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Film Review: Mad Max
Mad Max (Miller, 1979)
Ah the days when we could love Mel Gibson without having to thinking about religion, racial tension and his babies’ mamas. Oh how I miss the good ole days.
Most people have watched Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (Miller, 1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (Miller 1985), but I’ve found recently that many haven’t watched the original or it’s been so long they’ve forgotten. The Road Warrior is the one about 'the kid and gas' and Thunderdome was the one with Tina Turner and “We Don’t Need Another Hero”. Both are very good films, but there’s something about the original that is so raw and unhinged.
It resonates and though it is clear that the movie was made in the 70's, it doesn't feel dated. Instead, Mad Max feels like a retro-future in the same vein as Blade Runner (Scott, 1982), only the audience is getting that benefit now more than it ever would have when the movie was originally released. It holds up so well, it's worth a watch...or another watch as the case may be.
The movie is set in the future where civilization is on the brink of deterioration and anarchy. Max is a policeman who uses his car, The Interceptor, as a weapon against the growing power of gangs. There is no doubt about it, the car is a mean looking machine that plays a pretty prominent role. Both the car and the man, Max, who is behind the wheel set a sexy, if not hardened and dark tone throughout.
Max drives his car fast through the wasteland, catching criminals and causing enough explosions and bloodshed to keep the energy going. Max is good at his job, maybe too good. The deeper he gets into his job, the more personal it gets and soon he finds that the future might be as much of a wasteland as the roads he drives.
The storyline has enough interest and when it lulls, the action keeps the blood flowing. There is car racing, explosion and more explosions. The acting isn't stellar, but it works in the setting. Some of the overtop acting of the gangsters might be borederline camp, but the dark overtones keep it veerring into the kitschy category.
In the end, Mel Gibson's acting keeps everything believable while his actions as Max drives the story and keeps the momentum going.
This classic Australian film was the inspiration for a lot of ‘end of civilization’ films that followed in its wake. So, instead of watching Waterworld (Reynolds, 1995) or Doomsday (Marshall, 2008), give Max a try or remind yourself why you seem to still have a soft spot for Mel Gibson.
- When the movie was originally released in the US, all of the actor’s voices were dubbed and Australian slang was changed fit the American market.
- The car that Max drives is a Ford "XB Falcon Coupe", sold in Australia from December 1973 until August 1976. There was only one car and no spares.
- Director George Miller was working as a medical doctor in an emergency room in Victoria, Australia. He used the money he earned to pay for the movie.
- Miller also directed The Witches of Eastwick (1987) and Happy Feet (2006) among others.
- The writer, James McCausland, drew inspiration for the movie from the 1973 oil crisis. He felt that people would find the story believable. This was the only venture into filmmaking.
- Mel Gibson didn’t originally audition for the movie, but went with a friend who was. He had been a bar-fight the night before and was pretty beaten up. They asked him to come back and audition for the part.
- The character’s full name is Max Rockatansky.
- Joanne Samuel (Jessie) got the part because the original actress cast in the role was injured in a car accident.
- This was the first film in Australia to use an anamorphic lens, which is why there are such great panoramic shots of the area.
- The original trailers and previews didn’t feature a then unknown Mel Gibson; they focused on the car crashes and action scenes. Watch the Original Trailer below!