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Mad Max (1979) // (Watch With Spooool #8)

This is a follow-up to our May/June “Watch With Spooool”. Listen to the podcast for more

Read Nigel’s piece on MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981)

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mad max

Páraic’s Verdict: ★★★★

Released: 14 December 1979 in Ireland

Awards: AFI award for Best Original Music Score, Achievement in Sound and Achievement in Editing.

Fun Fact: The film was dubbed upon its release in America as they were unfamiliar with, and unable to understand, the Australian accent.


poster1979 was when it all started for the man of few words who would go on to spawn 3 sequels and an entire universe. Mad Max, the brain child of George Miller had very humble beginnings as we see in his first outing. The first instalment bares little resemblance to its most recent incarnation in Mad Max: Fury Road. The desert world does not exist and most people still look like humans. However there are some common motifs including; odd costumes, a gang, revenge and vigilante justice.

Set in the not too distant future, Max played by Mel Gibson is part of a makeshift police unit who must bring some semblance of order to society. A world overrun by gangs and devoid of any sense of legal justice is no place for the faint of heart. Having had enough Max resigns only to be brought back with a bang when Toecutter and his gang target Max’s family.

The film was made on a shoestring budget with the cast having to make their own costumes and the director incorporating his own car into the shoot. Miller financed most of the film by working as an emergency room doctor naming his star after a doctor famous for an autopsy technique; Max Carl von Rokitansky. This cheap gritty feel gives a real sense of menace and authenticity to the film making you genuinely care for the characters. A perfect running time of ninety minutes means it doesn’t outstay its welcome, building slowly until the final twenty to thirty minutes of a pure revenge rampage.

Joanne Samuel as Jessie is the only female character of note playing Max’s wife and has little more to do other than play the saxophone (not a joke) and look concerned for Max’s safety. Not that out of the ordinary for a late 70s revenge film, it’s nice to see Miller with his most recent endeavour has put women to the fore.

The effects have aged well and you appreciate them more knowing there was little if any “special effects” involved and Miller makes full use of the stunningly sparse landscape of his beloved Melbourne. Mad Max is a rough around the edges revenge classic which certainly had an impact on future film makers.

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