Release Date(s)1978 (June 7, 2022)
Studio(s)Kino Lorber Studio Classics
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B-
Call it what you will—documentary, mockumentary, rockumentary—but no one word fully describes the insanity and entertainment value found within Stunt Rock. Brian Trenchard-Smith’s wildly over-the-top slice of rock and roll exploitation, which was made prior to Christopher Guest’s and Rob Reiner’s seminal This Is Spinal Tap, was filmed at break-neck speed and completed in a few short months, from script to screen. It didn’t find its footing upon its initial theatrical release and went through a number of title changes, including Sorcery and the bland-as-water Crash, but it became a cult favorite many years later thanks to repertory screenings and its inclusion in the Australian filmmaking documentary Not Quite Hollywood.
The thin-as-paper plot revolves around real life stuntman Grant Page traveling to Los Angeles for stunt work in a film, befriending reporter Lois (Margaret Trenchard-Smith) along the way, as well as his get-up-and-go co-star Monique van de Ven (as herself). In between jobs, he tells them split-screen tales about the many extreme stunts he’s performed over the years, some not working out that well, but always pushing the boundaries of sanity and safety. His Amercan-based cousin introduces them all to the band Sorcery, a Peter Gabriel’s Genesis meets Kiss spectacle of heavy metal and magic wherein the King of the Wizards endlessly battles the Prince of Darkness whilst their brand of electrifying hard rock plays in the background.
In other words, there’s no need to follow a plot in this film. It’s not concerned with story mechanics or fleshing out characters, though it occasionally attempts to remind you that you’re watching a movie by shoehorning in a love story between Grant Page and Lois. The real stars of the show are the incredible stunts and Sorcery’s stage show, and the final film is jam-packed with both. Stunt Rock managed to achieve midnight movie status ala The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but it still flies under the radar of many genre fans who’ve never even heard of. But if you’ve made frequent trips to festival screenings or an Alamo Drafthouse, or purchased a trailer compilation disc, you’ve more than likely been exposed to Stunt Rock.
Stunt Rock was shot by cinematographer Robert Primes (as Bob Carras) on 35 mm film using Todd-AO 35 cameras and anamorphic lenses, finished photochemically, and framed at the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time in the US utilizing the exact same master that was included on the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release (their logo is at the front of the film). That master is sourced from a 4K scan of the film’s interpositive. Minor flaws aside, Stunt Rock has never looked better. Because the film uses various bits of footage of Grant Page’s stunt work, as well as a few opticals, it tends to have uneven grain and a bit of softness, but it appears organic and true to its source. Detail is boosted over the now twenty-year-old DVD release, especially during the concert sequences. The color palette in the scenes offers a wide range of hues, particularly the various colored lights and costumes. Swatches of green, red, and blue around the city are also potent. Blacks are deep with good shadow detail and the image is stable with good contrast. Only mild scratches and frequent speckling are leftover. It’s an imperfect-looking film, but it looks spectacular on Blu-ray.
The audio is included in English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. The film was originally released in 4-track stereo, which is sadly not represented here. What we have instead is a track that borders on mono. The mildest of stereo activity can be experienced, but you really have to pay close attention to even notice it, which defeats the purpose. As is, it’s a decent mono-type track with good fidelity, considering its source. Dialogue exchanges are mostly clear, but given the chaotic nature of the production, not all of it is front and center. There’s also a few sibilance issues, but nothing harmful. The quality of the sound effects and score push the needles into the red, causing occasional distortion. It’s an otherwise fine soundtrack. Just don’t think about what you’re missing.
The Blu-ray disc for Stunt Rock sits inside a blue amaray case with artwork featuring the film’s US poster artwork. Everything is housed in a slipcover featuring the film’s French poster artwork. The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Brian and Margaret Trenchard-Smith, and Grant Page
- The Ultimate Rush: A Conversation with Brian and Margaret Trenchard-Smith (HD – 80:08)
- Extended Not Quite Hollywood Interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith (HD – 14:06)
- Extended Not Quite Hollywood Interview with Grant Page (HD – 3:22)
- 2009 Interviews (SD – 68:34)
- Play: Sacrifice (Soundtrack Track 1) (HD – 4:41)
- Play: Wizard’s Council (Soundtrack Track 2) (HD – 4:49)
- Play: Stuntrocker (Soundtrack Track 6) (HD – 3:18)
- Play: Woman (Soundtrack Track 10) (HD – 3:12)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:23)
The audio commentary was recorded in 2009 for the Code Red DVD release. It provides a wealth of information about the making of the film, as well as retrospective feelings about it and the experience of making it. It’s lively, insightful, and enjoyable. The Ultimate Rush is a Skype/Zoom interview with Brian and Margaret Trenchard-Smith from their home with interviewer Justin King. Justin asks them many questions about the film and its star. The Extended Not Quite Hollywood Interviews feature Grant Page and Brian Trenchard-Smith while the 2009 Interviews from the Code Red DVD release include Brian Trenchard-Smith, producer Marty Fink, actor Richard Blackburn, and Sorcery guitarist Richard Taylor (Smokey Huff) as participants. Also included are four audio-only tracks of Sorcery’s performances. Last is the film’s theatrical trailer, which has been digitally recreated in HD.
There are also a number of extras that haven’t carried over. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray also featured a second audio commentary with with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Marty Fink, and Richard Blackburn; an introduction to the film by Brian Trenchard-Smith and Richard Taylor; an audio interview with Perry Morris; a set of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Alamo Drafthouse appearances; a Cannes promo reel; a Brian Trenchard-Smith trailer reel; and a Trailers from Hell segment with Brian Trenchard-Smith. Also missing from the Code Red DVD release is The Stuntmen documentary, also directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith that was included on The Man from Hong Kong Blu-ray released by Umbrella Entertainment.
Once you see the trailer for Stunt Rock, there’s no way that you’re not going to want to click the order button. It’s not so much a film as it an experience, and an amazing one at that. Kino’s release is a little lacking in the extras department compared to the Umbrella release, but it’s great to finally have a stateside Blu-ray of the film available in HD.
- Tim Salmons