Drivers’ Cinema: Mad Max (1979)
Mad Max (1979) is an Australian film directed by George Miller, and is set in a barren wasteland that once was Australia. In this dystopian society, the people have gone mad. Max, played by Mel Gibson, is the renowned badass cop on the barely existent force.
The opening sequence introduces the audience to Night Rider, who is nothing short of a lunatic. He describes himself as a “fuel-injected suicide machine”, which is fitting as he subsequently flips his own car dying in a massive explosion.
Max is directly linked with the death of Night Rider and is threatened by a group of motorcyclists. This crazed biker gang behaves similarly to the boys of Kubrik’s Clockwork Orange (1971), as they pillage towns in search of Max and change Max’s world forever. Max’s only choice is to take justice into his own hands and serve it up hot.
Present throughout the film are an array of American hot rods and police cars (’74 Ford Falcons), and the film demonstrates raw American power on Australian roads with plenty of burnouts. When the car is first shown up close, where the viewer can see that it is a right-hand-drive car, there is a bit of confusion; to clear things up, Ford Motor Company Australia has produced a Ford Falcon right-hand drive since 1960.
Other vehicles in the movie include a ’59 Chevrolet Bel Air and a ’72 Holden Monaro. The Holden Monaro was produced under the Australian subsidiary of General Motors that went by the name of GM Holden, and in the film, this car in particular sounds great. In fact, the snarling sounds of each V8 engine are prevalent throughout the film, making it an enjoyable ride. Especially when the camera gets up close and personal with the blower of Max’s heavily modified ’73 Falcon.
I particularly enjoyed Mad Max for the chase scenes and for Mel Gibson’s attitude towards life. He takes matters into his own hands and does whatever it takes to bring justice to a society in ruins. I also love the use of close-ups in the film. Occasionally, the camera swings wildly toward someone’s face putting you right there and invading your space. Overall the film can be cheesy at times, but you have to respect the Australian production effort. If you’re in the mood to see Mel Gibson at the beginning of his acting career, burning rubber, and slaying bad guys give Mad Max a go.