Motorcycle clubs were a lot different in Sydney back then, riding motorcycles (and drinking beer) was our only purpose in life. Back then only an idiot would ride a Harley and the dream bike was the Kawasaki Z1 900 that had only just been released. So imagine a film like Stone blasting it's way onto the screen resplendent with custom painted Kawa 900's! We were mesmerized, personally I remember seeing it 6 times at the local cinema.
Watching it today opens the gates to memory lane, those that use the F3 freeway north of Sydney will appreciate the shots of the road in the funeral procession scene; the road was brand new then! And the shots of the lower North Shore and Pittwater are truly a piece of Sydney's history. Note the absence of traffic.
Forget the acting, when you're 18, off your nut on drugs and that Z1 starts up with the baffles removed at the beginning of the movie, it's mind blowing!!! Non bikers can turn off here :O) Midnight's black Kawa 900 was my favorite, come to think of it, how many indigenous Aussies had a real part in a movie before this? Not many I'd say...
I've now been riding bikes for 35 years now and Stone still holds a special place in my heart. 10 outa 10 for Sandy.
Cosmic flash, and there ya go...
'Stone' was a labour of love for adman turned actor Sandy Harbutt, a biker enthusiast who took four years to get the script written by he and his pal Michael Robinson (who incidentally plays Pinball in the finished movie) on to the big screen. Many have slammed this movie as laughable, but I say look, it's a low budget exploitation movie with many non-actors in the cast, and if you take that into consideration it's a pretty good effort. Just compare it to an A.I.P. movie from roughly the same period and it's not that bad. The acting ranges from poor to above average, and while much of it is obviously dated and even a little silly at times, it manages to give a fairly realistic look at the 1970s Aussie outlaw bikie scene. It was certainly given the thumbs up by many Australian bikers at the time, and that's good enough for me. A few members of the supporting cast went on to bigger and better things (e.g. Helen Morse, Bill Hunter), but most of the major players were biker pals of Harbutt and have disappeared from the Australian acting industry. Ken Shorter (who looks a bit like the late Bon Scott at times) plays Stone, an undercover cop who joins The Grave Diggers bikie gang to try and find out who is killing them one by one. Shorter is one weak link in the movie. An ex-cop himself before acting he is pretty wooden and dull on screen. Much better is Harbutt himself who plays the Grave Diggers leader Undertaker. Also good is Rebecca Gilling who plays Undertaker's girl. Gilling was something of a TV sex symbol in the 1970s and looks beautiful, and yes, there is some brief but memorable full frontal nudity. The real stand out performance is by Hugh Keays-Byrne as Toad. Keays-Byrne was lured by Harbutt from a touring Shakespeare company and has lived and worked in Australia ever since, later playing Toecutter in 'Mad Max' and appearing in such cult favourites as 'The Man From Hong Kong', 'The Salute Of The Jugger' and 'Mad Dog Morgan'. He is terrific on screen from his opening acid freakout scene to his memorable final moments. Hugh Keays-Byrne I salute you! And I salute 'Stone', one of the most enjoyable movies ever made here in Australia. 'Stone' is a classic slice of 1970s biker exploitation and I highly recommend it.
Although it now looks rather dated, you must remember that when this movie was made, Australia was a very conservative place. This film broke a lot of new ground in the early 70's. Firstly, it was all Australian. Written, Produced, Directed and Starring. Not an American in sight. Secondly, it contained shots of male and female nudity. Thirdly, it was extremely gory and violent for it's day. But, the biggest thing it had going for it was it's incredible bike stunts.(Have you ever seen a Kawasaki Z900 do a wheelstand?) There's some fantastic locations in and around Sydney, and the funeral procession is spectacular, but the opening 10 minutes, or so, will have you on the edge of your seat. For those of you who are interested, 4 of the actors starring in "Stone" (Vincent Gil, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward and Reg Evans) would later appear in George Miller's "Mad Max". It must be something about motorbikes!
Back in '74 the tag line for STONE was "Take the Trip!" By the time the
critics had finished savaging this bikie saga, not that many people DID and
STONE was headed for cinematic 'Boot Hill.' A funny thing happened though -
somewhere along the line it was never fully erased from the collective
public conscience and in due course the "legend of Stone" was created - to
such an extent that now it is regarded as the "Bikie's bible" and sits
proudly in the "70's Hall of fame" of Aussie film-making.
