Retroplex Cinema: Mad Max (1979)/Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Retroplex Cinema is back as we continue our look at classic action films in this year's editions.  Today we take a look at a warrior that is returning to theaters this week after a 30 plus year absence.  He is Max Rockatansky.  The road warrior. 

Mad Max (1979)
     Mad Max (1979) is the original independent film in some ways.  Directed by George Miller, he and his friend Byron Kennedy had met at a film school in the early 70's.  They had done a short film together that garnered many awards and from there they developed the idea for Mad Max.  Miller had taken ideas from his time working in a hospital and seeing the gruesome injuries that came from car accidents.  So from that he and Kennedy along with screenwriter James McCausland began work on their film.  The trio believed that setting it in a dystopian future would make it more believable to audiences and they also drew inspiration from the 1973 oil crisis and the effects it had on Australian motorists at the time.  They had their idea for the film but now how would they get the financing for it?  At the time Australian movie studios were making art films and looked at a dystopian action film as something that didn't interest movie goers of the time.  Miller and Kennedy developed a 40-page presentation to shop the film and eventually raised the money, even adding money of their own doing extra medical calls at the hospital Miller worked at.  They had their money which Miller claims was between just $350,000 and $400,000 to make the film, Mad Max.
 George Miller wanted a lesser known actor for the role of Max.  Mel Gibson at the time was that unknown actor and according to Gibson himself he showed up at the audition bloody and bruised from a bar fight the night before.  It was enough to convince Miller that Gibson was the right choice and of course the rest as they say, is history.  Filming began and took place over six weeks in late 1977.  It was somewhat of a rogue shoot so to speak because they had no permits for much of the filming because there was simply no money in the budget to get them.  Australian police however got behind the making of the film and did help with closing some roads for some of the car chase sequences.  Shooting on the film would be completed in December 1977 and they saved money by only giving leather outfits to Gibson and Steve Bisley who played Goose.  The other cops in the film wore vinyl outfits to save money.  Most of the bikers were real biker gang members who rode their own bikes and took part in the film.  Overall it somehow came together and Mad Max was completed by being edited in the apartment of friend in Melbourne, Australia.
   Release & Reception
    Mad Max would be released in Australia in 1979 and then American International Pictures handled the U.S. release with Warner Brothers distributing it throughout the rest of the world.  Upon release the film was either loved or hated by critics it seemed.  Some praised the action of the film while others found it incoherent and the violence disturbing.  However in the end, Mad Max was a huge success.  Making over $100 million world wide, it held the record for many years for cost to profit ratio considering it's low budget.  Today it holds an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and went on to spawn two sequels, the first of which we are going to talk about next!

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Mad Max 2 (1981) is known to most people across the world as The Road Warrior.  It was named this for the U.S. release because the studio felt most people had not seen the first Mad Max film.  The film once again stars Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky.  Chances are you know the plot and have seen this a hundred times on Saturday afternoon television.  The gasoline is in short supply in the future.  Max uses his supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special as he scavenges the wasteland for food, gas, and whatever he can get his hands on before finding his humanity again to help a group ofsettlers fight back against the Humungus and his gang.  The plot is that simple but that's all you need to know.  He uses his supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special as he scavenges the wasteland for food, gas, and whatever he can get his hands on before finding his humanity again to help the settlers.  The action is incredible and still better than most you see in cinema today. 
Release & Reception
     The original Mad Max never did receive a proper release in the United States due to it's distribution company in final stages of a change of ownership.  Warner Brothers decided they would release Mad Max 2 in the U.S. this time around but weren't sure if anyone would go see a sequel to a movie they had not seen.  They changed the title to The Road Warrior and all advertising of the film did not refer to the Max character at all.  Most people didn't even know it was a sequel until they saw the film in theaters and saw the prologue at the film's beginning showing scenes from the original film.  The marketing would work though and the film was a huge financial success.  The critics also praised the film and it still holds a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes today.  When the third film was ready for release in 1985, Warner Brothers were then comfortable with the title of Mad Max and decided it was okay to release that film as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
The Legacy Of Mad Max
     The dystopian and apocalyptic settings of the Mad Max film series have become a staple of futuristic films over the years.  The first two Mad Max films are considered modern classics and every action film takes some influence from these movies, whether it be the car chases themselves, or the designs of the futuristic vehicles, costumes, or dystopian look of the film.  The film's made Mel Gibson an international superstar and they consistently make many top 100 lists when film's are being ranked.  Now 36 years later new audiences and old ones will get to rediscover the world of Mad Max when Mad Max: Fury Road hits theaters this Friday.  You just can't keep a mad man down it seems!  Take a look at some other Mad Max goodies and go enjoy the new film in theaters!