Stone (1974) (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Sep 23, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Stone (1974) (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Sandy Harbutt

Release Date(s)

1974 (April 7, 2021)

Studio(s)

Hedon Productions (Umbrella Entertainment – Ozploitation Classics #2)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: B
  • Audio Grade: C+
  • Extras Grade: A

Review

[Editor’s Note: This is a Region Free Blu-ray release.]

Australian filmmaker Sandy Harbutt wanted to capture the realism of the biker world in 1974 with Stone. It’s not a title that’s well known outside of the United States, but it was given a bit more attention thanks to its inclusion in Mark Hartley’s excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood. Almost experimental in its approach with a satisfying through line, it’s certainly off-beat with an abundance of grit and determination. It’s biggest attribute is a mind-blowing stunt performed by veteran stunt man Peter Armstrong, who took a terrifying bike ride off of an 80-foot cliff into the waiting waters below—it has to be seen to be believed. Produced with the assistance of the Hell’s Angels on a meager budget of less than $120,000, Stone is a testament to the creativity and mettle of the Australian filmmaking community of the era. The film has been all but overshadowed by the Mad Max series today, but it still manages to pack a punch in all the right places.

A biker gang known as the Gravediggers are present during an assassination of a public official. Days after they flee the scene, several members are professionally killed by an unknown assailant. Though the cops are eager to help, they refuse them, wanting to catch the killer on their own terms. Reluctantly, they allow an outsider into their group, an undercover cop named Stone (Ken Shorter) who agrees to ride with them and live the biker lifestyle in exchange for catching the killer. The leader of the gang, the Undertaker (Sandy Harbutt), isn’t sure about this but is outvoted by the group, which includes Toad (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Dr. Death (Vincent Gil), Hooks (Roger Ward), Captain Midnight (Bindi Williams), Septic (Dewey Hungerford), and 69 (Billy Green). As Stone becomes more and more a part of the gang, he finds himself at odds with doing the right thing, which means potentially betraying the Gravediggers whom he’s come to respect.

Umbrella Entertainment re-releases Stone on Blu-ray in a Limited Edition package (3,000 units only) as part of their Ozploitation Classics line, bundled with a CD soundtrack and a number of bonus materials. The back cover informs us that this presentation of Stone comes from “a 4K scan of the original film elements.” What those elements are and when this scan was performed is unknown, but it appears to have been fairly recent. A set of changeover cues leads one to believe that it may have been pieced together using a couple of different sources, but the primary one is pretty strong. Heavy grain and detail fluctuate occasionally while the color palette offers a decent variety of hues, especially on the motorcycles and the clothing of those who ride them. Blacks are not always solid, but the image is mostly stable with good clarity. Damage is limited to speckling and a few lines here and there.

The audio is provided in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. Dialogue and sound effects, including the roaring engines of the motorcycles, come through with clarity and muscle. The soundtrack’s biggest drawback is its use of Billy Green’s score. Unusual on its own at terms, it doesn’t blend with the rest of the soundtrack all that well, sounding mostly distorted. There’s also no obvious leftover damage other than a couple of brief dropouts. A 5.1 remix would do wonders for this film.

The following extras are also included:

DISC ONE (BD)

  • Tarantino Talks Stone (HD – 9:12)
  • The Making of Stone (Upscaled SD – 23:12)
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD and Upscaled SD – 15 in all – 38:25)
  • Stone Forever (Uspcaled SD – 65:36)
  • Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews (HD – 125:20)
  • Make-Up Tests (Upscaled SD – 8:33)
  • Stills Gallery with Commentary by Sandy Harbutt (HD – 115 in all – 20:28)
  • Trailer (HD – 3:19)

DISC TWO (CD)

  1. Eco Blue/ToadStrip (6:35)
  2. Race (4:14)
  3. Head Off (:44)
  4. Pigs (:44)
  5. Cosmic Funeral (2:10)
  6. Amanda (3:45)
  7. Septic (2:17)
  8. Smoke (3:03)
  9. Stone (3:00)
  10. Undertaker (2:34)
  11. Gravediggers (4:20)
  12. Swim (3:31)
  13. Klaude Kool & The Kats (2:54)
  14. Toad (3:01)
  15. The Death of Dr. Death (1:34)
  16. Hips Rap (Featuring Lachie Jamieson) (2:04)
  17. Cosmic Flash Song (6:06)
  18. Do Not Go Gentle (Rage) (4:16)
  19. Do Not Go Gentle (Rage) by Jeannie Lewis (3:56)
  20. Stone Is a Trip (Original Stone Theatrical Trailer) (1:59)

In Tarantino Talks Stone, Quentin speaks ecstatically about his love for and experience with the film. The Making of Stone is a 1974 making-of featuring a mix of black-and-white and color on-set footage and interviews. The deleted and extended scenes were trimmed by director Sandy Harbutt from the theatrical version of the film in 1985 for its home video release (the film was originally rushed into theaters before he could tighten it up). Stone Forever is a retrospective documentary about the making of and impact of the film, especially as it pertains to biker culture. It talks to several members of the cast and crew. The Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews feature director Sandy Harbutt, actors Ken Shorter, Rebecca Gilling, Roger Ward, editor Ian Barry, and executive producer David Hannay. In addition to a set of Make-Up Tests, there’s also a still gallery featuring commentary by Sandy Harbutt and 115 images of behind-the-scenes and on-set photos, as well as a few repeats. Rounding things out is the film’s theatrical trailer in HD. Also included is the film’s soundtrack with music composed and produced by Billy Green. Both discs sit inside a clear amaray case with double-sided artwork featuring the German and Japanese posters on the front and back, a soundtrack listing with lyrics to Cosmic Flash, soundtrack credits, and additional posters on the reverse. Everything is housed within a limited edition slipcover.

Though outlaw biker movies were a cinematic staple throughout the 1970s thanks to the massive success of Easy Rider, many fell through the cracks, including Stone. Today it’s championed as an authentic portrayal of biker lifestyles and philosophies, while also being an entertaining exploitation film in its own right. The Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray release of the film by Umbrella Entertainment comes equipped with a decent transfer of the film and a set of entertaining and informative extras.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

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