“It's that rat circus out there; I'm beginning to enjoy it. Look, any longer out on that road and I'm one of them, a terminal psychotic.”
In a distant future, all hell has broken loose in Australia. The police are in a constant struggle with the outlaw gangs that roam the nation. Sometimes this means they make an arrest, but most often they are calling in a meat wagon, as the officers seem just as, if not more eager to release vigilante justice as they are willing to bring the suspects in. The only thing on these roads worse than death is losing your sanity.
Max is a police officer with the Main Force Patrol, and is tasked with patrolling the dangerous highways in his Ford Interceptor. After an escaped convict, Nightrider, eludes a few other cruisers and patrol cycle, Max is tasked with stopping him. When the emotional Nightrider loses control of his car, and goes up in flames, his gang vows revenge against the MFP; thus setting up Max’s fall into the abyss.
Mad Max was filmed on a low budget of about $300,000, but that doesn’t stop it from being crammed full of some very exciting action. The film starts off like any action film should, with three wrecked cars, a motorcycle and a camper, as well as three gruesome deaths before the film even hit’s the fifteen minute marker. The film also earns its R-rating with its implied graphic violence and its implied rape of a heterosexual couple. The small budget probably lead to most of the graphic deaths being off screen, but thanks to some creative camera work, you know damn well that it happened. The only thing left to the imagination is the amount of blood that was spilled.
The writing is about what one would expect, with the brooding antihero trying to cope with his job while maintaining his family bond. The crazy partner that flies by the seat of his pants until it all catches up with him, and the absolutely bonkers supporting cast, who feature names like: Toecutter, Fifi and Mudguts. The film is unapologetic in its campiness. Everything screams insanity, from character names, to the color of the vehicles to the dialogue. Don’t let it throw you, that’s part the charm.
Mad Max also has the distinction of being one of the first Australian movies to be filmed in Anamorphic Widescreen, and much of the landscape is caught beautifully. Unfortunately, a lot of scenes are showing their age, as the colors fade into one another and pop and the picture gets a bit fuzzy. Mad Max does suffer from the same pacing problems as many other low budget affairs. When people aren’t murdering, raping, or driving at neck-break speeds, the film slows down to a crawl in places. The acting is quite over the top as well, and may cause some to be taken out of the movie for a minute. However, that over the top acting helps to lend credence to the insanity that the world had become. The crew also relied a little too heavily on the old trick of speeding the film up for a good portion of the chases. It’s quite comical, but might be a bit distracting to audiences spoiled by modern camera techniques.
There is also an issue with the sound. While the sound effects are superb, the soundtrack is often over bearing, especially in scenes with heavy dialogue. Brian May’s soundtrack compliments the action extremely well, but entire plot points become difficult to understand when the music doesn’t stop. This also leads to a very poor American dub when the film was released. Mad Max was primarily shown in drive-in theaters where sound boxes were attached to the side of the vehicles. After discovering the sound issues, the dub was ordered.
Mad Max should not be overlooked by anyone that enjoys a good action film. It delivers where it needs to deliver, and that is what is important. To anyone looking to break into the niche genre of Carsploitation, Mad Max is a perfect place to start.
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