Mad Max

Year: 1979

Production: Mad Max Pty.

Director: George Miller

Starring: Mel Gibson, Joanne Smauel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns

Screenwriter: James McCausland, George Miller

Based on a story by George Miller

91 minutes; Color


This low-budget exploitation movie builds up to the vigilante-style revenge of spaced-out policeman Max Rockatansky (Gibson) - who is almost as disturbed as his antagonists - on the motorcycle gang that killed his wife and child. It proved to be the successful harbinger of a boom in post-holocaust sf films where a dying civilization is pitted against a growing barbarism. Miller, whose debut feature this was, is extremely economical with data about just what (other than fuel shortages) has happened to create this crumbling of the social structure in Australia. Nontheless, his vision of anarchy's spread - the atmosphere is reminiscent of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) - is credible and well achieved. The film's instant success was due to the panache (and great skill) with which the chase sequences and spectacular vehicle demolitions were mounted. Prints shown in the USA were dubbed so that audiences there should not be subjected to the brutalities of the Australian accent. The sequels are Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

An Australian exploitation movie in tha manner of Roger Corman's New World productions, such as Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000 (1975), Mad Max has a plot that is pared down even by New World standards. Gibson, in the title role, is a cop in a near future where violence is the norm, who turns vigilante to trace the marauding motorcycle gang who killed his wife. Using only a minimum of blood and gore, its reputation notwithstanding, Miller fragments his story into a series of shock sequences in which his ever-mobile camera involves the audience directly in the action in the manner of John Carpenter. It is this that makes the car and motorbike crashes, mounted with real elan by Grant Page, so powerful.

Wisely, Miller never explains what kind of society his characters inhabit, beyond the glimpses of the ramshackle police hedaquarters; like the machines he celebrates and mourns, the film is an example of pure style. An even better sequal followed in 1981, Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior).

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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