The Gravediggers, a notorious gang of Hell's Angels-type bikers, pull up beside an environmental campaign for a rest. One of the gang, Toad (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is stoned and decides to climb up to the top of a monument to chill out. When he reaches the top, he unwittingly stumbles across a sniper who assassinates the public speaker below.

As the crowd panic, the Gravediggers hurriedly make their getaway, Toad racing to his bike and - in his drugged state - temporarily forgetting what he has witnessed.

However, the assassin is convinced that Toad saw too much, and before long members of the Gravediggers are being killed off one-by-one.

The first is decapitated by a cheesewire booby trap in the middle of the road. Another is blown up when his motorbike sabotaged. The third is run off a cliff.

As the Gravediggers bury one of their clan in a local graveyard, their leader the Undertaker (Sandy Harbutt) says a few words before allowing the spooky Doctor Death (Vincent Gil) to perform a Satanic sermon. This is interrupted by the arrival of the police, wanting to ask questions about the murders. But the Gravediggers' reaction to the police leaves us in no doubt that they hate cops.

Which means it's going to be tough for cop Stone (Ken Shorter) to earn the gang's trust. But he gives it his best shot, turning up at their club that evening and telling the Undertaker that he's there to help nail their killer. Toad in particular doesn't appreciate Stone's presence and a fight ensues, only for the action to be curtailed by three crossbow arrows being fired into the club. Stone races outside with his gun and chases the sniper away.

Having earned a little trust from the Undertaker and his pals, the Gravediggers vote that Stone can travel with them undercover for a few weeks, in a bid to catch their stalker.

What follows is a dated, wildly silly and undeniably fun rites-of-passage tale as Stone becomes increasingly hooked on the Gravediggers' free lifestyle (even shagging one of their women), and the lines between the bikers and the law become ever more blurred.

As Stone's marriage suffers due to his growing obsession with his job - and the love for the criminals he's grown to respect - it's not hard to see parallels with DONNIE BRASCO. But this is where the similarities end. STONE doesn't carry the acting weight of Pacino or even Depp, but it does boast a killer soundtrack, snappy pacing and enough hammy dialogue to satisfy the most demanding exploitation fans.

Chock-full of loving close-ups of the motorcycles, and scenes that put them to great use - an early convoy scene that's quite breathtaking to behold; a great race between Stone and the Undertaker - this is very much a bikers' film. But even if you don't share that fascination, there's plenty to savour elsewhere. The hot women, shocking sporadic bursts of violence, amusingly bad attempts at occasional humour and some brilliantly clumsy fistfights.

If you remember it from the halcyon days of pre-certificate video, no doubt nostalgia will have you floating through this one. It certainly worked for me - I watched it with a smile on my face from beginning to end. If however you're coming to STONE fresh, I still believe there's plenty to satisfy the average grindhouse freak.

Imagine MAD MAX with a lower budget, less stunts but more grit. And a downbeat ending. Oh, and several members of the MAD MAX cast!

Severin continue their welcome filtering of US releases onto British shores with yet another cult gem that is long overdue on these shores.

As with earlier releases of theirs such as BLOODY MOON and DEVIL HUNTER, this release is NTSC encoded with no regional locking.

This excellent 2-disc offering essentially offers the same as the DVDs already released in the US (by Severin) and Australia.

Disc 1:

The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer on the main feature is generally strong, offering good natural colour schemes and an added detail that people previously privy only to the old VTC videotape will adore. Film grain is present but it only appears as a natural amount and never distracts. The aspect ratio appears identical to that of the earlier Australian release (listed as 1.77:1 on the back cover) but I didn't have the means to do a back-to-back comparison.

English audio is provided in a very serviceable original mono.

An attractive animated main menu is set to the film's rousing 70s rock score, and leads into a static scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 20 chapters.

The only extra on disc 1 is a 3-minute theatrical trailer that also boasts an excellent anamorphic transfer. Beware though, this has a couple of spoilers ...

Disc 2:

The same animated main menu this time gives access to an interesting collection supplementary features.

First up is "Stone Forever", a rather brilliant 63-minute documentary filmed in 1998 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the film. Set in Sydney at a huge bikers' convention, the film includes plenty of interviews with older bikers reminiscing on the impact of the film in the 70s, as well as pinning down a few of the cast and crew who made it to the event. Harbutt is a genuinely engaging character with a good memory and oodles of charm, making his contributions the liveliest by far.

Next is a 23-minute Making Of documentary that presents some intriguing behind-the-scenes footage in a mix of black-and-white and colour. This footage is accompanied by a ludicrously deep male voiceover. As with "Stone Forever", this worthy featurette is presented in full-frame.

"Stone Make-up Tests" is precisely that - make-up tests for each of the film's main characters. It's a curiosity piece more than anything, presented in silent over 8 minutes. Enhanced for 16x9 TV sets, it's worth a look.

Finally we get the "Director's Slide Show", a 21-minute gallery of copious behind-the-scenes photographs with Harbutt's interesting commentary over the top. Providing a surprising wealth of additional information, this extra is more valid than it perhaps sounds in writing.

STONE is an enormously enjoyable albeit dated slice of prime 1970s exploitation, a key contemporary Aussie flick and a film that is long overdue on UK DVD. If you don't already own the US or Australian DVD releases, this comes highly recommended.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Severin Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review