"I'm a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller!"
The original duo of Max Mad movies (we’re choosing to ignore the existence of the horrifying 1985 Tina Turner-vehicle Beyond the Thunderdome) were released at a time when Australian cinema was not quite so embedded in Western popular culture.
Imagine watching the original movies in 1980s America; a world where every non-American actor’s voice had to be overdubbed in order for U.S audiences to watch it (even Mel Gibson, the star of the film who was actually a bit of an unknown back then). Out of that 1980s mess came Australia’s ticket to global recognition as a cinematic heavyweight, as the films cemented their place in cult movie history.
So what’s the story? Set in a dystopian future Australia, inspired by the 1973 oil shortage, a major energy crisis has caused a total judicial meltdown, and rogue motorcycle gangs terrorize the outback population. Unfortunately for them, the police are equally savage in this gas guzzling world, where violence reigns and order has fallen.
Most of the biker-gang extras were members of actual Australian outlaw motorcycle clubs, and rode their own motorcycles in the film, making the on-screen violence and true-life roots of the film all the more terrifying to an audience unused to such gratuitous gun slinging (imagine how terrifying 3D gore would have been to a 1979 audience).
Max (Gibson) is a police officer on vacation and unsuspectingly runs into a notorious leather-clad gang, resulting in the death of his wife and child (perplexingly named Sprog). That’s when Max gets Mad, and we follow his methodical revenge-driven rampage across the landscape, mowing down enemies in a sweaty bloodbath of bullets and torturous tools - those of you who’ve seen the ending will know what I’m talking about
Although critics at the time described the first film as “ugly” “sadistic” and actually compared it to the emotional level of Mein Kampf, the style of the film has been much emulated – from the post-punk leather costumes to the iconic vehicles Gibson and co drive across the dusty desert wasteland.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (screening back to back with the first instalment this Saturday) continues the action, with yet more show downs between the community and the band of thuggish motorcyclists. The second time around it wasn't just audiences who couldn't get enough of the action-packed debauchery, with critics lauding Max's second outing as the greatest film of 1981.
The Tom Hardy reboot hits screens next weekend, but until then we’re enjoying reliving the Mel-magic with Mad Max and The Road Warrior this Saturday. If you're planning to see the big-budget remake (and rumour has it that Hardy has already signed up to a series of sequels) I recommend you take in these original, and genre-defining movies first.
Book your tickets here for Mad Max 1 & 2 on 9 May. Max Max: Fury Road will be screening in 2D and 3D from 14 May.