Stone (1974)
By: Paul Ryan on March 8, 2009  | 
Severin (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 99 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Sandy Harbutt
Starring: Ken Shorter, Sandy Harbutt, Helen Morse, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Screenplay: Sandy Harbutt, Michael Robinson
Country: Australia
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At a Sydney environmental rally, a pro-green politician is gunned down by a sniper. The only witness – sort of – is tripped-out biker Toad (Hugh Keays-Byrne), member of motorcycle gang The Gravediggers. Before long, three members of the gang have been bumped off in highly-elaborate ways, including an unforgettable high-speed decapitation. Unable to convince these unruly longhairs to assist with their enquiries (what with their beige suits and comb-overs), the coppers send in Stone (Ken Shorter), apparently the only young-ish policeman in all of Sydney. Brooding, university educated, and with long, non-regulation locks, Stone offers to ride undercover with the Gravediggers in order to help root out whoever is bumping them off. Naturally, this doesn't initially sit well with their leader, The Undertaker (co-writer/producer/director Sandy Harbutt), who like the rest of the gang doesn't much care for the "pigs", but reluctantly accepts Stone into the gang.

Cut off from his upper-crust girlfriend (Helen Morse) and his middle-class life, Stone starts to gradually warm to the biker lifestyle, with its ethos of freedom, free love, and high-octane adventure. All the same, there's a case to be solved, and when the time comes, Stone finds his definition of justice is very different to that of The Gravediggers…

Loud, brash and silly in places, Stone might be a relic of its era, but it's an undeniably entertaining one. Filled with squealing tyres, whining guitars and hilarious dialogue ("Nobody's gotta know this cat's a pig!"), it's the kind of Aussie movie they sure as hell don't make anymore. There are bar fights, gang rumbles, a satanic biker funeral, skinny-dipping, strip poker, and Garry MacDonald as an unlikely mechanic. Woven into all the cheap thrills is a look at a sub-culture rarely explored in Australian film, and a palpable sense of time and place.

It goes on one scene too long, with a clumsy and unconvincing resolution, but up 'till then, Stone is a bracingly confident exploitation film. With a number of cast members (Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward, Vince Gill and Reg Evans) who went on to appear in the similarly bike-tastic Mad Max, it would make an ideal double-bill with that Aussie classic. It's a real shame then that this remains Sandy Harbutt's sole credit as a filmmaker, but at least it's a memorable one.
Stone looks pretty much okay in this 16x9-enhanced NTSC transfer. Reel change marks have been left in, along with some minor scratches and dust. The colour timing looks a bit off in places, but that's a minor gripe.
A remastered 5.1 surround soundtrack would probably seem out of place in a movie like this, which makes this Mono 2.0 track perfectly acceptable. Obvious lack of dynamic range aside, this is a good, clear audio transfer.
Extra Features

Theatrical Trailer (3.20m): Narrated by none other than John Laws (!), this is an amusingly dated trailer, and filled with all the high-speed highlights of the film.


The Making of Stone (22.48m): The original making-of featurette that aired on TV during Stone's theatrical release. Like the trailer, it is narrated by John Laws, who offers a unique pronunciation of the word auteur. Clips from the film are presented in colour, though the interviews and on-set footage are in black–and-white, which is how the whole thing would have aired in 1974 anyway. Harbutt is interviewed at length about the film, and couldn't be more different than the character he plays. A number of actual Hell's Angels discuss the biker lifestyle, which contrasts amusingly with the musings of the artistically-minded cast. Though he's not credited, this special was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, who would go on to make a number of classic Ozploitation films, such as The Man From Hong Kong, and Turkey Shoot.

Stone Makeup Test (8.10m): Silent test footage of a number of the cast in costume and makeup. Nothing special, but a neat inclusion all the same. Some of the makeup is pretty dodgy, but hey, that's what these reels are for.

Director's Slide Show (21.22m): What looks at first like just another still gallery becomes something a lot more interesting, as Sandy Harbutt narrates a fascinating slide show of pictures from the shoot. The most recently-produced item on this disc, Harbutt talks about almost every single person involved in the production, even talking about where each of them are today. In the absence of a commentary track, this is the next best thing, and a wonderful bonus feature.

Stone Forever (62.57m): Listed at the top of the special features menu, you really should save this one for last. Made for SBS Television to mark the film's 25th anniversary (and produced by Margaret Pomeranz), this documentary explores the impact Stone had – and continues to have – on biker culture in Australia. Starting with a reunion bike rally down the Gosford Highway (recreating the funeral procession from the film), Richard Kuipers' film delves into the genesis of Stone, its unorthodox production (the Hells Angels extras were paid in dope and beer), and release. Thoroughly mauled by critics, the film nonetheless did terrific business, even though local industry heads seemed deeply embarrassed by it. As depicted in this documentary, this lack of support from Australian industry heads made it difficult for Harbutt to promote the film abroad, and ultimately – and very depressingly – meant he never made another film. Despite this, Harbutt is remarkably free of bitterness, and he (alongside the other participants interviewed here) regards the film with great pride and affection. Going deeper, Kuipers profiles the fans at the reunion rally, some of whom are Vietnam vets, as in the film. It's here that we see how this film has impacted on a diverse range of people, and it is this aspect that makes Stone Forever truly, genuinely special.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
With its big bikes, funky soundtrack, and far-out dialogue, Stone is guaranteed to put hair on your chest. This bona-fide Aussie cult classic gets a DVD presentation that is nothing short of superb. In fact, it's one of those rare DVD presentations that truly conveys the unique essence of a cult movie phenomenon. The film itself is well worth seeing for anyone interested in vintage Ozploitation, but it's the extras (capped with the sensational Stone Forever doco) that really make this a must-have. Severin's 2-disc release is practically identical to Umbella's local release, so get whichever one's cheaper.

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