4/2/12

Stunt Rock (1980): The Evel Knievel Of Wizard Inspired Rock Band Films

When the word 'Rock' is contained in a movie title, one can often tell a lot about what the flick is going to be like by judging the other words around it. If it's paired with 'murder', things probably won't go well. With 'around the clock', then you best be ready for a wholesomely rebellious experience. If it's coupled with 'jailhouse' then a hip swivelin' good time is in your near future. However, I really didn't know what to think about 'rock' being placed so close to 'stunt'. The synopsis on TCM, where I caught this as a weekly Underground selection, said simply this, "The movie features a stunt man and a rock band." in what I thought must be one of the vaguest descriptions ever. After all, I knew Stunt Rock was a Brian Trenchard-Smith joint, and I ha always enjoy Trenchard-Smith films such as The Man from Hong Kong, Escape 2000, Dead End Drive-In, and that Criterion worthy classic BMX Bandits. Merely boiling down a concept like Stunt Rock to 10 completely undescriptive  words that capture nothing of what the film was sure to contain. I sat down one Sunday evening, along with my wife and out good pal Fran Goria, to watch Stunt Rock in order to write this review and do the film the justice that TCM's synopsis denied it.


It's not on fire. It's filled with years of Carrot Top's collected pubes.
Stunt Rock is a film which features a stunt man (Grant Page, real life stuntman for Gone in 60 Seconds, Mad Dog Morgan, and The Man From Hong Kong) and a rock band (L.A. Based band Sorcery whose stage show involved a fight between a wizard and the "Prince of Darkness"). See, look, what an improvement that is as a synopsis already. Ok, there's a bit more. Grant is working on a new TV show called Undercover Girls, and he spends much of his time hanging out with star Monique van de Ven (who appears here "as herself" at the behest of a Swedish producer) and a journalist played by Margaret Gerard, taking on one of the few fictional character roles, who is writing an article about Grant's daredevil lifestyle. Meanwhile, the band rocks out in outfits that appear to have been bought during yard sales at Queen and Fleetwood Mac's houses. Well, except for the female keyboard player whose style can only be referred to as Santo meets Cobra Commander. Then Grant does a stunt. Then some rocking. Then stunt. Then rock. Stunt. Rock. Stunt. Rock. You get the idea.

The live action version of Speed Buggy that we all deserve.
What I didn't know before watching Stunt Rock is that Trenchard -Smith has been quoted as saying this was his worst film, and while I haven't seen his whole catalog, I'm inclined to believe it is down there. That's not to say it isn't entertaining in the right circumstances. You might have wondered earlier why I would have mentioned who I watched the film with, and there's a simple reason for that. However, one would see Stunt Rock, it needs to come with 2 warnings. The first comes onscreen as the film warns to not to try these stunts at home. The second, which I believe should be inserted into all future copies of Stunt Rock, should say "To be viewed with friends under influence of your favorite inebriant. DO NOT WATCH ALONE" Watching Stunt Rock with my wife and pal, we had a great time poking fun of the movie and marveling at how somehow Sorcery existed before Spinal Tap and didn't receive some kind of co-writing credit.

Sorcery proves that, apart from knowing Wizards and Devils,
they also hang with Dorian Grey. 
It was a fabulous party movie because with no plot, it was easy and fun to get sidetracked into other conversations, or have the burning desire to know more about Sorcery's discography. In case you wondered, they do have a Wikipedia entry and a couple of home pages. One looks like it belongs in the 3rd ring of GeoCities hell while the other is a spiritual companion to the still kickin' Space Jam site. A number of Sorcery's songs were enjoyable in a classic metal way, and I had spaced on their connection to another cult classic, the Metal powered horror of Rocktober Blood. Title track 'Stunt Man' outpaces them all for my money, but perhaps because it is the only one I didn't feel was almost totally dependent on the stage show to make it work. I'd like to say I'd go right now to see a band that had a Wizard and Devil sparring in a duel of stage magic during their show, and as I write this, it's 10 A.M and I'm in my jockey shorts. Yet still, I would leave right this second to see a show like that. I mean no one should notice how I look. They ought to have their eyes focused on that stage beholding the wonder.

Grant Page a.k.a the fifth Gibb brother.
So far I've mostly talked about 'Rock' and not much 'Stunt'. At one point, Monique van de Ven complains that she can't do her own stunts to which Grant replies, "Well, it takes a lot of training, you know. They don't put me in front of the camera saying long soliloquies." That sentence is just about the longest piece of uninterrupted dialog that comes from Grant. Most of the time it only stays with him long enough to set up a  throw to footage of Grant driving a dune buggy, diving off a cliff, or being set on fire at least a half dozen different ways. There is no doubt that Page is a talented stuntman, but both topics of the film would have been better served by separate documentary treatment rather than forcing them both into a single piece of cinematic oddness. While I will definitely continue to admire Grant Page's work, he was surely much better not playing himself when he appeared in Richard Franklin's Rear Window on wheels, Roadgames, as the nefarious, and non-speaking, baddie Smith or Jones. Stunt Rock also features an early screen appearance of dearly departed comedian Phil Hartman, but I'll be damned if I can find him. Judging from the lack of photos on the net, I'd say I'm not the only one that's stumped.

"I'm a real Wizard, man. You can shove that 20 sided die
right up your muggle."
In summation, here's what we've learned today. I'd go to a spectacle rock show in my underpants before noon if necessary as long as it contained a correct quotient of stage magic coupled with hair metal. Don't watch Stunt Rock alone or you will not have as much fun. Also, be under the influence of something when watching Stunt Rock. (Editor's note: The Lightning Bug's Lair in no way is encouraging illegal drug use or alcohol abuse. We're just saying it helps.) If you're a little known rock band, make sure you keep your eyes on bigger known rockers looking to cast off unwanted fashions. Personally, I think dressing more like members of Queen and Fleetwood Mac is something we should all look into.  Mark my words, it'll be the biggest thing on the runways of Paris within 3 years. Finally, we learned that 'Rock' is a word that can be connected to 'Stunt', but it would really be more descriptive of this film if it had an 'and' hanging out between them.

Bug Rating
(if viewed as advised)

(if viewed while sober and lonesome)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...