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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, October 23, 2014 - Edition No 920 

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MAD MAX

SYNOPSIS:
Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) and Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) are two of the law keepers in a future Australia where things are not the same as today. Lawless bikies – like Nightrider (Vincent Gil) - led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne), pose a threat to what’s left of a struggling society and when they take Goose, Max decides it’s time to resign, so he can live a normal family life with his wife (Joanne Samuel) and baby. Their beach holiday lead to tragic events that force him back into uniform (and his V-8 Interceptor) – but this time it’s personal.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Welcome back Max Rockatansky, Fifi Macaffee ('you're hooked Max!'), Toecutter, Baba Zanetti, Jim Goose, Johnny The Boy, Cundalini and The Nightrider, whose memorable line 'I'm a fuel injected suicide machine' sets the tone for this adrenaline charged classic. The most impressive feature film debut by any Australian director is also one of the best action-exploitation films ever committed to celluloid, ranking alongside Death Race 2000 (1975) and is surpassed only by the larger-budgeted Mad Max 2 (1981). Not everyone thought so at the time. Consider the comments of Phillip Adams in The Bulletin edition of May 1, 1979. He wrote that Mad Max had 'all the emotional uplift of Mein Kampf' and would be 'a special favourite of rapists, sadists, child murderers and incipient Mansons'. It also turned out to be a favourite of just about everyone else and immediately secured its place in the pantheon of Australian box-office champions. 24 years after it was shot and 22 years after it was released (Miller and producer Byron Kennedy edited when time permitted after the meagre $380,000 privately funded budget ran out), Mad Max has lost none of its excitement and ability to thrill. Despite a soundtrack that is still muddy in parts and compromised by a terrible music score - surely the worst to ever win the AFI (or Australian Film Awards as it was then know) - sheer filmmaking style ensures the legend of Mad Max can only grow with this welcome re-release. When police brass attempt to keep Max on the road by offering him a V-8 Interceptor, his motorcylcle cop buddy Jim Goose calls it "the duck's guts". For pulse pounding kinetic cinema graced with eye-popping stuntwork, memorable villains, a charismatic hero and eccentric minor characters (the police mechanic and grease-monkey Nick Lathouris alone are worth the price of admission), Mad Max is indeed The Ducks Guts and should not be missed, no matter how many times you've seen it.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Road movie, revenge movie, buddy movie . . . and now a classic of Australian cinema, Mad Max is fascinating to see more than 20 years after it was made. Although set in a future of some sort, the film carries some visual clues that link it to the 70s (and a score that cries out for reworking), but the themes it canvasses do not age. Max Rockatansky (a name from a multicultural society, that) is a sort of lawman, a motorised hero whose sense of justice is revved into overdrive by traumatic events. Motors – whether on two, three, four or more wheels – provide not only transport but the very artillery of an eroded society in an arid landscape. Life has dried up in almost every sense. The film owes its fame more to what it triggered than to its own achievements, although that’s not meant as a put down. The exploration of screen violence that led to the making of Mad Max gives the film a haunting echo, as if it draws its lifeblood from past films. Mel Gibson is young and innocent, his good looks standing out in a sea of bent, macabre or quirky faces, except for Joanne Samuel, his sweet young wife. One of the big questions posed by the film’s violence and plot resolution remains valid today and is often referred to in films with similar structures: do we justify violent revenge when the sword is in the hero’s hand, if lawful remedies are not readily available? But that may be a moot point for those who want to get a charge out of this reminder of how it all began for Mel, for George Miller, and in some ways for Australian cinema itself – Mad Max was one of the many films made in the 70s that took Australia to the world. Only Mad Max was nothing like any of the others.

Review by Louise Keller:
Filled with enough raucous energy to ignite a fireworks display, Mad Max is truly a benchmark in Australian cinema. George Miller's futuristic road movie is set in a bizarre world where edgy stunts and bravado filmmaking raise their flag in an uplifting and energising way. Mad Max is far more than a cult phenomenon, skyrocketing 22 year old Mel Gibson with his baby blues onto the road to superstardom. Gibson may look young and fresh, but his rich, deep voice is the same, albeit with an Australian twang; he had that great screen presence even then. Great characters such as Hugh Keays-Byrne's Toecutter are imprinted in our minds – how can we forget that look with one eyebrow shaved, and a striking white lightning streak in his unruly mop of hair. Steve Bisley's Jim Goose makes for a credible partner, and the 'crazy about you' relationship between Max and Jessie is heartfelt. The stunts are wild and there's a great sense of the unpredictable. Tension-plus and heart-stopping action keep the pulse beating, and by the time Max resumes his black leather pants and jacket on the road to revenge, we are with him all the way. Brian May's frenetic orchestral score never stops and the Australian landscape has never seemed so vast and empty. Interesting to note that Gibson is not given star billing, but appears as one of the strong ensemble cast in the striking black and white credits. A reflection on the censorship of the seventies, the film’s R Rating would be probably be MA in today's climate, although the scene where a man's hand is ripped off is as shocking as you would expect. Mad Max's popularity rose after the success of its sequel, and remains a true original. It's a real blast to catch it on the big screen. Catch it while you can.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Read our MAD MAX 2 Reviews

MAD MAX 1978 (R)
(Aust)

CAST: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward, Vincent Gil

DIRECTOR: George Miller

PRODUCER: Byron Kennedy

SCRIPT: James McCausland, George Miller

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Eggby

EDITOR: Cliff Hayes, Tony Paterson

MUSIC: Brian May

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Dowding

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RE-RELEASE DATE: Sydney -December 13 – 19, 2001 (Cremorne Orpheum); Melbourne – December 30, 2001 – January 6, 2002 (Astor St Kilda) double bill with Mad Max 2 on new Panavision prints. Later in other cities.







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