40 Years Of The Post-Apocalypse: ‘Mad Max’ (1979)

These days, post-apocalyptic road movies are a dime a dozen. Some can be very entertaining, like Zombieland (2009), or an epic flop, like Zombie Hunter (2013), but the genre has been done to death. It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, the genre was fresh and new. The concept of bikers terrorizing the highways and meeting their matches was put to paper in 1979 by Byron Kennedy. Australian director George Miller and New York writer James McCausland got some investors and filming began. This would be the start of Mad Max.

 

Released in the US on March 21, 1980, Mad Max took the world by storm, starting with Mel Gibson. Today, we know Gibson as one of the most famous – or infamous – personalities in Hollywood. For better or worse, his brilliant work as an actor (Lethal Weapon 1987, Braveheart 1995, Payback 1999, Ransom 1996) and director (The Passion of The Christ 2004, Apocalypto 2006, Hacksaw Ridge 2016) can’t be ignored. Back in 1979, he was an up and coming Australian actor when he was picked to play Mad Max.

American film fans in 2020 may not recognize some of the other actors that were in Mad Max, but the characters will live on forever, like Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Mudguts (David Bracks), Bubba (Geoff Parry), Benno (Max Fairchild), Grinner (John Farndale) and Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns).

“Hey Toecutter! Ya see that guy, Max? He’s mad, ya know!”

So, what is Mad Max about?

The movie begins with a chase scene as the dastardly Nightrider (Vincent Gil) is causing a ruckus. The local highway patrol can’t stop him as he fires off one iconic one liner after another into a CB radio: “I’m a fuel-injected suicide machine!” and, “He’s a rocker, a roller and an out of controller!” Only one man can stop him: Officer Max. After he bulls his way onto the scene and causes Nightrider’s untimely demise, his partner, Goose, tells him that the maniac had friends. He had friends alright, namely Toecutter and his brutal gang. When devious bikers figure out that Max was behind Nighrider’s bucket kicking, they vow revenge. Led by his top cronies, Bubba and Johnny The Boy, Toecutter goes after anyone close to Max, causing a series of tragedies that leads the officer on a path to insanity. This madness is the bread and butter of the movie as Max defies the rules with  one mission, to kill Toecutter and his gang.

“I’m going to wipe out every last one of these losers.”

As a singular movie, Mad Max a damn good revenge flick. It was a hit in Australia and was imported to the US in 1980 where the crowd went… mild. Unfortunately, Mad Max flopped in the American theaters mostly due to the fact that foreign films weren’t taken seriously back then, and the actors were pretty much unknown to Americans. Still, George Miller and company had a hit on their hands and wanted to capitalize on it. The sequel, Mad Max 2, was released in 1981 in Australia but since the first movie flopped, it was simply called The Road Warrior in the States. Just think, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) all owe of their success to the original movie.

Who would have thought a little Australian flick would become the trendsetter for not only apocalyptic movies but for so many professional wrestling gimmicks. All of that is a story for another day. For now, it’s time to salute the original Mad Max.

About Kevin H

PopHorror.com's number one heel. Favorite horror movies: Insidious, Friday the 13th Part 6, Trick Or Treat (Gene Simmons version), the original King Kong, the Alien/Aliens franchise, Nightmare on Elm Street 3, I've been a writer since middle school and have been so controversial I was suspended in middle school, nearly got suspended in high school and kicked off two websites for bad language or different opinions. I can write reviews, fan fics, real fics, romance, sports writing, critiques and anything I'm challenged to do.

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