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Superman's Pal

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Subj: Re: Sci-Fi Cinema #84 - Mad Max (1979)
Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2022 at 04:28:23 pm EDT (Viewed 136 times)
Reply Subj: Sci-Fi Cinema #84 - Mad Max (1979)
Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2022 at 06:39:41 pm EDT (Viewed 166 times)

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Mad Max (1979)

Society's on the skids, at least in near-future Australia. Some creep called Nightrider kills a cop from the Main Force Patrol and goes for a joyride in his cruiser. The rest of the MFP try to chase him down but aren’t having much luck until Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) and Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) show up to run him off the road. Now Nightrider's gang led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) declare war on the MFP for the death of their friend.

We see the MFP headquarters and they seem to be holding on by a thread in a ramshackle building although their mechanic is putting together a supercar in the parking garage. Most crime seems to be vehicular in nature now so the cops need fast cars and good drivers.

The main character appears to be Goose, while Max just follows him around like a little brother. Watching this again it reminded me of the the first Evil Dead where Scotty seems like the hero and Ash is the idiot sidekick until the third act where Scotty suddenly dies and Ash is left to fend for himself.

Max also lives out of town on a farm with this wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and infant son. The gang run around raping and murdering and when they finally lure Goose into a trap that leaves him for dead, I would think Max would get mad as the title suggests. Instead, he tells the police captain Fifi (Roger Ward) that he wants to retire to farm life for good.

But Toecutter's gang shows up in the small town near Max's farm and eventually chase Jessie back home. After a few near misses where Jessie escapes, she is finally run down in the street by the gang and killed alongside her son. Max is just a few minutes too late to save them.

The remainder of the film is pure vengeance exploitation as Max dispatches the gang one by one with extreme prejudice. He takes the black Pursuit Special and runs down all the bad guys. Toecutter isn’t even the last to go, he saves that honor for Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns) whom he puts into a slowly burning car like the gang did to Goose.

Probably the most memorable bit is when he handcuffs Johnny by the ankle to the burning car which is set to explode in a few minutes. He gives him a hacksaw and says "you can cut through that chain in 10 minutes, but if you’re lucky you can cut through your ankle in 5." His fate is left to the imagination.

This is a low-budget Aussie indie from writer/director George Miller, a medical doctor who saw a lot of car accident injuries and decided to make a movie about them along with producer Byron Kennedy, I guess? He claims he wanted to make essentially a "silent movie with sound" meaning it was all kinetic pictures with car chases and the dialogue was sort of irrelevant. I think he mostly succeeded.

The movie has been praised for its daring car sequences and denounced as violent trash. In its 1979 Australian release it became the most profitable film ever made, comparing budget to box office gross, according to Guinness World Records. It was released in the U.S. in 1980 with the Aussie voices redubbed by Americans. We finally got the original language track back around 2000. It was banned in several countries for its violent content.

It of course was followed by three sequels, Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

Great choice. Thanks for the memories. This is a movie that I think almost everyone has seen after the sequel, the Road Warrior. (Maybe Aussies are an exception).

I find it interesting that this one is set before the apocalypse. It feels more like "the Warriors" (1980) where the police and society are still in place, just the gangs are out of control.

I always remember the Night Rider constantly shouting "I am the Night Rider" over and over again to the point where its just obnoxious.

You basically picked out all the memorable scenes for me. The scene with his wife and kid getting killed is particularly hard to stomach, even if it is not directly on screen. And the final hacksaw scene really confused me as a kid as it was such an odd finish. But I can really appreciate it now.

Overall, I think this one is descent but this is the example I always think of when someone asks about sequels which are better than the originals as the Road Warrior is seminal in my opinion.

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