Motorcycles, babes, and violence done up Aussie-style!
The Grave Diggers outlaw motorcycle club has a bit of a problem: someone is murdering members of their motorcycle gang, one by one. Stone, an undercover cop, has been assigned to the case. It’s up to him to try and find out who exactly is killing off the bikers.
Sandy Harbutt has directed and co-written a film reminiscent of so many other American biker films of the late ’60s and ’70s except for one thing: this film was extremely well-directed and full of excellent cinematography, almost reminiscent of the long landscape-filled shots of Easy Rider (1969). Stone has that kind of “free-for-all” vibe to it, especially as it is accompanied by a rocking soundtrack that covers so many different styles as befits the time period of the ’70s. Many biker films have atrocious acting and a plot filled with holes upon holes and really not too much structure, but I felt that Stone had a plot that moved along swiftly, had lots of action, really great editing and a fair amount of nudity (both male and female). The women in the film were not your stereotypical ugly biker chicks, which probably may not be that true to life as most biker chicks are not supposed to be that attractive, so I have read and heard.
Sandy Harbutt also plays the Undertaker, leader of the Grave Diggers. The titular Stone, the rebellious cop and lead character, was played by Ken Shorter. The rest of the motorcycle gang members had some classic biker names, such as Toad (Hugh Keays-Byrne who was also Toecutter in Mad Max), Hooks (Roger Ward who played Fifi in Mad Max), Dr. Death (Vincent Gil who also played Nightrider in Mad Max), Septic (Dewey Hungerford), and Stinkfinger (James H. Bowles) whose name is my personal favorite. Stone has been tagged an Australian cult film and I see why it has amassed such a strong following, for it was instantly unique.
Aside from the panoramic shots of bikers cruising the highways of the coast of the land down under (cinematography provided by Graham Lind), the film boasted this intense and extremely acid-trip style of hippie-funk experimental rock that really blew me away. The opening sequence had edits that paused as each credit appeared on the screen, showing a biker go through the steps of starting up his Kawasaki 9000 motorcycle until the title appears and the film instantly starts off with its first fatality via decapitation! We have Ian Berry to thank for the cool and crisp edits throughout the film. In the first 15 minutes, three bikers are already murdered, giving this film a sorta of early Dario Argento mystery edge to it, but it isn’t that type of film at all. Or maybe this is going to be an all-out kill-fest, one won’t know until completion of the film. Stone just crosses in and out of genres, taking the best parts of them and molding the story into a coherent and well-oiled machine, tying up any loose ends and completely taking me by surprise by the films’ ending.
One of the most breathtaking scenes involves a large shot of the whole gang riding with the coffin of one of their murdered mates to the grave-site, riding along the coastal highway and accompanied by classical music. One can almost forget that one is watching a gritty, rough, bad-ass cult biker film. The scene was actually quite beautiful and very emotionally evocative. As soon as one is accustomed to the lovely classical music, BAM!, the film switches gears and jumps into some laid-back funk with some heavy soul bleeding from it, provided by Billy Green. Edited with close-up shots of individual bikers, back to wide panoramic shots and back again to close-ups, I would say the editing of this film, done by Ian Berry, was top-notch for a biker film that I am sure many were dismissing at the time it came out.
But quite possibly the funniest use of music in the film or any film for that matter, was in a scene where the “pigs” come to crash the gang’s “satanic ceremony”, the guise used to grant the gang the freedom to conduct a funeral for their fallen brother, and the music written sounds like a smorgasbord of pig grunts and oinks, almost indescribable for words, and just fit so well in making fun of the police through the use of the films’ soundtrack. Stone just had so many unique and tiny bits and pieces integrated into the film that were extremely enjoyable, making the viewing of it a unique and almost shameful experience.
Why shameful you ask? Shameful to me because: 1. I had not heard of this film before and 2. that this may possibly be one of the best biker films I have seen to date, closely on par with Easy Rider. As far as films from Australia, the only ones that I can think of that really impressed me were the Mad Max trilogy and a few recent horror films. Now I know that I need to find out what other hidden gems the land from down under has to offer!
Do yourself a favor and go rent Stone. The film has character, excellent camera-work, and a solid cast of characters that all acted in some really believable performances. I am glad that Severin Films brought this dusty old flick out into circulation again for us in the States to check out.