"Before MAD MAX and THE ROAD WARRIOR there was STONE." declares the cover of Severin's release, implicating that there is a similarity between these three films. This is essentially misleading, as Stone has none of the post-apocalyptic setting or themes that made these films influential or groundbreaking. Nor does it possess the truly anti-social or subversive tendencies of these peons to anarchy. If anything, this biker thriller is akin to the aforementioned primarily by its low budget dose of grit, sharing a celebration of the Outsider but with much less power of effectiveness in either script or filming. This revenge-buddy exploitation rarity is ultimately more devoted to singing the praises of biker culture than the raw out-and-out thrills promised by its advertising. As an expose of the 'ride hard, live free' lifestyle -- and as a crime thriller -- it evokes some suspense and an appropriate low budget atmosphere. But the thrills are too few, and the story to disjointed to be truly innovative or memorable.

Stone centres around the undercover cop of the same name, who is generally unconvincing and unable to convey the badass role established for him. Despite the protestations of his girlfriend, Stone, dressed in leather and with a pretty boy mane of blonde hair, convinces a bike gang The Grave Diggers to let him tag along as he seeks to discover who is killing their members. While the local law agency doesn't condone their activities, it still feels pressed to protect them. Stone befriends such fine fellows as The Undertaker (Sandy Harbutt), with the understanding that they will beat the shit out of him if he undermines their authority. Along the way he is shown the liberation and emotional catharsis of living dangerously, although this quickly becomes routine and is largely responsible for derailing the few moments of action that the director would have done better to focus on. The expected conflict between cop duties and loyalty to his new 'family' ensues, with a predictable ending but brutal denouement.

Legal issues and technical setbacks delayed the release of Stone. Now the question is 'was it worth the wait?' Largely, the answer will depend on your tastes. If you're searching for a mean spirited, break neck action picture with thematic substance and taboo breaking acts of carnage, this poorer cousin to superior Australian exploitation falls short. If, however, you are a fan of biker culture and prefer an actioneer heavy on male bonding and the romanticized lifestyle of gang/group mentality, you will probably love this picture. I confess to belonging to the camp of the former. This isn't to say that the film hasn't been influential, as it kick started the exploitation cycle Down Under. Writer/director Sandy Harbutt crafted a movie that lovingly depicts the aesthetic and emotional context of Australia's Biker culture, crammed full of sluts, outcasts, drugs, and violence. Unfortunately it fails to exploit these elements, focusing instead on a standard cop infiltrates secret society plotline and seemingly endless shots of the 'pig' being adopted into their ways, until the whole experience resembles a violent episode of 'Our Gang.' To be fair, this story is realistic in its depiction of this particular counter culture, and may well be a wet dream for devotees of hogs, chains, and sharp curves. Others will scratch their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about.

No one can fault Severin for its technical work on Stone, offering this cult oddity in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is sharp and meticulously defined, with wonderful detail and convincing skin tones making up for occasional grain. Sound is featured in Dolby Digital Mono and is clean and without interference.

Extras are extensive, and often of more interest than the film itself. Stone is offered in both a single edition and collectable two DVD set. If you purchase this film you must be a fan of biker exploitation, so do yourself a favour and spring for the special edition. Whereas the single disk release features only a trailer the two discer features a wealth of material, providing context for both the film and the biker lifestyle. "Stone Forever" is an extensive documentary celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film. Crafted in 1998, this event was visited by thousands of bikers, and Harbutt clearly loves the biker life. Here he and his fellows review the toils of filming and the turbulence of marketing the film. This footage is captured in black and white, interspaced with color footage from the feature, and is a celebration of all things Stone. "The Making of Stone" is less substantial, interviewing Harbutt and several cast members as a narrator guides us through the scenes in question. Other extras include a Makeup Test and Director's Slide Show, wherein several rare photos are displayed.

Review by William Simmons

Released by Severin
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review