This is a film that existed in my imagination long before I actually saw it on VHS. As a teenager in the nineteen eighties, there were a few posters on my bedroom wall that I now remember vividly, and each of them have a special place in my formative years: a madness poster (the cover of their third album ‘7’ – a point where they had hit the mainstream and were loving it!); a map of the world that came free with The Joy of Knowledge, a magazine collection that Mum and Dad were convinced would transform me into a genius; the film poster of EXCALIBUR (1981), which will be covered in a future post, and there was a page cut out of Starburst magazine with Mel Gibson walking in a desert accompanied by his dog.
At that time, I hadn’t seen MAD MAX 2, but I really, really wanted to because it looked brilliant, it looked like the film that I really wanted to make. I also really, really wanted a dog, but that’s another story.
I had been fed on a diet of the comic 2000ad and more recently fantasy role-playing games. I’d convinced my dad to let me to rent the first of the films, against his better judgement, from the video shop, in one of those monolithic video cases.
MAD MAX and its even better sequel (Dirk passim) laid the ground-work for the action genre in its present form. Aggressive, quick paced, a laconic hero and a flimsy plot; it set the template for action hero films in the 1980s. It was named ROAD WARRIOR in the US because the first film had a limited release, the second film inflated budget (the most expensive film to come out of Australia at the time) which Miller spent on cars and costumes to create an apocalyptic vision of a world where fuel is scarce and there are tribal battles to acquire it.
A youthful Mel Gibson as Max is on the road following the brutal murder of his family at the end of the first film. He comes across a rag-tag village based around an oil refinery who are besieged by Humungous and his S and M cronies. He offers them a way out to the promised land using an oil tanker he has discovered. The rest is an exploitation masterpiece: car chases, a gyro-copter, explosions, mo-hawk-acrobatics, flame throwers, snakes and the obligatory 80s tit-flash. The kind of scenes that I was recreating in games such as Battlecars and Car Wars.
It was a good couple of years before I could put a film to a poster. A few years later I saw the rubbish follow up at the cinema, even Tina Turner’s big hair can’t rescue the Thunderdrome, but this film is one that I like to revisit at least once a year with a few tinnies and shrimp off the barbie.