Sunday, July 20, 2008

The motorcycle in cinema-Stone.

"Synopsis: 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 as they try save the bikers.

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 as Harbutt also stars 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, to which this is a distant forbear. Ken Shorter as the eponymous 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. 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 II sufficient to elevate it to the status of a true action classic but it remains a bikie cult favourite, in 1998, 34,000 of them congregated outside Sydney to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary). 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 The Adventures of 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."

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