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Flashback: on 1980’s “Mad Max”

Alright, 1979. But since it didn’t open officially until early 1980 in North America–that’s the year I’m going with. Yes, “Mad Max” has been with us for 35 years, but there was a 30-year gap between 2015’s phenomenal “Mad Max; Fury Road”. and 1985’s “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”. Those are the only two I experienced in actual theaters, btw. My introduction to the original film, and 1982’s “The Road Warrior”, was via late-night cable television and/or VHS tapes. Plus, I believe my recent Blu-ray revisit to the original story of Max Rockatansky included a couple of firsts for me. Never before had I viewed it in its intended aspect ratio, nor had I watched it with its original Australian dialect. You see, when American International Pictures bought the rights for U.S. distribution decades ago–they got nervous about the accents. So, they redubbed all the voices with an American Crew. Boy, did that sound terrible.

I’ve been in the position of defending “Mad Max: Fury Road”, more than once recently. And I’m honestly a little surprised when people can’t recognize its brilliance. Just a little mind you, in a world where “Minions” grosses over a billion dollars worldwide (“Fury Road’s” total tally was about a quarter of that amount). Trust me, “Fury Road” is going to gobble up some major critics awards, and be placed on a slew of year-end top ten lists. If Oscar has any balls (I don’t see any, do you?), it’ll be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director for George Miller, and Best Actress for Charlize Theron. We’ll see–I’m holding out for at least one. Not that a shutout would surprise me. Not in a world where “Crash” and “Gladiator” actually win Best Picture.

Tom Hardy is Max now, but it all began with an excellent Mel Gibson, long before most of us knew what an anti-semitic jackass he is. And he’s great as the reluctant, and eventually driven to derangement, police officer. I believe you can fully enjoy “Fury Road” without the background of the original trilogy–but it’s so much richer with it. Only with the full knowledge and visual experience of watching Max become mad, through the loss of his wife and child, along with his subsequent travels across the increasingly desolate Australian wasteland, can you appreciate the full pull and arc of this continuing story. Going back to the roots also reminds that there is far less action than remembered in the initial movie. It’s highly plot driven, in fact, and a bit less smooth than its far more polished follow-ups. But it’s a corker, all the same, and a superb start to a killer franchise. Miller is promising more. If so, moviegoers couldn’t get much luckier. He’s a master. And it began with “Mad Max”.

Grade:  B+

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4 comments on “Flashback: on 1980’s “Mad Max”

  1. Why thank you, Mike. Plus, I have so much time, and so little to write! Wait a minute. Strike that…reverse it. ML

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