Talking Guilty Pleasures: The Cult Classic ‘Stunt Rock’ (1980)

maxresdefault-6

Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith

Starring: Grant Page, Monique van de Ven, Margaret Gerard

* Published specifically for The Second So Bad It’s Good Blogathon hosted by Rebecca at Taking Up Room *

¤¤¤

When my writer friend Sailor Monsoon first highlighted this film back in November 2017, I was immediately intrigued to see it. His summary was both wacky and oddly appealing, detailing a film that seemed completely like most others from that period. Judging by the trailer alone, it was clear to see that when you watch Stunt Rock, you are taking a walk on the wild side of cinema.

maxresdefaultSynopsis

I managed to buy a copy of the film but the soundtrack was solely in Italian with no subtitle options available. Thus I understood very little about the storyline’s specifics though I got the full experience in terms of stunts and rock music! The following summary is taken from a fellow movie lover:

Australian stuntman Grant Page (as himself) travels to America, where he’s been hired to coordinate the stunts for a new television series titled Undercover Girl, starring Dutch actress Monique Van de Ven (as herself). He’s met at the airport by his cousin, Curtis Hyde, aka “Prince of Darkness”, one of five members of a rock band that goes by the name Sorcery. A unique act in that their live shows combine heavy metal with magic tricks, Sorcery also features Paul Haynes (whose on-stage persona is “King of the Wizards”); lead singer Greg Magie; guitarist Smokey Huiff; Richie King on bass; Perry Morris on drums; and Doug Loch (who never takes his mask off) on keyboards.

At the motel where he’s staying, Grant meets Lois (Margaret Gerard), a journalist in search of her next story. With Monique usually in tow, Grant and Lois spend their days discussing stunt men, and their nights attending Sorcery concerts. Yet try as she might to understand Grant and those like him, who risk life and limb for the sake of movie or TV show, Lois can’t shake the feeling that the man she’s falling for has some sort of a death wish, and wonders how long it will be before one of his stunts goes very, very wrong.

Source – http://www.dvdinfatuation.com/2015/08/1813-stunt-rock-1980.html

Annotation 2020-02-20 125626

Background

It was in 1977 that Brian Trenchard-Smith first had the idea for Stunt Rock whilst taking a shower. He had wanted to find a starring role vehicle for his friend and client, professional stuntman Grant Page, since signing on to manage him some five years earlier. Trenchard-Smith was a director and had several movie titles under his belt as well as a failed television pilot turned movie called Dangerfreaks, all of which featured Page’s talents. Motivated by the notion of making Page a movie star, Trenchard-Smith came up with a simple but catchy plot for Stunt Rock: a stuntman and a rock band meet, spend time together, fireworks ensue. The director wrote a six-page outline and sent it to Bassart-Group, a Dutch distributor with whom he had worked in the past. They agreed to finance the film under the conditions that a) shooting would be completed within 15 days, b) do everything on a $400,000 budget, and c) make it so that the film would be distributed within six months. After Bassart-Group reneged on their promise to provide a big name band, Trenchard-Smith was forced to find a band himself in only three days otherwise the Group would shut down the movie. Luckily for Trenchard-Smith, he met with the relatively unknown band Sorcery and they eagerly signed-on to do the film.

Annotation 2020-02-20 131902
“Far Out!”: Dangerous stunts combined with a heavy metal soundtrack

Filming took place during the spring of 1978 and Trenchard-Smith was able to stay on schedule as planned. However, problems arose when Bassart-Group declared bankruptcy and were forced to resell the distribution rights, delaying the film’s release. Unfortunately, the next company to purchase the rights also filed for bankruptcy. Stunt Rock stayed shelved until 1980 when it received a limited theatrical release, though it quickly disappeared from cinemas. Other distributors would try changing the film’s name (ex. – Crash) or even put it as a double feature to try and attain even a minimal box-office. The film would stay dormant until well into the mid-90s when it was finally released on DVD. In 2009, a 2-disc set was released but it relative limited quantity. The 2009 version is extremely hard to come by and new copies regularly fetch around $300 or more while used copies for around $100. Now considered a Cult Classic, Stunt Rock is sometimes shown in theatres, auditoriums, and draft houses around the world with Trenchard-Smith occasionally acting as a guest speaker and participant in the Q and A’s.

600x200_Brian-Trenchard-Smith1
Brian Trenchard-Smith

Grant Page

“Make it look as dangerous as possible and make damn sure that it’s not” – Grant Page on movie stunts

Grant Page in the 1970’s (L) and at home in 2015 (R).

