After having been present at a political assassination, the Grave Diggers biker gang starts being killed off one by one. Undercover cop Stone joins the gang (by basically saying, “Hi, I’m a cop. Can I hang out with you guys?”) in an effort to solve the murders. Plenty of shenanigans, riding around, and utterances of the word “man” ensue.
This 1974 Australian effort gets off to a bang of a start with the assassination, a scene that is largely witnessed through the eyes of a heavily stoned biker. The murders that follow are also nicely staged. But then we start getting many, many scenes of riding around and rather aimless hanging about. The eponymous hero doesn’t show up until a quarter of the way through the film, at which point he is able to find out, though his own experiences and the interviews he conducts, what a great bunch the bikers are. So there’s a fair bit of meandering about. But the action scenes are well done, and as a cultural artifact, the film is really quite fascinating.
If this is a biker movie, can rock ‘n’ roll be far away? Certainly not. And there we go, right in the opening credits: “Rock and roll by Billy Green.” Glad that’s settled. Kidding aside, the score is pretty damn effective, often giving the sense of much happening when very little is. The 2.0 mono track does well by the music, as well as the sound design in general. There is no hiss, and both dialogue and music are undistorted (except where, as is rather often the case, the distortion is deliberate).
I am consistently impressed by the picture quality of the films Severin rescues. There is a fair bit of visible grain here, but what else would one expect from a 1974 low-budget wonder. The quality of the print itself is exceptional, with no damage at all and strong, natural colours. Once again, it is hard to imagine that the film ever looked this good, even during its initial theatrical run.
We have a 2-disc set here. The only extra on the first is the theatrical trailer. On Disc 2, the main extra is “Stone Forever,” an hour-long documentary that looks back at the making of the film, its reception, and its enduring (enormous) popularity, with director/writer/producer/co-star Sandy Harbutt looking back at the film and what it meant to him. There is also impressive footage of the 35 000 bikers who showed up to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary. “The Making of Stone” is a promotional piece from 1974, and so is a rather rare artifact in its own right. Ditto the five minutes of makeup test footage. Finally, in lieu of a director’s commentary, there’s a slide show (running about twenty minutes) with Harbutt providing comments and background for each still.
The film is both clearly very much of its time, but is also a seminal piece of Australian popular culture. And it is presented here in a very nice package.