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Stone (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Stone (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Sandy Harbutt
    Cast: Sandy Harbutt, Ken Shorter, Deryck Barnes, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Roger Ward, Vince Gil
    Year: 1978
    Purchase From Amazon

    Stone – Movie Review:

    The Gravediggers are the toughest gang of bikers around. They drink, they smoke, they treat their women poorly and they worship Satan! When they show up at a political rally and see the speaker shot dead in cold blood, the victim of an assassins bullet, they get out of Dodge as quickly as they can because the assassin knows that he was spotted by one of the bikers (Hugh Keays-Byrne, better known as Toe-Cutter from Mad Max) who was tripping up on the roof. Soon, one of their own is also murdered, his head severed from his torso by a craftily placed wire that crosses the highway. A couple more dead bikers later and it would seem that someone is after The Gravediggers. Thankfully their spiritual leader, Dr. Death (Vince Gil), is around to bury the dead standing up in the name of their dark lord.

    The Gravediggers are obviously upset about this, but they don't like cops at all so they decide to try to figure out who's knocking them off and why on their own. What the gang members don't know, however, is that one of their own, Stone (Sandy Harbutt), is actually an undercover cop working the gang from the inside.

    Directed by Sandy Harbutt in 1978, Stone is one seriously bad ass movie. Filled with tough talking grizzled Aussie tough guys, cool stunt riding scenes, gratuitous violence and completely unnecessary though entirely welcome nudity, it reeks of whiskey and gasoline. The film's biggest flaw? The titular Stone himself. Played by director/co-writer Sandy Harbutt dressed in a poofy white shirt and looking like he just walked out of the Renascence Fair, it's a little hard to take him for a cop savvy enough to infiltrate a gang of Satan worshipping bikers because he doesn't look even remotely tough. The picture also spends a little bit too much time on character development that never really pays off like it should - the point being that these bad ass bikers are people too, fine, we can get that, but really it hurts the pacing of the picture in a couple of spots.

    That said, the good sure does outweigh the bad here in a big, big way. The violence hits nice and hard and the acid tinged soundtrack adds some seriously tense atmosphere to a few key scenes. The cast, Harbutt notwithstanding, all look great and are completely believable while the odd camera angles and periodic freeze frame edits lend the film a quirky rhythm. The Australian location shooting allows this two-wheeled opera of violence to play out against a beautiful backdrop and even if the film doesn't tackle the social issues that lie at its core as effectively as it probably wanted to, there is an interesting social conscience underneath all the chaos. The film has aged incredibly well and it plays out as a smart, exciting and gritty exploitation/drive-in film - well worth seeing and it ranks up there with the best of the biker films like Northville Cemetery Massacre.

    Stone – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Stone to Region Free Blu-ray famed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Taken from an “uncut 4K scan from original vault elements supervised by Harbutt himself shortly before his death,” things really improve over the 2008 DVD release with this high definition reissue. Colors look really good and the image is nicely filmic, retaining the grain you’d hope it would but not at the sacrifice of detail, which is really strong with this transfer. Colors look great and we get strong black levels as well. There aren’t any problems with compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement and all in all, this looks great.

    The only audio option for Stone is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in English. Optional English subtitles are provided. The audio is also pretty strong. The score sounds really good and the dialogue stays clean and clear. The track is balanced and free of any audible hiss, distortion or sibilance.

    Extras start off with the twenty-three minute The Making Of Stone. This vintage segment mixes black and white and color footage shot behind the scenes of the film while it was under production. A narrator discusses what we're seeing and gives us the rundown on the picture before we move on to some interesting cast and crew interviews.

    Severin has also dug up thirty-eight minutes of deleted and extended scenes from the film. Some of this material doesn't have sound and is presented with music from the film overtop but some of it does have dialogue. Some of it also has time code on it, but not most of it. We get some great footage of a biker funeral procession and then the funeral itself here, lots of footage of bikers driving around various locations, clips of the cops at a shooting range and office, bikers and biker babes at the shore, some footage of a pool hall and a gym, a sweet acoustic guitar jam session/smoke out, a skinny dipping scene, a cemetery shooting and a fair bit more. There's some really cool footage in here.

    Up next is an excellent sixty-three minute documentary entitled Stone Forever. This in-depth piece, originally released on Severin's DVD release, rounds up much of the cast and crew for on camera interviews and shows us some fairly remarkable footage from the Stone 25th Anniversary Party where 35,000 bikers all got together in 1998 to celebrate the film and what it represents. There are some interesting stories told here, particularly about the early career of Ken Shorter, as well as some neat behind the scenes photos used to illustrate the documentary. The use of drugs in the film is discussed and analyzed and the film's impact and box office success is covered in a fair bit of detail (we even get a look at a Stone tattoo!).

    Also included on the disc are minutes of extended interviews that were originally conducted for the Not Quite Hollywood documentary. There's two hours of material here and we get interviews with Sandy Harbutt who speaks for over fifty minutes about Stone and his career in general, actor Ken Shorter who talks about working on the film and how he got into the industry for about twenty minutes, actress Rebecca Gilling who talks about doing only a hair commercial before being cast in Stone and what it was like to work on the movie, actor Roger Ward who discusses his background and part in the film, editor Ian Berry who talks about his entry into the business and cutting the film and its themes, executive producer David Hannay who talks about how he first met Harbutt and his rebellious tendencies, biker culture, producing the film and what the shoot was like.

    Rounding out the supplements on the Blu-ray disc are eight minutes of silent Stone Make Up Test footage, the twenty-one minute Director's Slideshow (which features Harbutt's narration over top of a great batch of behind the scenes and promotional stills), the film's orginal theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selections.

    Also included with this release, however, is the film's bad ass soundtrack on CD. This is a big deal as the soundtrack to this movie is absolutely fantastic and all fifteen tracks are include on the disc. Severin has also included a postcard insert with the track listing and credits on one side and some great promotional artwork on the reverse. This two disc release also comes packaged with a limited edition embossed slipcover feature that just adds to the overall awesomeness of this package.

    Stone - The Final Word:

    Stone is a blast - it's rough, it's tough, and it's smart. See it. Severin's done a great job bringing this Ozploitation classic to Blu-ray, with a really nice presentation, a decent slate of extra features and the inclusion of the film's soundtrack on CD. Highly recommended!


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Stone Blu-ray screen caps!

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