An Ozploitation Death wish at 120 Decibels!
DIRECTED BY BRIAN TRENCHARD-SMITH/1978
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: JUNE 7, 2022/KL STUDIO CLASSICS
For decades, there’s been a movement to award the work of stunt performers at the Academy Awards. So far, that proper plunge has not been taken. But had that award been instituted in the very late 1970s, Grant Page would’ve been a shoo-in for a gold statue. The man scales buildings in his underwear. The movie? Brian Trenchard-Smith’s legitimate cult curio Stunt Rock. The place of origin? His native Australia. The role? A more awesome version of himself. The plot? Stunt Rock!
Imagine if you will an epic showdown between the King of the Wizards and the Prince of Darkness! It is a battle for the ages waged night after night for all eternity! Or at least until the tour ends. These forever-dueling costume-shop (a blue satin robe and pointy hat adorned with moons and stars for the former; an all-black vampire getup for the former) deities have it out on stage in a magical fiery showdown sure to compliment whatever drugs the audience members might be indulging in. The spectacle is more carefully choreographed than narratively justified, but that’s okay- it’s all just accompaniment for the main attraction that shares the stage: the fantasy-fused hair-metal hell raisers, Sorcery!!! With that many megatons of sheer awesomeness firing on all cylinders throughout the duration every show, is it any wonder that the high concept Sorcery went on to slay KISS, Alice Cooper and Ronnie James Dio in the rollicking heyday of macabre theatrical rock??
Oh… they didn’t?? Hmm. Well that’s odd… The entire premise of Trenchard-Smith’s Stunt Rock, as he explains multiple times on the new KL Studio Classics’ Blu-ray’s copious bonus features, is the birth of the titular new form of adrenalized gut-punch daring-do… that is arrived at just before the end credits roll. (Making the whole of the film more Stunt + Rock = ?, never actually making good on the promise of its title. Ooof, bad landing!). In real life, the filmmaker explains, he was Grant Page’s agent. The film came about after Trenchard-Smith had a bulletproof epiphany in the shower: Take one up-and-coming American rock act, add Page’s the death-defying on-screen stunt work (both new and flashbacks of other actual film productions), and cook to an over-flavored boil. Voila! Stunt Rock!! Who knows, maybe a real version of the idea might take off, resulting in a new global phenomenon!
Reality told a different (and far more coherent) tale. Page landed on his feet, and Trenchard-Smith went on to a reasonable career as a working director, eventually settling in Oregon with his wife, former Stunt Rock actress turned professor, Margaret Gerald. Sorcery broke up shortly after the movie opened and flopped. The King of the Wizards returned his cosmic robes to the rental place once and for all, and the Prince of Darkness shelved his many magic tricks to recover from literal burnout. Stunt Rock would quickly evaporate into the Australian mists of time. That is, until it would be very memorably showcased in Mark Hartley’s energized 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!. Much credit is rightly given to the bold and boisterous Not Quite Hollywood throughout the Blu-ray’s special features, up to and including its segments on Stunt Rock.
The gloriously pure adolescent testosteroned nonsense of Stunt Rock has never eluded Tenchard-Smith. Ever the wit, he’s said of his oeuvre, “As anyone who knows my work knows, there are about three I think that do, I make wacky films, and I enjoy exploring important themes in a wacky way sometimes, and sometimes I explore unimportant themes in a wacky way.” The film in question- one of his very earliest- is without question, a blasting, burning, plummeting hunk of the latter, spared from certain death by a late-second lifeline. That lifeline is Kino Lorber, arriving nearly a half-century after the fact of what Trenchard-Smith freely refers to a feature-length trailer for his then-client and friend, Grant Page. That, it undeniably is. And a weirdly, wildly rockin’ one, at that.
Basking in the glow of its brand new 4K restoration and the afterglow of its recent theatrical re-release, KL Studio Classics’ new special edition disc arrives housed in a super-cool slipcover that sports alternate artwork than the case insert, which is also super-cool! The vast menu of super-cool special features is as follows:
-Audio Commentary by Director Brian Trenchard-Smith with Actors Grant Page and Margaret Trenchard-Smith
–Not Quite Hollywood Interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith
–Not Quite Hollywood Interview with Lead Actor/Stuntman Grant Page
–The Ultimate Rush: Conversation with Brian and Margaret Trenchard-Smith (a lengthy but cozy one-way Zoom feed of the couple chatting politely with an interviewer).
-2009 Interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Sorcery Lead Guitarist Smokey Huff and Producer Marty Fink
-Select Songs From the Soundtrack (First Time in Stereo)
-Optional English Subtitles
As audacious and boundary-shattering as Ozploitation could be in its 1970s and ‘80s prime, Stunt Rock lands as a refreshingly innocent bit of PG-rated pablum. It’s story of Grant Page (playing himself) working in L.A. on an action TV series called “Undercover Girl” that stars Dutch actress Monique van de Ven (A Woman Like Eve) in a bright gold not-so-undercover jumpsuit, eventually helping her do her own stunts. In his spare time, he consults Sorcery on how to make their brand of stage sorcery even better. We never see the fruits of this effort, resulting in a movie-length cross-cutting of crazy stage pyrotechnics & magic tricks and Page almost getting himself killed on film shoots. Stunt Rock was never going to win any awards, but this new encore is a satisfying opportunity to finally check out this legendary and confounding collision of two great draws that may or may not go great together.