Friday, April 13, 2007

The Forgotten Movies - STUNT ROCK

As far as we know there is only one print of STUNT ROCK, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s 1978 ode to stunt work and terrible heavy metal, in circulation anywhere in the world (unless Scorsese has one) and I’ve seen that print projected twice. The first time I was more than happy to do so, the second time it was because I was in Vancouver and it was what all my Vancouver friends wanted to do. I don’t know much about the story behind this film (and when you consider what they ended up with, you assume there’s got to be an interesting one somewhere), but STUNT ROCK is kind of a pseudo-documentary about Grant Page, an Australian stuntman visiting his “American cousin”, a member of the incredibly crappy heavy metal band Sorcery (an alternate title of the film) in L.A. Whilst in the city of angels, Page meets up with actress Monique van de Venn (the star of Verhoeven’s TURKISH DELIGHT and KEETJE TIPPLE, playing herself), her agent Dick Blackburn (director of LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL and co-writer of EATING RAOUL), “reporter” Margaret Gerard, and the rest of the band Sorcery. Page does some stunts, the band plays some gigs, and in the film’s climax, Page incorporates his stunts into a Sorcery show. They sing a song in tribute to him called “Stunt Rocker” and then that’s pretty much it. End of STUNT ROCK.

Thing is, in an odd way, STUNT ROCK is much more than that. It’s an strangely fascinating thing, a movie comprised of nothing but filler. There really is no plot to speak of; it’s simply a series of interconnected scenes that try to make an entire movie. I guess the movie was made as a vehicle for Page, since he really is the star, and if so, man, the guy sure was hosed. He performs a number of dangerous stunts in the film (henceforth the title – duhhhhhh!), along with clips from films made in his native Australia, and they’re easily the film’s highlight. There’s one stunt he performs (perfectly captured in 2.35:1 widescreen) while crawling on a telephone wire between two buildings with a phone in hand (which he then hooks up and makes a call!) that’s really great, and all of Page’s stunts are fun to watch. Even better is Page himself, as he shows more than enough talent and charisma to have made it as a leading man had he been given a better vehicle than this. He’s a big, strong, likeable, handsome guy with a nice no-bullshit, no-ego approach and the scenes where he discusses the appeal and joy of doing stunt work with several characters show that he’s got some talent. He could have gone on to be one of those actors who could get by on playing variations of himself if given a chance and there’s no question he gives the best performance in the film. But the rest is a big mess. I suppose I could say it’s unpredictable, because you don’t know what’s going to happen from scene to scene (then again, I’m not sure the filmmakers did, either), but it’s also a big head-scratcher. After you’re done watching it you can’t help but say to yourself, “What did I just watch and why did I watch it?” In an odd way this movie sucks you in, and if there's anything that STUNT ROCK is especially good at, it's sucking.

The STUNT ROCK legend, as it is, is due to the film’s trailer, which seems to have gotten around to the right people over the years. After showing up in the DVD for Trailer Trash, Tim League of the famed Alamo Drafthouse Cinema began showing it regularly at Harry Knowles’ annual Butt-Numb-a-Thon 24-hour movie marathon. It became a running joke throughout the years and fans began to expect it as one of the festival’s traditions. But a print was finally located by super print collector Adam Hulin, and in December 2005 the film was sprung on the crowd at about 5am. The initial reaction was one of excitement (especially since the trailer played earlier that day), but as the film wore on everyone realized that their ideas of what STUNT ROCK would be like and the reality were, in fact, two different things. Once it was over everyone could at least say that they had lived to see it. As for everyone else, I’m pretty sure the DVD rights are held by Media Blasters, since they bought the rights to distributor Film Ventures International’s catalog and have been releasing various titles from them over the last two years of so, but it turns out that Sorcery is still very much around and selling bootleg DVD-Rs on their website. The discs are pan-and-scan rips off of an old VHS, so if you really, seriously feel that you must see STUNT ROCK some time soon, that’s your only source for now. They’re also selling the original soundtrack, and I must say that while they are terrible, they’re good-bad and I must admit that I do occasionally start singing “Stunt Rocker” to myself from time to time.

STUNT ROCK is something of an enigma, more so before you see it, but in an odd way, also afterwards. You don’t know what you’ve seen, but you feel the need to show it and talk about it (or write about it) to others. It’s weird. I honestly can’t describe it any other way and if you'd ask me to, I'd probably watch it again.


ddr78759 said...

Funny how Opinions can differ! I thought the best part of the Stuntrock movie was the music and Sorcery. The stunts were lame and the Plot was there,just not much of one! I'm sure the Director and editor, is mostly responsible for everything you see and hear. That's how it usually works. I would not be surprised to find the music in the movie was picked by the Director and not the band.The "Sorcery" band have many other,(non-stuntrock movie)records out that I think are excellent and are really very good.(Search on youtube "sorcery tv appearences
and you'll find them) One thing you have right is I can watch this again and again and enjoy it everytime!

Anonymous said...

Rejoice, genre fans. A newly digitized version of this masterpiece, replete with bonus features, was released August 24, 2009 by Code Red DVD.

Headquarters 10 said...

Thanks for the comment, Walter!