Color, 1979, 91m.
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring Grant Page, Monique van de Ven, Margaret Gerard, Sorcery, Don Blackburn
Code Red (US R1 NTSC), Madman (Australia R4 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Part pseudo-documentary, part rock film, and all kinds of crazy, Stunt Rock is essentially a feature-length poem to fearless Aussie stuntman Grant Page from director Brian Trenchard-Smith, a man boasting the single weirdest roster of credits ever for a single filmmaker. At the time he was definitely going through a big action phase in the '70s, starting with the 48-minute doc The Stuntmen and then moving to the TV action film Kung Fu Killers, the terrific George Lazenby/Yu Wang action classic The Man from Hong Kong, and the bizarre, family-friendly stuntapalooza, Deathcheaters.

Those last two films introduced the director to Page, and for their third and final collaboration, they pulled out all the stops for this not-quite-real cinematic odyssey which follows our intrepid stunt man from doing dangerous stunts in Australia to working on a TV show in Los Angeles, where he hangs out with his main squeeze (Gerard, the future Mrs. Trenchard-Smith) and perky Dutch reporter Monique van den Ven (during her big Paul Verhoeven phase). Loads of clips from his most dangerous stunts pad out the running time, and he hangs out with LA types who like to do escape artist routines at pool parties. What really sends the film over the top is its "subplot" as Page also serves as a consultant for Sorcery, a rock band who also happen to be magicians. They dress up as Merlin the Magician, Satan, and other fantasy figures doing lots of over-the-top magic acts; basically imagine a cross between Rush and Doug Henning and you'll get the idea.

The frequent intercutting of Sorcery's antics and Page's brushes with death is both rousing and strangely hypnotic, with many vintage stunt clips presented in elaborate split screen sequences (to fill the very wide scope frame) and often slowed down to the accompaniment of a dreamy, experimental music score. The end result is like watching a Werner Herzog film collide headfirst with an MTV music video, and surprisingly, the whole thing actually works if you're in a receptive mood. No one even tries to act, with Page just sitting back and spinning out stories without even trying to engage the camera. It's not hard to see the link between this film and the much later Death Proof from Trenchard-Smith admirer Quentin Tarantino, who also designed his entire film around his stuntwoman playing herself. Sharp-eyed viewers should also keep a lookout for a very young Phil Hartman in the Los Angeles footage, and even weirder, Lemora director Richard Blackburn also pops up in a small role as an agent and worked as an assistant on the film.

Virtually ignored on its theatrical release and initial VHS release (whose brutal cropping didn't help matters), Stunt Rock began causing some ripples when the trailer began showing up at repertory screenings and on compilation DVDs; in fact, if you've seen the trailer, there's no way you can resist the urge to rush out and find the film. However, don't be misled by its tagline promising "Death Wish at 120 Decibels," which makes no sense whatsoever. The rise in interest in Aussie exploitation certainly helped, too (not to mention the release of the great doc Not Quite Hollywood), with a single-disc Australian DVD finally offering a chance to see the film in scope. However, Code Red's American release blows it out of the water with a two-disc edition; the anamorphic transfer looks fine and roughly comparable to the theatrical prints making the rounds. The mono audio sounds fine and will make many susceptible viewers ache for the soundtrack, which can purchase directly from Sorcery themselves.

You'd better like to listen to Trenchard-Smith because he's all over this DVD release, spinning out hours and hours of stories. Luckily his future career was just as wild, consisting of films like Escape 2000, Dead-End Drive-In, BMX Bandits, Leprechaun 4: In Space, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, and the very controversial TV film, DC/911: Time of Crisis. He appears here for a video intro, a lengthy new interview, and two commentary tracks, one with actors Page and Gerard and another with Blackburn and producer Marty Fink. You'll hear pretty much everything about the film you could want to know (how Sorcery was hired on a weekend's notice to save the project from collapsing, how the idea of the film originated as a basic, can't-miss prospect for teen audiences, etc.), and luckily Trenchard-Smith also talks about some of his other films, including a justification for working on DC/911 despite his diametrically-opposed political beliefs. You also get additional video interviews with Blackburn (who also talks more about his career at the time), band member Smokey Huffs, and line producer Marty Fink, while Sorcery drummer Perry Morris also contributes an audio interview. The first disc is rounded off with the aforementioned trailer, and then on disc two you get The Stuntmen, a video Q&A with Trenchard-Smith at the Alamo Drafthouse to accompany a screening of Stunt Rock, a dupey-looking Cannes promo reel to drum up distributor interest, and a ton of additional Code Red trailers including The Statue, The Intercine Project and Brute Corps. By comparison the Aussie disc simply contains The Stuntmen, the first Trenchard-Smith commentary, the Morris interview, and the trailer, so it should be obvious which one is the better buy.

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