Stone (1974) [Review]


Members of the Grave Diggers Motorcycle Club are being knocked off one by one, and someone needs to find out why! Sandy Harbutt‘s timeless Australian cult film about a bunch of renegades riding Kawasaki 900s.

For those that have been following Movieblort for a while will know that I have a particular soft spot for Australian cinema. I take recommendations from a friend who lives out there and so far I haven’t been forced to watch anything horrific – the choices have all been on point. Up next was Stone, a film about a biker club that was relatively successful upon release, but has since found a cult following for reasons that should soon become obvious.

Stone follows Ken Shorter as Stone, a cop who needs to go undercover in the biker club in order to establish who is killing them off. The club is headed up by writer/director Sandy Harbutt, known in this as ‘Undertaker’, and after some initial reservations, Stone is allowed to be part of the Grave Diggers club. He leaves his old life behind him to fully assimilate himself into the club, but his perceptions are challenged as he spends more time with them and is ultimately faced with life changing decisions.
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I’m not a biker, I have never even been on a motorcycle, but you don’t have to be one to understand what makes this film quite special. The clubs antics are captured perfectly on-screen, showing a heightened level of camaraderie, loyalty, but above all else they are having a good time and will be damned if anyone tries to ruin that. Drinking heavily, smoking, taking drugs and riding bikes, these are activities rejected by the upper middle class, and looked down upon by many. As such, one of the key strengths of the film is that the essence of being in a group, the desire to be affiliated, to belong and be accepted are attributes executed so well, and clearly help make this film so relatable.

The acting is effortlessly natural, with Harbutt taking the lead on all accounts. Made on a shoestring budget, the appearance is grainy and feels a little rough around the edges, but it plays into the vibe of the film and helps accentuate the dwellings of the Grave Diggers. As is often the case with Australian films, the script is sharp-tongued and funny, and they’re never one to shy away from a bit of action – the racing, chasing and fighting scenes are everything you can expect from this type of movie.

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The plot leaves a lot to be desired, but all can be overlooked when it reaches its brilliant conclusion. As the legacy lives on, and is examined along with the making of the film in the documentary Stone Forever, I find myself wanting to know what top speed on a Kawasaki 900 on the open road in Australia, or anywhere for that matter, feels like. Those that know that feeling, love the film, and those that don’t, wished they did.

Great movie, and another one to add to the ever-growing list of solid Australian movies.

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