Who wants wizard battles, death defying stunts, explosions, and rock music?
I first discovered Brian Trenchard-Smith’s (BMX Bandits, Dead End Drive-In) Stunt Rock on Trailer Wars, a feature length trailer Blu-ray compilation which was released by Drafthouse Films. It was the first trailer in the compilation and it was a thing of pure beauty to behold; you can witness its wonder below.
Wizard battles, death defying stunts, explosions, and rock music?
Dammit, I’m in!
I picked up long since out of print Code Red disc shortly thereafter and was finally able to bask in the glory that was Stunt Rock in standard definition. Thanks to Umbrella Entertainment, Kino Lorber recently released the film on Blu-ray in a much needed HD upgrade that really helps to show off the film’s cinematography and the larger-than-life stunts. The best modern comparison to Stunt Rock are the Jackass films, even though it feels very much channeled from the Mondo genre at the time. There is a scripted wraparound narrative that has world famous Australian stuntman Grant Page (Man from Hong Kong, Mad Max, Death Cheaters) coming to Hollywood to work on a TV show led by Monique van de Ven and hang with his cousin, who just happens to be the guitarist in an up and coming theatrical rock band Sorcery.
Interspersed in the story, which feels almost like something cribbed from syndicated episodic television is a series of stunts that include Page climbing down a five story hospital, lighting himself on fire and jumping off a cliff and crashing a van that’s on fire and crashing out of the windshield on fire. For those not in the know Grant Page was an Australian stuntman with over 107 credits to his name. After cutting his teeth on the likes of Danger Freaks and Man From Hong Kong the charismatic thrill seeker hit the mainstream in the 70’s/80’s as a double threat stuntman/actor. With appearances in films and late night television as himself, Stunt Rock was meant to catapult him into a bonafide leading actor roles. Sadly it did not. In the ample behind the scenes extras and interviews, most of the blame is put on the shoulders of the Danish distributors for the film’s shortcomings, who pushed the director to rush production when they failed to secure a big name for the music group for the film.
The wraparound story also has Grant extolling the history of stuntmen to a reporter/love interest doing an article on “jobs that overtake people’s lives”, while we are treated to the performance stylings of Sorcery, a band whose stage show is supplemented by magic, fire, and most importantly wizards!!! The film is a lean 86 minutes of frothy story interjected with some truly visceral thrills. Part of the allure of these stunts is since Page is acting/starring if you see him doing the stunt and the aftermath, when the stunt goes right and as it sometimes does, goes wrong. That being said, Sorcery is the kind of act that needs to be seen to be believed. As the musicians play on stage the audience is treated to a magic show that features an epic battle between Merlin and the Prince of Darkness who use fire and the power of illusion to fight to the finish.
The film here is presented in a new 4K restoration that really highlights the lighting and spectacle of the concert scenes, while giving some of the film’s stunt sequences a new clarity. Given the nature of the production, some stunts were shot before production had officially started and there is definitely a visible difference in quality of the cinematography in those sequences. There are also archival bits when we dig into the history or stuntmen that jumps all over the quality spectrum. That being the case, the disc still looks leaps and bounds better than the previous Code Red disc with some great color and contrast on display and an aggressive sound mix that highlights the musical stylings of Sorcery.
The extras here don’t carry over everything from the two-disc Code Red set, but definitely make up a somewhat comprehensive presentation as is with plenty of interviews with Grant and Brian candidly looking back on the production.
Check the full list of extras below:
- 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
- 2009 Interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Sorcery Lead Guitarist Smokey Huff and Producer Marty Fink
- Theatrical Trailer
- Select Songs From the Soundtrack (First Time in Stereo)
- Region A/B/C
- Optional English Subtitles
Stunt Rock is everything it needs to be. It’s got stunts and it’s got rock!
Overall the film is a brisk look at the art and history of stuntmen, punctuated by actual stunts and mind-bendingly surreal performances by Sorcery. The fascinating part is the stunt sequences are a bit padded for time so you get to see the setup, the stunt and the fall out if any. These documentary bits say volumes more than some of the in depth exposition we get on the history of stuntmen in Australia, because we see it. We also see Grant’s work on previous films and some of the bits are pretty harrowing since there’s a few that go south. Stunt Rock is a lot of fun and worth a watch if you dug the trailer or you’re into Ozploitation, the film is an odd hybrid of sub-genres that for the most part works.
Also you can’t say no to a film where they feed a dog in a wizard hat Chinese food with chopsticks.
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