[review by JA Kerswell]
|Terror strikes fear into every bad actress in Hollywood in THE STONEMAN.
Messterpiece is a term loosely thrown around with great abandon (usually by me), but it accurately sums up the sheer unique insanity that is THE STONEMAN. A staggeringly awful - yet sporadically entertaining - mix of 50s ‘creature feature’ and 80s slasher movie made in a seemingly alternative 2002 where SCREAM (1996) never existed. Stretches of tedium are punctured by scenes of jaw-dropping bad movie awesomeness. Featuring a prehistoric villain with a plasticine nose and joke shop vampire teeth, it is a heady concoction of what-the-fuckery directed by an octogenarian and featuring a cast of Hollywood ex-A and B Listers with their tongues firmly in cheek (and cheques quickly cashed). It is like CARRY ON SCREAMING (1966) and MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE (1988) had a baby and then proceeded to drop him on his head.
Whilst on jungle safari (presumably in the director’s backyard and peppered with ill-matching wildlife stock footage in the grand grindhouse tradition) a ‘native’ discovers the curiously well-preserved body of a caveman in what looks like three inches of water. The body is brought back to the United States by Professor Stevens (Pat Morita) to muted excitement by his colleagues - including Dr Weston (Robin Riker). Stevens quips: “It must have been very entertaining explaining this to customs!” For some reason, Kip Hollings (Christopher Atkins), an investigative journalist who usually does stories about lingerie models, also turns up for the grand revealing. All pretend to be in awe of the playdough Neanderthal - except Professor Milano (Bernie Kopell), who accuses Stevens of fakery. Which, given the make-up job, I’m not surprised!
However, when they have all gone to dinner, the caveman rises from his box and kills a technician (J.R. Ripley). At first, everyone thinks it is a case of murder and body theft. Yet, when sightings of a grunting giant in fake furs, carrying a rubber stone axe and hunting local women come through on the police radio Stevens, Dr Weston and Kip start to entertain the notion that their discovery is alive and loose in Los Angeles …
|THE STONEMAN hunts for a dentist in Ewing Miles Brown's messterpiece.
With THE STONEMAN, it is hard to decide where intentional and unintentional bad movie begins and ends. Clearly aping 50s drive-in fare, the director also plays the film’s narrator Professor Fitzgerald - who pops up every so often in his drawing room to tell the audience what’s going on. Looking like a cross between Vincent Price and Forrest J Ackerman, Brown also wrote this under the pseudonym Jack Neal. Brown certainly had some pedigree, as he had acted in 1950s scif-fi and monster mayhem drive-in classics such as MYSTERIOUS INVADER (1957) and GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN (1958) (with this film loosely a slasher remake of the latter). Brown was over 80 years old when he made this - and had been involved in filmmaking since the 1920s (when he acted in the OUR GANG series). He passed away in 2019 at the age of 97.
THE STONEMAN features technical mishaps, budgetary deficits and stiffer line readings than you’d find in a porno - yet it has oodles of low-budget charm. It really comes alive during the Stoneman’s rampage, where a number of set pieces will bring joy to the hearts of any fan of enjoyably bad movies. My favourites include an interminable slo-mo fight between the psycho caveman and a woman squirting pepper spray into his eyes - made even better by the fact that she can’t keep a straight face and calls the police on the phone with all the urgency of someone calling their mother. The film opens with a couple being attacked as they leave a nightclub - and the woman just stands there and screams, without any attempt to run away, before being whacked with the rubber axe. Her facial muggings, as she slides down the wall, bring to mind the lack of dramatic gravitas of the naked woman with the guppy mouth in NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980). But, possibly my favourite, is the angry neighbour who tells a woman being murdered to keep the noise down in a line reading that makes the old lady in the local store in NAILGUN MASSACRE (1985) sound like Dame Judi Dench. The Stoneman himself is played by the 6ft5-inch Steve Henneberry (best known for his appearances in the TV Show American Gladiators). He does as well as the material allows, but looks like OddBod from the aforementioned CARRY ON SCREAMING - and is about as scary. But the scene where he crashes a biker bar has to be seen to be believed.
|Pat Morita, Robin Riker and Christopher Atkins compare contracts for a get out clause.
Pat Morita (probably best known for THE KARATE KID (1984) and its sequels), Robin Riker (who got her start in another creature feature ALLIGATOR (1980)) and Christopher Atkins (who shot to fame in the controversial THE BLUE LAGOON (1980) make a likeable trio. They clearly know what kind of movie they are making and Atkins, especially, plays up for the camera. He had previously worked with Brown on the erotic thriller DIE WATCHING (1993) and is listed as also starring in the director’s feature THE CURSE OF THE GORGON (which very possibly was made at the same time as this film, but remains unreleased). THE STONEMAN also features a number of faces recognisable from 70s and 80s American TV shows - a few of whom went on to be in the director’s next slasher feature DISMEMBERED (2003). Eagle-eyed viewers may also spot Taaffe O’Connell as a sex worker (she also appeared in NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1981)).
THE STONEMAN on first glance looks like an 80s or 90s production, but it was lensed on film in 2002. This was confirmed in Tony Denera’s book ‘Joining Arnold: Rise of the Girly Man’, where he recalls working at Brown’s Movie Tech Studios in 2002 raising money for this movie (which he knew would never see the insides of a cinema). Denera said as of 2012 the film didn’t have distribution. But the film’s only release to date is on an abominable DVD that looks like it was mastered on a Commodore 64 - which is now long out-of-print.
Although, as fun as its parts are, THE STONEMAN ultimately just doesn’t truly transcend to bad movie greatness in the same way as something like PIECES (1982) does. Whilst it is peppered with some incredible trash magic segments, the film tends to drag in places. However, with enough beers, this will be easy to overlook and just sit back and let it wash over you. Just watch out for that rubber axe!
female: 3 / male: 7
1) Male whacked with a stoneage axe
2) Female has throat cut with a stoneage axe
3) Male has throat bitten out
4) Male whacked with a stoneage axe and has arm ripped off
5) Male killed (method unseen))
6) Female whacked in the face with a stoneage axe
7) Female has her neck broken
8) Male gets an axe to the chest
9) Male killed (method unseen)
10) Male shot and falls to his death
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