OSW Review | Mad Max (1979)

Mad Max (1979)

Cast/Crew: Directed/written/produced by George Miller and Byron Kennedy, starring Mel Gibson as Max Rockantansky.

Plot: A motorcycle gang terrorises a quiet rural Australian town. Max Rockatansky (the top pursuit-man of the police, Mel Gibson) is eventually pulled into persuing and taking down the gang.

Thoughts on the film:
• Since I saw Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) before this one, I’m coming at this film at a different angle: This has elements of what you’d come to expect – Australian slang like Doof! (outdoor dance party) Slang It! (Floor it!) Schlanger (Irish people would say “langer” i.e. dick) and roving gangs in customised vehicles. This is supposed to be a dystopian future but without a budget, it’s just some town in the countryside – it’s a long way away from barren wastelands with diseased mutants. Ooh, maybe we’ll get there in the sequel!
• Also, Mad Max 4, I’m so sorry about giving out about no plot/character development. MM4, although in the same ballpark and from the same mind as the prior three films, is light years ahead of this film in every way.
• The general setting is not explained, you just piece together the world as you go along. Although civilisation is dissolving (motorcycle gangs committing crimes unpunished) there are still police, towns, buildings, sliced bread, and due process for crimes. The cars are regular enough, clothes are normal beyond a few custom leather jackets (or wearing a Hammer Jammer on your forearm!). Also, these are the days before colour grading, so we get ‘normal’ lush greens and blues, instead of a washed out sepia tone. When’s the last time you’ve seen a post-apocalyptic film not barf-orange/yellow!
• Watching the movie, it makes me think that Mad Max 4 is a fully-realised vision of Mad Max 1.
• Mel Gibson looks SO young. This is before he became a big star. He dresses in police officer black leather.
• Bit of a Nightrider thing going on, where the elite police offer Max is given a suped-up amazing car to drive to fight crime. Funny as the initial bad guy is called Nightrider.
• Audio-wise, the dialogue sounds entirely re-recorded in post, it’s weird. Lots of time listening to car engines roaring and on idle.
• I imagine most of the budget was spent on the cars (and the accidents they get in to) and a bit on gore, some fun 80s (actually, 70s) shots like comedy bulging eyes before a crash.
• The first 1 hour 10 is pretty ho-hum. Lots of time spent in cars, hanging out, not much dialogue/anything going on. Then, business goes down – the final 20 minutes has a lot going on.
• His wife has two altercations with the bike gang, with the very real threat of violence, gang rape, and child abduction. I was furious with how lax Max and his open-buttoned summer shirt was about this situation. I dunno if it was bad acting or scripting but his reaction is cobblers. The first happening was brushed off in seconds (they’re laughing in the car soon afterwards) and then Max allows his wife to go off sunbathing alone, which involved a trek through the woods to get there. • He describes the second run-in as “trouble with bikers”. Damn, take this shit seriously! Your wife was almost raped & child abducted ffs.
• What happens next is quite shocking, and afterwards he calmly snaps, resolving to hunt down every one of the Acolytes (yes, that’s the name of the gang!). He even does the Jigsaw routine from SAW – giving a handcuffed punk a saw blade that can cut through flesh but only slowly though handcuffs; whilst an improvised bomb is about to blow. Saw ripped off pretty much this exact scenario.
• As Max rides off into the empty Australian sunset, I couldn’t believe what a difference the final 20 minutes made to my overall enjoyment of the film, going from ‘not bothered watching the sequels’ to ‘absolutely get Mad Max 2 and 3!’.

Overall: A pretty low-key film for 70 minutes with a massive, full-throttle final 20 that’ll make you want to see the sequel. There’s not much in dialogue, characters, story etc., the business-end is compressed into a superb final act. Since most of the film is pretty quiet, I couldn’t recommend it, but it makes me appreciate Mad Max Fury Road much more.


Next film review – Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)


Release Date
June 2, 2015