Mad Max (1979)

Mad Max (1979) movie poster

director George Miller
viewed: 01/29/2015

Great movie.  Really, a great movie.

As a kid, I saw The Road Warrior (1981) first, and so when I did see Mad Max for the first time, it seemed lesser in comparison.  To be fair, The Road Warrior is brilliant (I’m eager to see it again for the first time in years), but Mad Max is brilliant too.

The first feature film for director/co-writer George Miller, co-writer James McCausland, and producer Byron Kennedy, Mad Max is one of those amazingly concocted, almost perfectly conceived, and beautifully executed pieces of great cinema.  Such a product of its time and also such an emblem of its time and vision of its future.  So Australian and yet so universal.   To cast a low-budget action film so perfectly…almost a crime.

Taking place in the very near future (of 1979), the roads of Southern Australia have become the playground of hoodlums and biker gangs and the police have become souped-up S&M-influenced studs to catch them.  When one nutty bloke named “Nightrider” meets his maker after a high-speed chase, his gang of buddies show up to pay respect by anarchy and revenge on the police who tracked him.

Max is of course Mel Gibson, the young, handsome actor yet to become a household name.  He’s the happily married father of a Sprog but also the police’s top gun on the roads.  When the gang ends up maiming and killing Max’s buddy Goose (Steve Bisley), Max quits the force to escape from all the chaos, danger, and revenge.  Only in this small world, even the isolated Aussie countryside is teaming with the same ruthless gang and eventually, Max’s wife and child become victims of “The Toecutter” (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his gang the Acolytes.  So revenge upon revenge must be served up.

Made in the time of the oil crisis of the 1970’s, the world of Mad Max has yet to become a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Rather, it’s pre-apocalyptic.  And as much as it’s the future, it’s also very much the now.  Car culture, personal freedom, and anarchic villainy rule the roost and what’s left of a sane society isn’t enough to contain the cruelties of the outlaws.  It’s a prescient and timely vision, yet played with a mixture of malice and comedy, innuendo and suggestion as well as shocks and violence.  It’s truly brilliant.

From the excellent casting of characters to the Bernard Herrmann-influenced score by Brian May to the amazingly effective editing and stunts, the movie’s is the whole package.  Brilliant.  Totally brilliant.

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