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Australia 1974
Directed by
Sandy Harbutt
103 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3 stars

Stone (1974)

The Grave Diggers motorbike gang are the toughest of the tough. They live life to the fullest; riding hard, fighting hard, drinking hard and loving hard. A gang member witnesses a political shooting but the assassin spies the insignia on the back of his leather jacket. Not knowing which member of the gang it was, the assassin decides to eliminate all of the members of The Grave Diggers. Stone, an undercover cop attempts to infiltrate the gang to discover who is killing off the Hell's Angels. Not happy that a "pig" is amongst them, the gang and Stone form an uneasy alliance.

An Australian Easy Rider, Stone is a wild combination of biker movie, gore flick, whodunit and action film. Written, produced and directed by Sandy Harbutt, the film is an obvious labour of love with Harbutt also starring as the Grave Diggers' leader, The Undertaker. He gives a ferocious performance, chewing the scenery and all around him. His fellow Grave Diggers include Hugh Keays- Byrne who played the chief villain,Toecutter, in that other classic Aussie road movie, Mad Max, of which this is a kind of precursor. Ken Shorter as Stone gives a strangely subdued performance. He doesn't seem quite charismatic enough to win over the sceptical bikers who are after his blood. Fans of Rebecca Gilling's looks, however, will be amply rewarded

Shot on location in Sydney, the director uses the scenery well and the production design for The Grave Diggers' seaside fortress and the funeral procession in particular raise the film above the exploitation norm. The music is a cacophony of noise; a mix of over-indulgent progressive rock, didgeridoos and bland pub guitars.

The opening features the deaths of three of the bikers as they are decapitated, driven off a cliff and blown up in a spectacular fashion. It's a shame that the rest of the film doesn't quite measure up to this bloody kick-start. Its pacing meanders and it lacks a set-piece such as the final oil tanker attack in Mad Max 2 sufficient to elevate it to the status of a true action classic On release, the film was radical for its gory realism, at a time when Australian cinema was dominated by the escapist ockerism of Alvin Purple and Barry Mackenzie and tasteful costume dramas like Picnic at Hanging Rock. With its odd mixture of non-professional and Shakespearean actors playing bikies Stone has enough Aussie charm to make it a must-see.

FYI: In 1998, 34,000 bikers congregated outside Sydney to celebrate the film's 25th anniversary).




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