FILM by Shane “Last Of The V8s” Hnetka
Director George Miller has returned to the character that gave him his start with the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road. Meanwhile, Shout Factory just released the original 1979 Mad Max on Blu-ray. I’m actually a little amazed that there are some people out there that have never seen any of Miller’s Mad Max films (Lareina!). So for the benefit of those young ones who have never seen them, let me tell you a little about the road warrior: Max.
What A Lovely Day!
The films are set in a dystopian future where the precious “juice”, gasoline, has become scarce. Gangs rule the roads and terrorize small communities outside the ruined cities. Our story starts with the Nightrider, who has killed a cop, stolen his car and embarked on a road rampage. A car chase leads to lots of destruction but fortunately, the police have the best driver. Max (Mel Gibson) stops the Nightrider, permanently. But Nightrider’s boss, the Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is outraged.
When he’s not on the road, Max is a family man with a wife and kid. He wants to quit but his bosses entice him to stay with a car, a souped-up V8 interceptor—the most powerful four-wheeled vehicle left. Max declines, but after a fatal run-in with Toecutter and his gang, Max is sent over the edge. He takes the car and unleashes furious vengeance.
The film is a little slow at times — pleasantly so by today’s over-throttled standards — but it’s an excellent low-budget movie. And Miller’s camerawork on the car chases is brilliant.
And the Road Warrior? That Was The Last We Ever Saw Of Him
The success of Mad Max lead to a 1981 sequel, Mad Max 2 — renamed The Road Warrior in North America. The Road Warrior took the dystopian future and kicked it up a notch. Gone were the last remnants of society; the world was now a desert wasteland occupied by roving gangs fighting over gasoline. Max has become a dead-eyed scavenger. When he stumbles across a besieged settlement, he has an unexpected chance to recover a little bit of his humanity. But first he must defeat the gang surrounding the compound, which is run by a hockey-masked muscleman called The Humungus.
Miller took his kinetic visual style and ramped it up, creating a classic piece of cinema that has been imitated, copied, ripped-off — and ultimately become regarded as a seminal part of pop culture. Miller partially directed a third Mad Max film before moving on to family fare like Babe and Happy Feet. Now, 36 years later, he’s returned to the madness with a new Mad Max. The movie looks amazing and the reviews are great (there’s one in this issue somewhere). It sounds like Miller hasn’t lost his touch after all these years.
Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd. He also writes Dog Blog’s weekly “Sunday Matinee” column at prairiedogmag.com.