2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge: Day 16: Stunt Rock (1978)

Day 16. Rock ‘n’ Roll Miscreants: Give some screen time to the punks and/or metal heads.

“It’s super human, super music, super magic and super amazing! You’ll be compelled over the edge of sight and sound and under the spell of mind-boggling action and music! Pushed to the danger zone! It’s a death wish at 120 decibels! Stunt Rock! The ultimate rush!”

If there was ever a movie that can’t live up to its trailer, it’s Stunt Rock. Upon witnessing it on the Alamo Drafthouse’s Trailer War compilation, I fell in love with whatever this movie could be. I even ordered the official DVD of the film but never unwrapped it. Why? Because nothing could be as great as this trailer.

I’m so happy to have been proven wrong.

Stunt Rock — directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith (Dead-End Drive-InNight of the Demons 2Turkey Shoot and so many more) — is exactly the type of movie I love: Take a basic concept and let hijinks ensue.

As Trenchard-Smith sais himself, the concept was “Famous stuntman meets famous rock group. Much stunt, much rock. The kids will go bananas.” He’s also referred to it as “a largely plotless, pseudo-documentary, rocumentary and basically a 90-minute trailer for Grant Page.”

Grant Page is an Australian stuntman who pretty much defied death on a daily basis throughout the 70’s and 80’s, transforming his weekend hobby into a career that would give him international exposure thanks to films like The Man From Hong Kong, Mad Max, Death CheatersMad Dog MorganDeath Ship and so many more, as well as starring in Road Games and having his own TV series, Danger Freaks.

Basically, Grant comes to America, talks about stunts, does stunts, gets the girl — Trenchard-Smith’s future wife Margaret Gerard — and hangs out with a band that combines rock and roll and magic. Monique van den Ven (Amstersdamned, the 1982 version of Breathless, Paul Verhoeven’s Turkish Delight) also shows up.

There’s also the subplot of a movie being filmed and the ways directors and agents treat their talent. The agent in this film is played by Richard Blackburn, whose career is the kind that draws the laser focus of this website. Would it just be enough if he played Dr. Zaius on the Return to the Planet of the Apes cartoon series? Let me add that he also co-wrote Eating Raoul and appears in that film as James from the Valley. But perhaps what he’s most celebrated for — at least around these parts — are for writing, directing and appearing as the Reverend in the absolutely transcendent 1973 film Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural.

This is less of a film and more of a movie that you can shut off your brain and just savor the stuntwork while hearing Page discuss how and why he did it, interlayed with Sorcery in concert.

While Trenchard-Smith wanted Foreigner for the film, they were on tour and wouldn’t be back in time. That’s fortunate — no band other than Sorcery could have been in this movie.

A theatrical metal band formed in Los Angeles in 1976, Sorcery’s gimmick was that two master magicians would dress as Merlin (Paul Haynes) and Satan (Curtis James Hyde), join them on stage and battle one another in what their press bio referred to as “The King of the Wizards against the Prince of Darkness.”

The band was made up of Richard “Smokey” Taylor on guitar, Richie King on bass, Greg MaGie on vocals, Perry Morris on drums and the masked Doug Loch on keys. They’d later play Dick Clark’s 1982 A Rockin Halloween and 1983 A Magical Musical Halloween.

But if you really love metal, you probably know them best for a completely different film.

In 1984, Morris, Taylor and King became Headmistress, the band for the seminal metal/horror film Rocktober Blood, a film in which Billy “Eye” Harper wipes out most of his band before they reform a year after his killing spree has been halted.

 

That’s pretty much the movie. It doesn’t demand that you invest much more of your brain into it, instead relying on a magical blend of 1978 L.A., behind the scenes movie-making and wizards launching fire across a stage while a masked dude plays keyboards and dudes wail and shred. If this doesn’t sound like the most amazing film ever committed to celluloid to you, you’re invited to leave this site now and never come back.

The frequent use of split-screen seen in this movie was a necessary editing tool. That’s because many of the stunts from Australian films like The Dragon Files, Mad Dog Morgan and Death Cheaters was filmed on 16 mm and needed to be fixed to fit the wide frame. That said, I love how each frame has a different angle. It’s MTV three years before that little moon man ever launched. 

I’m not the only lover of this film. Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof owes the way it presents stunts — much less a New Zealand stunt icon in Zoe Bell in a starring role — to this film. And Eli Roth wore a shirt of the film while filing Hostel 2 and has featured the Sorcery songs “Talking to the Devil” in Knock Knock and “Sacrifice” in his remake of Death Wish.

Perhaps Stunt Rock has even greater cultural significance. After all, it’s Phl Hartman’s first movie. And editor Robert Leighton — who was billed as Robery Money as this was a non-union film — would go on to be the supervising editor of This Is Spinal Tap. Hmm — now it’s all making sense.

While Trenchard-Smith would at one point state that this was the worst movie he ever made, he’s softened on the film in later years. What do you expect from a movie that went from an idea in the shower to in theaters in under 5 months?

Sadly, three months prior to Allied Artists distributing the film, they went bankrupt. The film was sold to Film Ventures International. And then…the movie disappeared for decades until it was rediscovered.

You can order this movie — and lots of other amazing stuff — from the band Sorcery. Do so right now. This is a movie begging to be experienced.

BONUS: The amazing Trailers from Hell has posted Trenchard-Smith discussing the film over the trailer and it’s everything you want it to be.

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