Starring: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Bryne, Roger Ward
Director: Dr George Miller
Distributor: DVD by Roadshow Entertainment
If the sound of squeaky leather turns you on, you’ll probably already be a huge fan of Mad Max. If it doesn’t, then the sight of the spunky young Mel Gibson wearing it top to toe in this, the first of the legendary petrol head trilogy, might just turn you into an instant fetishist. For the first twelve minutes of this 1979 cult road-rage flick we get tantalising glimpses of our hero’s attire – boots, gloves, reflector sunnies, a jacket sleeve. He’s the man, remaining fully cool in the face of the unleashed madness speeding towards him. The crazed Nightrider is on the loose trashing everything in his maniacal path but Max soon has him whimpering like a baby when he nudges the villain’s bumper bar towards head-on oblivion.
Max Rockatansky not only has a brilliant name and a fabulous wardrobe, he also has a wife called Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and a son called Sprog both of whom, in revenge for the Nightrider’s death, become the target of the dreaded Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max hands in his resignation to his boss, Fifi (Roger Ward), a bald, cigar smoking Leather Queen who listens to brass bands while watering his indoor plants, and sets off on a family holiday in his raunchy red air-brushed panel van. And that’s when things get really spooky.
Like the black Interceptor that Max finally takes possession of in order to crank up his domination of the roads, this film ‘sucks Nitro’. It’s the ‘duck’s guts’. Apart from the often schmaltzy, AFI award-winning score by Brain May, which gives the scenes between Max and Jessie an almost comic book feel, director Dr George Miller and producer Byron Kennedy nailed it with this, their first feature. Made for just $380,000 it grossed over $100 million worldwide and was only bumped out of The Guinness Book of Records as the highest profit to cost ratio of a motion picture by The Blair Witch Project. At the time of its release Philip Adams wrote, ‘It has all the moral uplift of Mein Kampf’ but Adrian Martin probably summed it up better in his recent monograph on the Mad Max Movies when he called it ‘Australia’s greatest B movie’. It certainly launched Mel Gibson onto the Hollywood A-list and introduced us all too a charismatic, leather loving character who may yet return for one more fuel-injected rampage on a highway near you.