Director Brian Trenchard-Smith likes to say that Stunt Rock is the kind of picture that should never ever have reached the screen. Wild-arsed ideas like it, are not supposed to get the green light, he says. But this one slipped through.
A love letter to the world-fraternity of stunt performers, this pseudo-documentary was aimed at teen-movie action fanatics. Trenchard-Smith thought that if the energy was high enough, the sensations relentless enough, story didn’t matter. Character didn’t matter. ‘Blowing shit up’ did.
Shot in Los Angles in fifteen days in 1978 for well under a million dollars, Stunt Rock was intended to launch stunt man Grant Page in America. Instead, it quickly disappeared into obscurity (though Page did get a foothold in the Hollywood stunt world).
Rediscovered by midnight movie fans some time ago, Stunt Rock got a further boost after director Mark Hartley featured some of its more unintentionally hilarious (and spectacular) moments in Not Quite Hollywood (2008).
Now Umbrella Entertainment have re-issued Stunt Rock on Blu-ray in a splendid widescreen print. Amongst the (excellent) standard extras – filmmaker commentaries, archival interviews – the disc producers have included a great new type of supplement, a comic book adaptation from Darren Koziol.
Based in Adelaide, Koziol founded Dark Oz, an independent comic book publisher, in 2009. Specialising in horror and science fiction anthologies, Dark Oz titles include Decay and Retro Sci Fi (“we have a series of adventures, a bit like an Aussie X-Files, Twilight Zone”, he says.)
Koziol told FilmInk he approached Umbrella about a Stunt Rock comic after he had at first discussed the idea with Trenchard-Smith.
“I really loved Not Quite Hollywood, and Umbrella had included a [souvenir] booklet when they re-issued it on Blu-ray,” he said. “I told Brian I wanted to make some comics from his movies.”
Trenchard-Smith and Umbrella liked Koziol’s pitch. “At that time, Brian was already talking to Umbrella about re-issues and they were [searching for supplements].”
The push to create even more unique packaging and extras for home viewing physical media – especially movies and TV – is a symptom of the impact of streaming on consumer appetites. Special Editions will get more special, say stake holders.
Koziol agrees: “If I had mentioned this idea a year ago, I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere!”
A veteran director of more than one hundred promos, Trenchard-Smith designed Stunt Rock as a ninety-minute trailer full of falling bodies, car wrecks, blood bursts, and human torches, all to be played against an ear-splitting music track.
Rock arena favourites Foreigner (‘Cold as Ice’) were to co-star with Grant Page. A schedule clash put them out of the picture. The money would drop out too, if Trenchard-Smith could not find a replacement. The producers quickly cast a group of obscure Van Nuys musos who make Spinal Tap look cool.
The band Sorcery were a cross between Kiss and David Copperfield. They were banned at LA’s Whiskey a Go Go after the fire marshal caught the high point of their song ‘n’, featuring a magic act which threatened to burn the place down.
The comic faithfully records Page’s brilliant stunts like a high-fall and fiery spill through a car windscreen. Best of all, Koziol and his collaborators give a dignity to Sorcery’s bizarre stage show that their own screen version can’t manage!
Still, Koziol, a big fan of Trenchard-Smith, had never actually seen Stunt Rock until he started working on the comic. He particularly liked the savage car action.
“I love muscle cars, I own quite a few, and I grew up on films like Mad Max 2 (George Miller, 1981) and Midnight Spares (Quentin Masters, 1983).”
He even liked Sorcery! The fact that the film is virtually plotless was a big help too. Koziol reckons that an intricate story would have been more difficult to adapt in the fourteen pages Umbrella demanded.
The workflow was simple enough. “I just watched the film a few times and took notes,” Koziol said adding that his role in the process was story, concept and dialogue. “I can draw,’ he said, “but I always work with artists on the comics we do.” He used screen grabs to help lay out the panels. These and detailed descriptions were passed onto artist Ben Sullivan. Dan Lynch did the colouring and the cover art was by Frantz Kantor.
Koziol has already done a new comic book adaptation for an upcoming Umbrella release and hopes to do more. It’s a great opportunity, he says, for comic artists to reach a broader audience.
Readers can support Dark Oz’s latest project here: Kickstarter – Retro Sci-Fi Tales #10 Monster Special