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One of notorious Australian exploitation pioneer Brian Trenchard-Smith's finest films, and he's got quite a few of them, is definitely 1978's Stunt Rock, a movie savvy enough to combine stunts… and rock! Those familiar with his cinematic output know by this point that the guy loves stunts, but who knew he'd combine stunts with rock to create a cinematic experience that can only be described as "death wish at 120 decibels"?
The movie once again involves Australian stunt man Grant Page, who had worked with the director two years prior on Death Cheaters (which was a movie about stunt men), basically playing himself. For a change of pace, Grant is a stuntman working in Australia. He's offered a gig in Los Angeles working on a television so and soon enough, he's landed in the city of angels and is making all sorts of new friends. When he's not working on the TV show, he's hanging out with real life rock group Sorcery (made up of Greg Magie on lead vocals, Smokey Huff on lead guitar, Richie King on bass, Pere Morris on drums and Doug Loch on keyboards), basically playing themselves, and helping them out with their intense stage show wherein wizards battle demons and lots of stuff explodes! Along the way he gets romantically involved with a hot female reporter out to tell the story of his exciting life, hangs out with the guys from Sorcery (they dedicate a song to him at a concert) and does a lot of crazy stunts.
The highlights of this one are, hands down, the live footage showing Sorcery (who also worked on the Rocktober Blood soundtrack!) at the peak of their powers. The title track is awesome, as is Sacrifice, and watching the band do their thing while wizards battle bad guys and blow stuff up all around them is nothing short of awesome. At one point, The Prince Of Darkness (Curtis Hyde) literally fights a The King Of The Wizards (Paul Haynes) on stage as fire bolts and smoke bombs are thrown around while the band just keeps on wailing away. It's a lot of fun and kind of takes what guys like KISS and Thor were doing up to the next level. In fact, the footage involving Page doing his thing without the band seems kind of tame by comparison, even if a lot of this footage is genuinely amazing. To be fair, Page is awesome and he pulls off some pretty impressive stunts in this picture but the lack of wizards kind of unfairly makes him the less interesting part of the picture. This movie is pretty bonkers and further proof that Grant Page was one of the coolest SOB's to ever walk the face of the Earth.
While the movie is light on story, it's got a lot going for it otherwise. In addition to the almost non-stop barrage of stunt footage and split screen effects showing off stunts shot on 16mm, we also get some great footage of LA showing off some seedy venues and marquees showing films like The Devil In Miss Jones. This gives the film a bit of a time capsule vibe, which makes it interesting and you can easily entertain yourself by checking out all the little background details, interesting fashions, vintage cars and just overall ‘neat stuff' that you'll see if you pay attention.
Kino brings Stunt Rock to Region A Blu-ray framed in 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc taken from a brand new 4k restoration and taking up 29GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Picture quality is really nice, the image shows strong detail and great color reproduction. Any print damage that shows up is pretty minor, nothing more than small white specks here and there. Black levels are solid, skin tones look nice and the image always appears nice and film-like, demonstrating no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement problems. Some of the material shot on 16mm understandably doesn't look as crisp and as clean as the 35mm footage, but that's how the movie has always looked and should always look.
The only audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Quality of the track is decent if, again, not reference quality. Dialogue remains clear and easy to follow throughout though it can sound a little thin in spots. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced.
Extras on the disc are plentiful, starting with an audio commentary by director Brian Trenchard-Smith who is joined by actors Grant Page and Margaret Trenchard-Smith (aka Margaret Gerard) carried over from the older DVD release. It's a very worthwhile talk, with the director acting as point man and keeping the conversation going and the other two participants chiming in plenty throughout. We learn how the concept of the movie was developed, what it was like working with Sorcery, what went into the many stunts on display throughout the movie, casting the film, location work and lots, lots more. It's a very active and interesting discussion.
As far as featurettes go, with get an interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith taken from Not Quite Hollywood, the definitive documentary on Australian genre and exploitation movies. Here, Trenchard-Smith spends fourteen minutes talking about going under the assumption that Grant Page was basically indestructible, his talents as a stuntman and willingness to really go the extra mile, what he's like to work with, how the film was financed, writing the treatment, how Sorcery came on board and how he feels about the movie all these many years later. We also get an interview with Lead Actor/Stuntman Grant Page, again taken from Not Quite Hollywood. We also get an interview with Lead Actor/Stuntman Grant Page, again taken from Not Quite Hollywood. This piece sees him spending three minutes talking about doing some of the stunts on the film, working with Trenchard-Smith and a few memories from the shoot.
The Ultimate Rush: Conversation With Brian and Margaret Trenchard-Smith is an eighty minute conversation between the two that looks back on the making of the film and goes over a lot of the details of its history. It covers quite a bit of the same ground that is gone over in the commentary track but is still worth checking out for fans of the film. This was conducted over video conferencing software so the quality isn't top notch but the content is good and it's well-edited with some pertinent clips used here and there. Keep your eyes open for a quick cameo from their cat.
A selection of 2009 Interviews features Brian Trenchard-Smith, Sorcery's lead guitarist Smokey Huff and producer Marty Fink and it runs for just under sixty-nine minutes. It covers the making of the film, staging and executing some of the stunts, the music used in the film, the film's release history and lots more.
Finishing up the extras are a trailer for the feature, selected songs from the film's soundtrack (in stereo for the first time!), menus and chapter selection. Kino packages this release with a slipcover.
Stunt Rock is definitely light on plot but when it offers up heaping helpings of stunts and rock as consistently as it does, who cares. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds very good and contains a nice selection of extra features as well. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.