It's not even a GOOD flick, either in script, acting or production values. What it DOES offer is high voltage energy and action sequences, mind you the flick is way overlong and quite tedious at times. The plot, such that it isn't, has cop Ken Shorter (at the time riding high on account of his role in YOU CAN'T SEE AROUND CORNERS) infiltrating a bikie gang to see who is knocking off their members with gay abandon. Now Shorter was about as realistic an underground cop as Mark Wahlberg would be playing Harry Potter. What the film DOES offer now in retrospect, is a cast-list not far short of the who's who of seasoned Aussie actors and actresses, all pretty much unknown then. Strictly 70's film-making it paved the way for such as MAD MAX and must be acknowledged for that. Check out the Funeral scene on the Gosford Freeway! - heady stuff!
For me personally, I will always retain a soft spot for this film. I knew Sandy Harbutt and Helen Morse (then his wife) quite well during the making of this film as they purchased my beloved 1952 Riley 2 1/2 litre sedan from me, for the princely sum of $740. (You could add a zero to that today and then DOUBLE it!) Like that beautiful car, the film now remains a classic of its time!
This picture is excellent. It's a slice of the rougher side of Australian life in the 70s. Everything fits together and the whole is a great hour-and-a-half Aussie yarn. I recent managed to catch a screening on the big outdoor Moonlight Cinema screen in Sydney. It fantastic to see it up on the big screen. Take the trip
I'd just like to add that the version of this movie shown on TV and available on VHS and DVD is cut, the original movie was about 20 minutes longer but was cut for it's American release and was only ever shown in full during it's original 1974 release at Australian theater's. Seeing the full original version ties in some of the loose ends, but as far as I know the full version has never been released for commercial sale, though it was available for purchase at the 25'th anniversary Stone run in Sydney back in 1999, which I attended. The actual Kawasaki Z900's featured in the movie were offered for sale at theater's during the original 1974 release, when I saw the movie at the local drive-in back then there were three of them on display in the refreshment kiosk being offered for sale.
Up until Mad Max was released five years later, this was the biggest cult movie down under. Members of the Grave Diggers Motorcycle Club are being knocked off, so a cop joins the gang working as an undercover agent. Eventually, he becomes one of the lovable Satanists. Fans of the American biker movies from AIP should check this one out. While those well-remembered films could be thought of as cash-ins on the Biker subculture, this one is far from that. Director Harbutt was an enthusiast for motorcycles and put a lot of effort into this little film. It's uneven and certainly isn't polished, but its entertaining enough to see why it's a cult classic. On the plus side, it avoids the misogyny that plagues many of these films. On the down side, Ken Shorter's performance as the undercover cop Stone is one of the dullest portrayals ever in a movie. This square wouldn't last a week in a real biker gang. While that does drag the film down a bit, it's certainly not a kiss of death. So jump on your Kawasaki and roam around a bit trying to find a bootleg of this one. (6/10)
The closest equivalent of "Easy Rider"; in my view, even better than that
A simple plot. Someone is systematically murdering a group of bikers, one by one. An undercover cop is reluctantly accepted by the group as a part-time member to try to find the murderer. He quickly gains a lot of credibility with the bikers; even some respect.
The plot is oversimple, the dialogue is stilted, the film is corny, the characters are totally without depth, the acting is poor. However, the same could be said of movies such as "Deliverance". But none of that matters. The "ambience" of life as a biker is what matters; and again as in movies such as "Deliverance", the 1970s "feel" of the picture, the action, the "macho": that is what is important.
To those such as I, who remember those times, it is nostalgic. To those who are too young to remember those times, a glimpse of the wilder side of life as it "used to be".
Finally, no review of this movie would be complete without some discussion of the two "on the road" scenes. The low-angle shot of the bike race; and the helicopter view of the funeral procession down the F3 freeway can both rightfully be called "classics" of the motor vehicle movie genre. Every bit as spectacular and "significant" as, for example, the chase scene in "Bullitt" or the crowded street race in "The Italian Job".
Yes, it's very, very silly and 70s-ish. None of the characters are likeable. But, apart from the scenery and cinematography, it still has an endearing quality; it seems like the film-makers and actors were really trying to be genuine and sincere. That's what makes it such a re-watchable film.
This film is a bit of a classic for Australians, particularly those of us in Sydney who remember the day the biker convoy scene was shot. Though the story is a little dated and corny after all these years, it's worth another look, if only for nostalgia value.
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