Born and raised in Australia, Grant Page has always enjoyed being an amateur daredevil. When he was not working his day job, Page would spend his weekends doing daring activities on his own and with friends. Always very athletic, he trained for the 1956 Olympics and then joined the Commando Army unit, spending two and half years training and parachuting. After leaving, he became a Physical Education teacher and had a vast knowledge of physics, eventually quitting to do full-time stunt work on films. His first official film was Trenchard-Smith’s 1975 film The Man from Hong Kong and he continues working as a stunt coordinator to this day. Born in either 1937 or 1939, depending on the source, Page is today between the ages of 78-81 years of age. His two sons Gulliver and Leroy are also stuntmen and share their father’s fearless vision and daring nature.

Annotation 2020-02-20 130647

Above: Page voluntarily checks himself out of the hospital following an accident gone wrong. (He is at least wearing underwear under that gown!)

Below: Close-ups of a run-of-the-mill stunt for Page.

Sorcery

A California band based out of Van Nuys, Sorcery formed in 1976 and used pyrotechnics along with magic at their performances. They often played in places like Whiskey-a-Go-Go in West Hollywood, which helped build them a local reputation. At some point, they were not allowed to perform after the L.A. Fire Marshall decided that their fire-induced antics were too dangerous and promptly shut down their show. They recorded their non-concert scenes for Stunt Rock at United Western Studios. Sorcery disbanded in 1987.

Thoughts

“The film is a free form portrait of a unique human being whose exploits are worth watching again and again.” – Brian Trenchard-Smith

Stunt Rock was neither meant to be an award-winning documentary nor was it meant to be considered a forgettable piece of garbage that would spend over a decade and a half sitting in obscurity. In trying to promote Grant Page into becoming an international star, Trenchard-Smith instead gave him screen immortality. For this, the director feels like it is his greatest career achievement. Trenchard-Smith has struggled with the lingering effects of making the film and at one point, he believed it be the worst film that he ever made. He blamed the project being given the greenlight as a result of the “wild old days of 70s Australian cinema” when anything and everything was permitted. Throughout the years, however, he has come to terms with the film and its fate, enjoying the cult film status and being very upfront when talking about his work. As a small-time, yet hardly insignificant, filmmaker himself, one of the most rewarding things for him is to bring attention and praise onto the other unsung heroes in the movie business.

It is my opinion that Stunt Rock probably fared better in becoming appreciated later on and gaining a cult following rather than to have been mainstreamed upon release where it likely would have been forgotten more quickly. The film does not have much of a plot to follow but the stunts are amazing and Sorcery’s music – not to mention their shows – is pretty great. As a cross-breed of genres, Stunt Rock stands out as being a unique piece of cinematic art that still holds much value today, even in a world of CGI-filled motion pictures where human presence is more minimised. Go into watching this film with an open mind and, moreover, with knowing all the history behind the film and the people who helped make it. The world needs more people like them and cinephiles need to see more movies like Stunt Rock.

The screen was sometimes split into two, even three, frames to enhance the viewers’ experience of Page’s most death defying stunts.

Trivia

  • $400,000 in 1978 money equals roughly $1.5 million in 2018 with inflation adjusted.
  • Filmed in 15 days: 12 days in L.A. and 3 days at Culver City Studios to shoot the concert scenes.
  • The music group Foreigner expressed interest in doing the film but their tour ended after the given distribution deadline.
Annotation 2020-02-20 132237
Grant Page and Margaret Gerard
  • Margaret Gerard, who plays Lois the reporter and Page’s love interest, was (and still is) married to the director Brian Trenchard-Smith.
  • Deep Throat was playing in cinemas when filming took place.
  • Shown as a double feature with Purple Rain.

sobaditsgood20204


19 thoughts on “Talking Guilty Pleasures: The Cult Classic ‘Stunt Rock’ (1980)

  1. Erica, I was so skeptical that this movie even existed!! My boy’s home from school this week and he just looked it up – it’s on Amazon Prime! Too funny. And points to you for buying a movie that’s in Italian!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL Gary, you are a riot! That’s awesome to hear that it’s on Prime and I would love to rewatch it in English but sadly we get such limited titles through Amazon France. I actually considered myself lucky to have found it in Italian because it is so hard to come by but yes, I was indeed very lost. It’s also proof that not all romance languages sound enough alike that you can “get by”. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Too bad about things not being available in different parts of the world. I’m always sad when TCM plays Thin Man movies but we can’t see them in Canada. Maybe all this will inspire us to learn more languages!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder if this film was a bit ahead of its time? Do you the unusual structure of the film, coupled with music and stunts, might have found a bigger audience if it was made post-2000?

