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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
- $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.
- 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.