With the recent sad loss of Sandy Harbutt, creator of the iconic Aussie bike movie, Stone, and the further news of the death of Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the pivotal role of the delightfully named ‘Toad’, we thought it a nice tribute to take a quick look back at Stone. Vale Sandy and Hugh.
Stone was the feature film which signalled the debut of up-and-coming film-maker Sandy Harbutt and it broke box office records on its release.
The basic plot of Stone is a murder mystery: the lead character, a detective, goes undercover to ascertain why members of a motorcycle club are being killed, and discovers that they have witnessed a political assassination and may be able to identify those responsible.
The appeal lies in the very Australian-ness of the film.
The apparel, language, behaviour and and the choice of bikes was pointedly Australian – local bikers tended to go for more powerful bikes than the yanks, and often chose Japanese brands, rather than the traditional Harley-Davidson.
Kwaka Nines are all over the shop in Stone.
Stone is also particularly notable for its unashamed and open references to the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the often socially-crippling experiences of Vietnam veterans, who after returning, were regularly disparaged by the people they considered they were charged with representing.
The memorable opening credits of the film feature the famous funeral procession in which 400 bikers take to the (then newly completed) Gosford expressway.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the filming of that scene, Sandy Harbutt put out the call for riders to gather and recreate the scene. Well, he got what he wanted. An incredible 35,000 riders turned out on the day.
Hugely influential? Well, kind of.
Fun to put on while getting stuck into a few cans? Absolutely. And, Rebecca Gilling. Goodness me…
RIP Sandy and Hugh.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.