Stone (1974)

The legend of Australian cinema, one which, to be honest, I’m not sure I’d actually heard of before it was kind of canonised in the late 90s through Richard Kuipers’ doco (unfortunately not part of the Ozploitation vol. 2 set). Mind you, my admittedly scanty knowledge of 1970s Australian cinema means that doesn’t surprise me; I don’t even know an awful lot of the titles from before 1978 (back in the mid-90s I did read Scott Murray’s Australian Film 1978-94 in detail but only got a comparatively glancing look at Pike & Cooper’s earlier volume covering the period to 1977) and have actually seen even fewer of the actual films. So I first heard of Stone in the late 90s, and now in 2011 I’ve actually seen it for the first time; some sort of hole in my knowledge of Australian cinema history has been filled, and the film itself has been further canonised by an honest-to-goddess American DVD release. This look back at it sniffs sadly “the film itself is hardly a work of art”, but surely it was never meant to be; it’s a genre/exploitation movie with no discernible finer feelings, and sometimes that’s perfectly all right; sometimes all you need to hit the spot is a totally unreconstructed action flick with bikers causing havoc in Sydney’s suburbs. The narrative does fall down a bit in that we know the assassin is bumping off the Gravediggers cos one of them witnessed him shooting that environmental activist in the Domain, but we never really find out anything about the mob who organised that hit in the first place. And it’s hopelessly dated, needless to say; did people really address each other as “man” back then to quite the extent they do here? But considerations like that aside, I liked it; it’s just bizarre that Sandy Harbutt could have such a major hit with this film ($1.5m box office return on a budget under 200 grand) and then never get a job in the industry here again.

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