Extreme Stunts and Hard Rock Collide In 1978′s “Stunt Rock”

Ahead of a May 21 screening at the Hollywood Theater, director Brian Trenchard-Smith talks “Ozploitation” and the stunt man he tried to turn into a movie star.

There’s truth in advertising, and then there’s Stunt Rock. The 1978 genre mashup delivers on its title’s duality with the commitment, glee and subtlety of a flaming semi truck exploding into a tower of guitar amps.

The cult film from prolific Australian filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith (The Man From Hong Kong, Dead End Drive-In) splits its runtime between real-life stunt master Grant Page climbing buildings and setting himself ablaze and concert footage of the equally pyromaniacal hard-rock ensemble Sorcery.

This spring, Stunt Rock is landing on cinephilic radars due to Kino Lorber’s new 4K restoration and Blu-ray releases. In turn, Trenchard-Smith—a luminary of the ‘70s and ‘80s Australian genre film movement known as “Ozploitation” and author of Adventures in the B Movie Trade—will be on hand for a May 21 screening and Q&A at the Hollywood Theatre, along with his wife, Margaret Trenchard-Smith, who stars in the film.

Coincidentally, the director says he all but sealed his eventual relocation from Los Angeles to Scappoose during a previous appearance at the Hollywood in 2015.

WW caught up with Trenchard-Smith to discuss the belated appreciation of Stunt Rock, the “sheer nerve” of Ozploitation filmmakers, and his ambitions to turn Grant Page from stunt man to full-fledged movie star.

WW: Is it true the genre combination of Stunt Rock dawned on you in the shower?

BRIAN TRENCHARD-SMITH: Absolutely! If you’ve always been obsessed with movies, you’re always thinking of new ones. Suddenly, there was a nexus of a multiscreen rock-’n’-roll musical colliding with a series of stunts. And Stunt Rock appeared. Much stunt and much rock. So I got out of the shower, toweled myself off…I did partake of some herbal remedies, and six pages of a treatment flowed, longhand.

How did Grant Page feel about playing himself?

He plays himself all the time! He’s a very engaging personality. I think in two years, for his 85th birthday, he wants to roll another car.

In the film, Grant often expresses his stunt philosophies and lack of fear, but were you ever scared filming him?

I learned to trust his philosophies. There were little accidents but nothing serious. Grant has a scientific approach. You can see that he has a personality, which I thought was very marketable on the screen.

I saw him as another Australian Errol Flynn. Maybe more on the craggier side but who still exudes a lot of sex appeal to women. Believe me, Grant was a very popular man. Stunt Rock was intended to be his international launch pad.

There’s a line in the movie about how Australian stunt men make up for a lack of resources with “sheer nerve.” Could that apply to the whole Ozploitation film movement?

Absolutely. It took sheer nerve to make Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Devil’s Playground and the more art house-driven movies. And from our point of view, it took nerve to put things on the screen we had not previously been allowed to and, at the same time, develop the technological skill to pull off Hollywood-style action scenes. Ozploitation was typically Australian: anti-authoritarian, rowdy, boisterous, wide angle. We live in a wide-angle country. It was an interesting, frontier time.

How did a young Phil Hartman wind up in your movie for one scene?

Groundlings. I had to make the film with nonunion actors. Someone said go to the Groundlings [the Los Angeles improvisational and sketch comedy troupe]. I wish I’d been able to expand these supporting parts, but I had to shoot it in 15 days. What a pity. If only I had known he was going to be a great comic.

How’s it been to see Stunt Rock restored and rediscovered?

It’s not that I think it’s a work of art. I think it’s an eccentric oddity that’s entertaining. People should buy the Blu-ray and play it at parties. Watch what they want and use it as wallpaper. What a filmmaker seeks to do is entertain an audience. If his vision does not completely go out of date generation after generation, his core idea must have enduring resonance.

SEE IT: Stunt Rock plays at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-493-1128, hollywoodtheatre.org. 7 pm Saturday, May 21. $15.