MOVIE PAGE PICK: MAD MAX
Mel Gibson Max
Joanne Samuel Jessie
Hugh Keays-Byrne the Toecutter
Steve Bisley Jim Goose
Roger Ward Fifi Macaffee
Vincent Gil Nightrider
Tim Burns Johnny the Boy
Geoff Parry Bubba Zanetti
Paul Johnstone Cundalini
John Ley Charlie
Jonathan Hardy Labatoche
Sheila Florence May Swaisey
Reg Evans Station Master
Stephen Clark Sarse
Howard Eynon Diabando
John Farndale Grinner
Max Fairchild Benno
Directed by George Miller. Screenplay by George
Miller and James McCausland (based on a story by George
Miller and Byron Kennedy).
1979. Running time: 93 Minutes.
It is the beginning of the fall of
gangs of bikers roam the countryside killing, raping and pillaging as they go along. There
are only understaffed and demoralized leather-clad highway policemen in souped-up
V8s to stop them - by any means necessary.
Strangely enough some vestiges of civilization still remain: television
broadcasts, families that still pack everything into station-wagons to go on
vacation by the coast and lawyers that manages to get their obviously guilty
clients off. Welcome to the strange world of Mad Max . . .
Narrative weirdness or prophetic vision of a society in steady decline? Whatever. But
what must be remembered is that this isnt yet the all-out post-apocalypse of the
petrol scarce society of The Road Warrior. Rather call it the
pre-apocalypse. What must also be remembered is that when Mad Max
hit the screens in 1979 its U.S. distributors didnt exactly know what to do with it.
For starters it was an Australian film, so they wanted to do the predictable thing: have
it dubbed with the voices of American actors. The other thing, which they did do and which
was also pretty predictable, was that they gave it a limited release. It was only after
the enormous financial success of its sequel, The Road Warrior, that the film
found its audience in the States.
However, when the film was originally released it found instant cult status elsewhere
in the world, which is why The Road Warrior is also known as Mad Max 2 in
some countries. Here in South Africa it also caused a stir, provoking critics into
bemoaning the level of violence in contemporary movies.
Obviously Mad Max has lost
some of its impact. When I told a friend that I intended seeing it again on video again
for the first time since I saw it as an impressionable 12-year-old, he warned me that he
had recently also seen it again and that he was disappointed with the film. Of course, he
is right. It is doubtful whether Mad Max would look the same if it were remade
By the action movie standards of films of today like The Rock and Con Air,
not only is its budget showing through but also the era in which it was made. And I'm not
only referring to the fashions and haircuts of the day: action and sci-fi films today have
become all-out spectacles to attract the jaded eyes of audiences used to everything.
However, even within this context there is something
appealing about the first Mad Max movie. Obviously its meager budget was spent on
stunts and while it doesn't match its predecessors (Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) for sheer spectacle, the stunts
have a certain appealing grittiness and realness to them that few films can match.
can ever forget the sight of the chief bad guy's (aptly called the Toecutter) eyes
literally bulging straight out of his skull shortly before he crashes his bike head-on
into a huge truck? Or the impressive sound "the last of the V8 interceptors"
make? Or the bikers falling from a bridge into the river below?
Like I said, Mad Max
may not compare well to many of today's genre offerings but it has a certain something to
it that makes it worthy of the cult status it has earned through the years. Or
re-screenings . . .
Copyright © January
James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page