Australia, contrary to outsider and international beliefs, has long been a strangely conservative country. Most recently, Australians elected a right wing government that is more ideologically driven than any prior ruling party, and whose implementation of draconian policy has polarised many people, regardless of where their “usual” political bias may lie.
One of the more publicised acts of the ruling conservative party in Queensland, often seen as one of the most conservative and right wing states in the country, is the introduction of the “anti-bikie” laws. Referred to as “The Deep North”, Queensland has a long history of bizarre political figures, from recent billionaire-turned-political Clive Palmer (and his desire to rebuild the Titanic and mechanical dinosaurs for a weird Jurassic Park style theme park) to Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen who was premier of the state in the late ‘60s to the late ’80s and is seen as one of the most conservative figures in Australian political history, with a legacy of corruption and consolidation of power.
The anti-bikie laws or VLAD (Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment) laws, which to quote the Queensland Times from the 8th of March this year state: Criminal gang members are now banned from gathering in groups, attending specific locations, wearing club colours at licensed venues and owning, operating or working in various occupational industries, are obviously not being met without cries of outrage. They might have the desired effect that politicians who created them had in mind, but there is overlap, particularly in the punk and metal communities. The bass player in my band (who is a QLD resident) told me he’d been stopped, searched, insulted, questioned and asked “who he rides for” when he was on his way to a gig one night. Why? He had a patched jacket on and the police didn’t like the look of the band patches sewn onto it.
With all this in mind, it’s a good time to revisit an Australian classic from 1974, just to prove that not much really ever changes. Stone is a low budget, cvlt biker film that is part thriller/mystery and part social commentary. A police officer (Stone), goes undercover in the Gravediggers bikers to find out who is murdering their members, one by one. Things heat up when a rival gang, the Black Hawks show up and the violence increases.
Stone is a film that is very much a product of its time. The POV acid trips probably freaked a few heads out back in the day and the long motorbike rides through Sydney and its surrounding areas are fascinating to watch in 2014 if you want a perspective of how different things looked. Some of the dialogue is near iconic levels, especially in the metal and biker communities here in Australia, like the immortal: “We’ll do what we fuckin like!” Sydney band Shackles used a sample from the film on their Traitor’s Gate album, where the crazed Doctor performs a “Satanic” ritual at the funeral of a fallen Gravedigger member and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who rides and hasn’t heard of Stone.
It’s a film that is certainly dated visually but it doesn’t matter. It is what it is. As Australia enters the next few years in a conservative grip, a film like Stone proves there will always be those on the fringe and those who won’t accept the dubious notions of “power” that governments are only interested in holding onto.