Stunt Rock: Forever, by David Bax
Given that the Jackass franchise has, of late, been exuberantly embraced by the cinephile set, this is an ideal time for a restoration and re-release of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s ridiculous but infectiously exciting 1978 film Stunt Rock. Like a standard iteration of Jackass, it begins with a disclaimer about the danger of the acts performed for the camera and consists mainly of various scenes of men putting themselves in danger.
Unlike Jackass, Stunt Rock invents a semi-fictional narrative along which to string its death-defying vignettes. And that story involves (here comes the ridiculous part) a heavy metal band that incorporates a magic routine into its stage show. Sorcery, for whom large parts of Stunt Rock essentially double as a concert film, was a real band–or is a real band; they are apparently reuniting to celebrate the upcoming rerelease of the movie’s soundtrack album–whose live performances took place with the band members playing around a fiery battle between Merlin and Satan, portrayed by two magicians employing illusions and pyrotechnics. In Stunt Rock‘s version of the world, the guy playing Satan is the American cousin of real life Australian stuntman Grant Page, whose arrival in Los Angeles leads to them teaming up to invent a new musical subgenre called “stunt rock.” If this movie’s investors were duped into thinking they were getting in on the ground floor of a hip trend, I pity them for their gullibility
Trenchard-Smith’s more honorable motivation, though, seems to be offering professional stunt performers the attention and respect they are generally denied. Accompanied by actual footage of Page in some pretty intense scenarios from movies like Mad Dog Morgan, such as falling off a cliff while engulfed in flames, the Australian daredevil offers narration unpacking the philosophy and psychology of folks who do what he does, as well as arguments in favor of the professionalism and safety-mindedness of himself and his colleagues. If Trenchard-Smith also wants to give Page a fantasy life of tooling around L.A. with a girl on each arm, who can say he doesn’t deserve it?
Speaking of Los Angeles, Stunt Rock is a terrific portrait of the place and time. As a glorified documentary, all its photography is done in real locations, giving us a glimpse of the early days of glam metal, as well as the early days of the Clean Air Act, when the city’s famously smoggy sky was just beginning to clear up.
While, again, still technically a fictional film, Stunt Rock fully embodies that old saying about every movie being a documentary of its own making. It highlights how Page and the members of Sorcery are–in ways sometimes respectable and often laughable–reaching for the brass ring. The movie is meant to shine them up (Page’s only flaw as a character seems to be that not everyone gets how awesome he is). Maybe, over 40 years later, this restoration will actually make it happen and we’ll all see each other at the many upcoming concerts by our favorite stunt rock bands. Even if that doesn’t come to pass, though, Stunt Rock is still too much of a rare delight to ignore.
Details of the restoration were not provided in the email blast I received but it still looks pretty dirty. In a way, however, that suits the movie’s fun, scuzzball vibe just fine.