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November 24, 2009

Mad Max Trilogy

Over in the Katie Couric thread, Ace was doing a free-form jam on the pros & cons of the three Mad Max movies, which have been on heavy rotation the last week or so on American Movie Classics. I just wanted to add a few thoughts and observations to the mix:

Update [ace]: Let me just repost this before Russ continues. There, okay. Back to Russ.

1. In Mad Max (1979), there is no attempt to explain the breakdown of society. No armageddon, no "war for The Juice" or anything like that. Just all-out war between "The Bronze" and the Glory Roaders. "Goose" the motorcycle cop is probably the most sympathetic character in all the movies, and he gets turned into a crispy critter right before Max's wife & child get run down by "The Toe Cutter" and his biker trash.

The bikes in this movie definitely prove that it was filmed in 1970s Australia. Kawasaki KZ900s, Suzuki GT750s and other Jap bikes were everywhere, and I don't remember seeing a single American V-twin in the whole production. Definitely cool for an afficionado of early 70's rice rockets and "do it yourself" cafe racers like myself.

The ending of this movie was Pure "Death Wish". Max chains "Johnny the Boy" to a wrecked car & sets up an explosion. He then casually tosses him a hacksaw & says "The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It'd take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you're lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go." If Dick Cheney drank Fosters & dipped his chips in Vegemite, this would be his life story.

2. In the sequel, The Road Warrior (1981) is undisputedly the Gold Standard for car chases. I'm a big fan of the Ford Mustang/Dodge Charger battle in "Bullitt", but no way does it hold a candle to the last 45 minutes or so of this movie. I remember seeing this movie the first time on HBO. We were out "scooping the loop" in high school, maybe 1984 or early '85, and a bunch of us decided to go to Jim Oliver's house for a sandwich. His dad was still up watching this movie on TV, and we sat down and watched it with him.

The initial narration (which we find out later was done by Emil Minty's "Feral Kid" character) tells us this backstory:

My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos. Ruined dreams. This wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called "Max". To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time. When the world was powered by the black fuel. And the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel, they were nothing. They built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men. On the roads it was a white line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice. And in this maelstrom of decay, ordinary men were battered and smashed. Men like Max. The warrior Max. In the roar of an engine, he lost everything. And became a shell of a man, a burnt out, desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again...

So it appears that they've added a Global War, a Nuclear Exchange & a petroleum shortage to the backstory. Did all this happen prior to the events of "Mad Max"? I've always thought that "Mad Max" was set in the time just before everything went completely sideways. Not that it couldn't have been a post-nuclear movie, but I never really got an "On The Beach" vibe from the first movie of the trilogy.

What I want to know is where are all the economy cars in this movie? If "The Juice" is precious enough to tie up 50 to 100 crazy bikers outside a small refinery at the ass-end of nowhere, why aren't those guys trying to stretch out their gasoline a little further? I mean, Jumpin Jesus at the Drive-In, these guys are driving around in 6 mpg gas hogs like its a remake of "American Grafitti", and they're willing to kill people for another tank of gas? A tank of gas that would only get them another 200 miles down the road, maximum? Of course, the final chase scene would have lost a little bit of its shine if the vehicles were all Karman Ghias and Datsun B210s, but still, lets get a LITTLE realism in the movies, mmmmKay?

The "Warrior Woman" from this movie, Virginia Hey? Sci-Fi fanboys might also know her as Zhann, the half-human, half-plant hot blue chick from Farscape. Two roles that inspired an epidemic of carpal tunnel disability in male viewers, IYKWIMAITTYD.

3. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) has held up fairly well over time, but back when it came out, it was widely viewed as the last gasp of a successful franchise. The Apocalyptic Background Story is right out there in the open now. Fallout in the water, cities blasted by radiation so badly that nobody could live in them. Funny, but you would have thought that these things would have been a BIG plot point in the original Mad Max.

The bad guys are still refugees from a softcore bondage movie, but now they're full-on cartoon characters. Tina Turner's "Auntie Entity" gets a pass, because Tina herself gets a pass on going "over the top" just because of who she is. But her #1 henchman "Ironbar" is a sissy who wears a freakin' kabuki mask on an IRON BAR (heh, I see what you did there, Mr. Miller) strapped to his back. Does this function as some sort of defense mechanism, like a frog that appears to have a face on its back? Did this guy wake up one day and ask himself "Hey, wouldn't I have a better chance of winning a fight if I could convince my opponent to direct his fury at a FALSE FACE, located above and behind my real face?" This defensive adaptation seems about as useful as a bulletproof vest made out of mercury fulminate & homemade C4. All this guy is missing is a bad Stepin Fetchit accent & bunny ears, and he's a post-apocalyptic Jar Freakin' Jar. "Meesa not like pigpooh smell."

And to top it all off, you've got a big underground pig farm run by the Midget Genius "Master" who rides on the back of Giant Window-Licker "Blaster"? Now, since I AM from Iowa, I can see the attraction of a "renewable resource" like methane produced from decaying pigcrap. What I don't understand, and please correct me if I've missed something here, is how you FEED this giant herd of pigs.......when they're located smack dab in the middle of a radioactive desert? After all, pig crap doesn't just fall from the sky like rain. It comes from pigs. Well fed pigs. And....well....it just seems that if you can produce enough grain to feed pigs & then use their crap as the basis of your entire power generation technology.........wouldn't it be easier to "cut out the middleman" and take a portion of the grain you're feeding to the pigs & make ethanol out of it? It would sure as hell smell a WHOLE LOT better if they had a giant ethanol plant under Bartertown, versus giant simmering vats of pig pooh. Its not as if the pig farm was a dual purpose operation: when Max goes underground to infiltrate the pig farm & kill Blaster for Auntie Entity, we meet "Pigkiller", who has been sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor for........yeah, I know......killing a pig.

You know what? I just realized why I never really took a shine to this movie. A world where people who kill pigs for food are condemned to death is a world where Bacon is a Capital Crime. And that's just wrong, man. WRONG!

Anyway, "Thunderdome" is cool, as is the oasis where all the abandoned kids are living. The fight scene is a pale imitation of the car chase in the second movie, but Dr. Dealgood's speech before the Thunderdome fight is a keeper. And the locomotive/car chase? A pale imitation of a pale imitation of an Osmond Brothers home movie re-enactment of the car chase from "The Road Warrior". And the whole plot twist with the oasis full of children left to die in the desert by Captain Walker & their parents? The cynic in me says that the only reason to add this to the movie is so that Tina could sing "We Don't Need Another Hero" with the chorus of children in the background. I appreciate the backstory of the children & their parents carving their names into the rock before setting out on a walk to their doom, but it didn't seem to "mesh" with the rest of the movie.

While I was over at IMDB researching this post, I saw that Charlize Theron is rumored to be involved in a fourth installment in this series.

Yeah............that'll end well. Will there be a Crystal Skull involved too? Or maybe Mad Max will borrow George Clooney's be-nippled bat-armour from "Batman & Robin". And maybe we'll finally find out why Max is still "Mad" after all these years....(HINT: it's probably got something to do with the JOOOOOOOS).

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posted by Russ from Winterset at 01:09 AM

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