STONE: DVD (2 disc set)
Members of Sydney's The Gravediggers pot smoking, self styled outlaw bikie gang barge in on a Save the Environment rally at the Domain - to stir things up a bit - when one (stoned) member, Toad (Hugh Keays-Byrnes), witnesses a gunman assassinate the speaker. When the gunman starts knocking off members of the gang - to silence any potential witnesses - undercover bike-riding cop Stone (Ken Shorter) is sent in to find the killer. He fronts up to the gang at their watering hole, but isn't welcome, until he prevents another assassination attempt on the gang; with reservations, he is allowed to stay and ride with the Grave Diggers ...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A human skull wearing a slouch hat is the film's graphic logo - and the skull isn't smiling. This is Grave Diggers territory, a bikie gang in 70s Sydney, who do drugs and worship Satan. Their leader is Undertaker (Sandy Harbutt); others are nicknamed Dr Death (Vincent Gil) and Septic (Dewey Hungerford) and Captain Midnight (Bindi Williams). You can smell the rebellious, anti-establishment mood even on this re-release 2-disc DVD - a much higher quality transfer than the 2001 issue DVD.
It's worth noting that the first line of dialogue is from a speaker at an environment rally - back then, in 1974 - who asks 'How long must we tolerate the destruction of our environment by irresponsible industry.' This helps to make the film relevant even now on its re-release, if nothing else. Society has changed, but film is a great source of social history and Stone is a snapshot of its times.
Sandy Harbutt is the film's creator and its soul; he wrote, produced, directed and designed the film - and the skull logo - and has become a central icon in the film's legacy as it continues to touch its primary target audience - motorcycle lovers and fellow travellers, who reject mainstream society, who do not salute authority with unreserved respect. But it's not without a sense of humour. For example, when a cop starts asking questions about the gang after they've buried one of their own, a local shopkeeper informs him they're a religious sect ... "They're Satanists .." To which the cop (Slim De Grey) mumbles, "Oh, hell..." In another humorous and inventive moment, a musician being questioned by Stone accompanies himself on vibes and drums.
But the film's primary theme is the loyalty that glues these characters together. Their common interest - on the surface - is motorbikes. But there is more to the need to belong, and Harbutt's script (co-written with Michael Robinson) touches on some of the issues, like insecurity, vulnerability and lack of acceptance by mainstream society. These are not that new as subjects for film, but Australia has had very few such cinematic explorations. Mad Max, which is sometimes mentioned in discussion about Stone, is about totally different themes.
Ken Shorter's hippy undercover cop, Stone, is a minimalist creation despite his first appearance on a motor bike in a white suit. It's a contrast to the heated reception by an excitable bunch of bikies, and adds texture to the film. As do the superbly staged and shot (often high speed) bike riding sequences.
Sometimes violent, and not just in a physical sense, Stone portrays a part of Sydney life that was always feared, misunderstood or shunned. It doesn't judge or excuse its characters, but tries to put them in context. This cult still has a following ....
Indeed, in 1998, 25 years after its release, over 30,000 motorcyclists gathered in Sydney for a memorial ride to celebrate. Filmmaker and critic Richard Kuipers (who for 10 years produced The Movie Show at SBS with David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz) produced the excellent documentary Stone Forever, which is included on Disc 2, along with a comprehensive 1974 feature on the making of the film, narrated by radio star John Laws.
Another memorial ride is scheduled for November 2008.
Published: April 24, 2008
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STONE: DVD (2 disc set) (R)
CAST: Sandy Harbutt, Ken Shorter, Deryck Barnes, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward, Vincent Gil, Dewey Hungerford, James H. Bowles, Bindi Williams, John Ifkovitch, Lex Mitchell, Rhod Walker, Owen Weingott, Slim DeGrey, Ray Bennett, Bill Hunter, Helen Morse, Rebecca Gilling, Susan Lloyd, Rosalind Talamini, Victoria Anoux, Jane Gilling, Eva Ifkovitch, Drew Forsyth, Gary McDonald
PRODUCER: Sandy Harbutt, David Hannay
DIRECTOR: Sandy Harbutt
SCRIPT: Sandy Harbutt, Michael Robinson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Graham Lind
EDITOR: Ian Barry
MUSIC: Billy Green
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sandy Harbutt
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
PRESENTATION: 1.77:1 - 16:9 enhanced; DD 2.0; Two disc reissue
SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1: Stone. Disc 2: Stone Forever - 25th anniversary celebration documentary by Richard Kuipers; Making of, narrated by John Laws; director's slide show; make up test; trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
DVD RELEASE: April 14, 2008