Thursday, 17 March 2011

Stunt Rock
(Brian Trenchard Smith, 1979)

This is going to be quite a short review.

I mean, there is only so much that can be said about “Stunt Rock”. Like the voice that Moses heard in the burning bush, it does not take kindly to questioning. It is what it is, and that is enough.

A lack of wordage though should not in this case bespeak a lack of enthusiasm. On the contrary, I would like the reader, if possible, to treat this post with as much attention (or lack thereof) as may be accorded to one of my more conventional 3000 word timewasters. To signify this unusual gravitas, I will put all the words first, and all the screengrabs at the end.

So: if the parents of Australian director Brian Trenchard Smith hadn’t already lumbered him with “Trenchard”, FUN would be his middle name. If I tell you that his other directorial credits include “The Man From Hong Kong”, “Kung Fu Killers (TV)”, “Danger Freaks”, “Turkey Shoot” (aka “Escape 2000”), “BMX Bandits” and “Dead End Drive-In”, then you’ll get an idea of where this cat is coming from, even if you know nothing whatsoever about any of those movies. It’s a good place.

As Brian tells it, he was taking a shower one day when the idea hit him: STUNT ROCK. There will be STUNTS! There will be ROCK! Every kid of the world will hit the streets and head for the cinema! Brian Trenchard Smith will make millions!

At this point, we could note that Trenchard Smith was also working as manager for stuntman turned celebrity daredevil Grant Page, and had promised him he’d see top billing in a theatrically released movie within five years. But personally I’d prefer to see that as being wholly coincidental to the life-changing purity of the Stunt Rock ‘eureka moment’.

Somehow, BTS managed to sell his vision to some Dutch money-men, and in double-quick time found himself on a plane to LA to make it happen. Never let it be said that The Netherlands is a country that fails to recognise great artists. The Dutch guys came through with a budget, gear, facilities, etc, and naturally Grant Page was on board, so that was the STUNT covered. Problem: no ROCK. Big name bands had been promised, but no one showed. So Smith set out to find his own band. And, boy, did he ever succeed.

Sorcery are a real life theatrical hard rock band whose stage act sees them belting out their Kiss-via-Blue Oyster Cult style tunes on the left and right hand sides of the stage, while in the centre a guy dressed as Merlin the Magician performs magic tricks and engages in pyrotechnic good-vs-evil battles with a guy dressed as Satan.

There are no words.

STUNT is go. ROCK is go. I dunno if anyone saw MAGIC coming, but fuck it man, let’s give it a try! A few months later, a film emerged. The kids of the world did not flock to cinemas to see it, and Brian Trenchard Smith did not make millions, but the world – or some very small, strange part of it at least – was changed forever.

In Stunt Rock, Grant Page plays himself. Having achieved fame in the Australian film industry, he has relocated to LA to work on a TV show that stars contractually obligated Dutch actress Monique van der Ven. Grant’s cousin is the guy who plays Satan in Sorcery’s stage-show, so he makes friends with them and hangs out.

By day, Grant Page does stunts. By night, he rocks out at Sorcery concerts.

That is the entire storyline.


I mean, I guess I was kind of expecting that maybe Page would fight an unconvincing organised crime gang, or help protect Sorcery from mob assassins, or indulge in some other kind of flimsy excuse for mayhem and hi-jinks, but no. Stunt Rock needs no excuses.

There is a lot of stock footage in Stunt Rock. Stunts which Grant Page performed in earlier movies, or ones he did just for the hell of it, are reiterated at length, accompanied by hot Sorcery instrumentals. “Well, I got myself into a sticky situation once whilst hang-gliding,” he’ll say, and off we go. Kaleidoscopic split screen effects and slow motion are used prominently throughout. At one point, a long passage of silent / b&w footage is used to illustrate ‘the history of stunts’, featuring sped-up ‘old timey’ music. Later, somebody says “hey, have you seen ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds’?”, prompting a brain-busting montage of car crashes and stunts from H.B. Hilicki’s 1974 version of that movie, cut to yet more sweet Sorcery jamming.

Extensive use of pre-existing footage is usually taken as an immediate warning sign of a bad film, but if you find its application in Stunt Rock anything less than inspired then fuck you buddy, you are not worthy of Stunt Rock.

With similar space-filling logic, here are some of my top sniggersome Sorcery fashion moments;

*With no disrespect intended, Sorcery’s guitarist sports just about the most horrifically misguided haircut I have ever seen on a human male. That he is seen making out with a girl at one point should be seen as a herculean achievement in keeping with the overall spirit of this film.

*Sorcery’s keyboard player attempts to compensate for being a keyboard player by wearing a gimp/Mexican wrestler mask at all times, and speaking in an irritating high-pitched voice. When somebody asks him why he wears a mask, he responds, “Why does anyone wear a mask?” Again, there are no words.

*During a poolside party scene, Sorcery’s drummer (moustache, receding hairline) sports a white Perrier water t-shirt, tight blue jeans and braces. Say what you like, but that’s a fucking look.

*For a rare non-Sorcery related highlight, look out for the background guy in the “CUNNING STUNTS” t-shirt. It had to happen!

So that’s that.

Now frankly, I’ll admit I went into this thinking that I didn’t even like stunts that much - I was mostly here for the rock, and the incidental goofiness. But Stunt Rock showed me the light.

My plight is mirrored by that of a foxy lady journalist who decides to write an article about Grant Page. She is attracted to Grant, but is initially repulsed of his extreme, devil-may-care lifestyle. After he pulls off a daring flame escape / hang-wire stunt at a Sorcery gig though, she too is born again;

“How could I have been so blind? It’s something unique you guys are doing, I think it’s gonna catch on… there’s music, and magic, and stunts! I’m gonna write an article, let’s call it… STUNT-ROCK!”

Yes! My thoughts exactly!

So she puts Stunt Rock on the cover of Time (or, er, Tempo) magazine. Everyone is happy. The end.

Ladies and gentlemen, Stunt Rock: the greatest movie that an eleven year old boy in 1979 could possibly have imagined.


JRSM said...

This is a fantastic review, and it fills me with patriotic pride that one of my countrymen ciould produce such a work of completely mental genius.

Ben said...

Thanks as always, and yes, you should be proud! I don't think there's another country on earth that could have produced something quite like this.

Have you seen the 'ozploitation' documentary "Not Quite Hollywood"? Well worth checking out.

JRSM said...

Ha, yes, I meant to ask you the same question--a fantastic doco.

Kev D. said...

You have added yet another film to my growing list of movies that I NEED to see.