Compiled by Chris Poggiali & Jon Putnam
Filmed on the gritty streets of Chicago's south side, STONY ISLAND (1978) tells the story of Richie Bloom (Richie Davis), the only white kid on the block, as he forms an R&B band with his best friend, Kevin (Edward 'Stoney' Robinson). With the help of their mentor, aging sax legend Percy (Gene 'Daddy G' Barge), they pull together a funky supergroup, stealing practice time at night in the local funeral home. Despite few resources and heavy losses, this resilient group of dedicated musicians -- armed only with wit, sleight of hand and outrageous Chicago bravado -- must come together to finally make their smash debut. Directed by Andrew Davis (THE FUGITIVE, ABOVE THE LAW, CODE OF SILENCE), photographed by Tak Fujimoto, and co-starring Rae Dawn Chong, Dennis Franz and The Bangles' Susanna Hoffs, this talked-about but rarely-seen indie gem is now available on DVD and digital platforms for the first time ever, from Cinema Libre Distribution!
Village Voice says...
While JOE AND MAXI has papered the Village with enough posters to make the folks south of 14th Street expect the second coming of GONE WITH THE WIND, STONY ISLAND, a vital example of fictional independent filmmaking, has crept into town like a thief in the night. Andrew Davis’s 1978 film, featuring virtually unknown Chicago rhythm-and-blues performers, can be found by the adventurous moviegoer in one of the kung-fu tracks around town. This racially integrated movie is thus facing the fate of its last worthy predecessor, SHINING STAR (THAT’S THE WAY OF THE WORLD), in which “integrated” in the minds of distributors equaled “blaxploitation.” STONY ISLAND deserves a fighting chance in a Manhattan specialty house. The movie is youthfully exuberant and, as cut to pop rhythms, the pacing and narrative are zestfully unpredictable. STONY ISLAND belongs among a small handful of rock films from A HARD DAY’S NIGHT to AMERICAN HOT WAX that flow genuinely to a contemporary sound. The characters, including an Appalachian window washer and a black chauffeur in a Cook County limo fleet, are as sweet as their music is mellow. You get an inexhaustibly hectic collage of Chicago locations, a sampling of more bar bands than you knew existed, and a movie that shuffles into a heartfelt homage to Gene Barge as a patriarchal black musician, which are three reasons to catch it, catch it, catch it.
-- from “Declarations of War and Independents”
by Tom Allen (Village Voice, March 24, 1980, 25:48)