With the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, I thought I'd re-visit the original Mad Max and see how well it holds up. It's been literally decades since I saw it last and only had the vaguest recollections of it. Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is a road cop in a unit called the Main Force Patrol, or MFP if you prefer, in a time where it's getting more and more dangerous by the day. Society is decaying and gangs are taking over the roads. Max and his colleagues do the best they can, but after a friend of his dies, Max becomes disillusioned and quits the MFP to focus on starting a new life with his family far away from all the gang violence. It turns out that Max killed a member of the Toecutter's gang, and the Toecutter wants revenge.
Mad Max is an energetic and super-charged ride with the anti-hero Max Rockatansky, as he transforms from the doting and loving family man, to the despondent and broken road warrior who's constantly living on the brink of madness. For such a cheaply made movie the stunts are insane, some people just had to be hurt in the making of this movie, and how the stunts were filmed were way ahead of its time. Some of the sub-villains were occasionally too over the top for my liking, but the Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) really steals the show, possibly even overshadowing Mel Gibson a little bit.
The only real complaints I have about Mad Max are complaints that could be leveled at almost any movie from the 70s, the overbearing music that often telegraphs when something bad is about to happen, some dodgy editing in places and the somewhat loose and vague narrative. Even though the cinematography could feel very amateurish every now and again, it was still predominately beautiful, and shot with an eye for speed against a backdrop of serene landscapes. That made for a nice juxtaposition, visually.
Now it's important to remember that Mad Max practically spawned a genre all of its own, the decaying and dystopian landscape, the out of control gang violence, society on the brink of a total breakdown and the vehicular warfare that's being waged for the supremacy of the roads. It's a genre that's often been imitated, but never surpassed for well over thirty years, arguably. Mad Max held the record for being the most profitable movie of all time too, made for only $300,000 and grossed over $100 million, until The Blair With Project dethroned it two decades later.
I notice when you watch a lot of older movies that are considered classics, you can spot the influences they had on directors and their later movies ie the finicky and stuttering mechanical genius, Fast and Furious would use this mold later on, the scene of a leather clad character dragging his foot, limping towards his next victim, clearly James Cameron saw Mad Max and the ultimatum Mad Max gives Johnny Boy had to have played a large part in the conception of Saw. There were a couple of other things but they're eluding me at the moment. Nevertheless, Mad Max is a perfect example of one man with a vision and the ambition to pull it off. George Miller directed, wrote and partly financed Mad Max himself, and from that came something special that has endured for over 30 years now. This is what we (Hollywood) should be encouraging more of.
Written by - The Sentry - 11/06/2015