    I’m curious to find it now that I’ve read your fab review. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That a thought, Ruth! 1980 was a strange time because the disco movement was being rejected and given a death sentence while the pop sound of the 1980’s had not yet been born. Sorcery’s style was heavy metal with elements of death metal plus a very interesting side show. That sort of alternative nature surely would have even been appealing in the early 90’s with bands like Nine Inch Nails and and The Prodigy coming into prominence.
      If you have access to Prime, it’s apparently still streaming on that service, so I’d say go for it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like an odd one. I realize it was probably hard to tell with an Italian soundtrack but how much of the film is supposed to be a documentary and how much of it is fiction? It sounds like a weird mashup where the basic situation was forced but then they just filmed whatever happened?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Michael! 🙂
      Yes, it was very odd but also weirdly appealing because all the actors were really into the story and it looked like they were having a pretty great time at those concerts! The part about Grant doing stuntwork for a TV show and pursuing a romantic relationship was fictional but the focus on his stunts was real. I definitely got the feeling that at some points they were filming just to film because it was dangerous and badass-looking, having nothing at all to do with the overall premise. Definitely being able to watch this film in English at some point would indeed be helpful! I know that a couple of years ago, new copies of the extremely limited edition DVD were being sold for nearly $300 although I heard some time later that it was being streamed on Amazon Prime, which apparently it still is. (Thanks to Gary for that info!!) In any case, it is interesting to check out if it’s easily accessible. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I can catch it on Amazon Prime (in Canada the film availability is more limited than, for example, in the States), I might check it out. I don’t think I’ll be buying one of those $300 DVDs. 😀

        Thanks for an interesting review, Erica!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Now that’s a great suggestion! I think those films could definitely be put in a similar league although STUNT ROCK is much less tongue-in-cheek. 😀

      Like

  4. 1980 was such a dark and barbarous time for music in movies, what with the release of Urban Cowboy and all. So sometime when I really want to torture myself, I’ll have to look this one up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It completely slipped my mind that URBAN COWBOY was released in 1980 because I had the impression that it had come out a little later. It’s actually quite crazy to think that there was so little time for Travolta between SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and COWBOY.
      You have the right attitude about STUNT ROCK and whenever that mood hits you, I certainly hope you enjoy yourself a little. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent review, Erica! Your article was very educational and insightful about a movie that I had never heard of before! Speaking of “cult classics”, I have to ask, what exactly makes a film a “cult classic”? Let’s use ‘The Crow’ as one example. That movie is considered one of the greatest “cult classics” of our time. Yet, during its theatrical run, ‘The Crow’ was praised by critics and was financially successful. Doesn’t that movie deserve the title of “classic” instead of “cult classic”? What you said about ‘Stunt Rock’ fits the definition of a “cult classic” that I’m familiar with. However, films like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ didn’t perform well at the box office either, but found success through television airings after its theatrical run. Shouldn’t a film like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ be considered a “cult classic” instead of just a “classic”?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sally! Thanks so much! 😀
      That’s a really interesting question to ask about Cult Classics! Like you, I think they are considered “cult” because they were underperformers at the box-office and/or critically at the time of their release and have since gained a following. This can happen via word of mouth, references in other forms of media, or just because a film is seemingly re-discovered. The labelling of such films doesn’t make sense at all when you bring up THE CROW and ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE because how they are regarded today seems to be the inverse of the “cult” classification. Honestly, I think you are on to something!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the explanation! You know, the more I think about this question, the more I’m considering writing an editorial about it! This’ll probably happen sometime in the future, but I hope my article will bring forth some answers!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, you could only get the movie with the music in Italian? It might win on novelty, if nothing else–looks like it has something for everyone. It’s a shame it got buried the way it did. Thanks so much for joining the blogathon with this great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I heard about this movie from a friend a couple of years ago and searched for a DVD, only to find an available version completely in Italian. The English version DVDs were selling for several hundred Dollars at the time so that was definitely a no-go. Since then, the film has been put on Amazon Prime and is currently streaming for free, so I’ve been told. I hope that this will allow some very curious minds a chance to discover a very alternative way of filmmaking! 😀 Thank you again for hosting, Rebecca!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s