Everyone should have one movie they religiously watch. Not for any particular reason, but a go to movie is very important. A movie that is sheer entertainment or just puts you into a better frame of mind because you love it so much. I have a friend whose religious movie was Purple Rain. For me, my religious movie is Mad Max. It has been since I was a pre-teen. It has everything you could want. Campy humor, breath-taking car chases and crashes, a young, dreamy Mel Gibson and one of the best and freakiest movie villains of all time. It's quotable, it's visually stunning and it's post-apocalyptic without being over the top unrealistic. Why does a tale of a cop who loses everything to a band of thugs and exacts revenge on those so great? I can't really explain it. I guess a religious movie is just like believing in a higher power. You just have faith, you beleive, you practice and you get satisfaction from that. Although I don't worship Mad Max, it's a sort of ritualistic thing for me. So much so that I have the film on my person at all times (via iPod.) Strange, I know. But I think everyone should have a movie like this. If you are reading this, what would your movie be?
I first saw this movie on TV ages ago. It was actually a Mad Max marathon. I think it was on the Sci-Fi channel when the Sci-Fi channel housed episodes of Quantum Leap and played The Twilight Zone more than just on New Year's Day (the best TV marathon ever.) I watched all three movies, but it was the original that really stood out. When you go back and watch The Road Warrior or Beyond Thunderdome, you will see how dated and absurd they look. Something about the low budget nature of Mad Max makes it timeless. The 70's muscle cars, the old motor bikes, the costumes that look thrown together from scraps of clothing and the overall barrenness of the Australian outback calls for the perfect scorched Earth that would probably happen given whatever crisis reels human civilization to it's next dark age. The opening of the film takes you to this place in one of cinemas finest car chases.
Something is glorious about Mel Gibson's younger acting prowess. Rather than being his usual latter year suave self, Mel brings a brooding naivette to Max Rockatansky. Some may say it's because he is a young and inexperienced actor, but to me it's not the case. To me it's a young actor showing his chops and his ability. Rather than overact with the rage that comes in the films final third, he brings a calcualted demeanor. One that broods, thinks ahead and knows exactly what kind of revenge he is going to pull, even if he gets injured in the wake of it. A stunning performance. This final scene where Max exacts his revenge on Johnny Boy still frightens me.
Now onto the Toecutter. The Toecutter is one of the greatest movie villains of all time. Before there was Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector and before there was Heath Ledger as The Joker, Hugh Keays-Byrne brings a wild animalistic craze to the Toecutter. He leads a pack of bikers, who act more like wild dogs, and although he is smart and knows exactly how to terrorize the people of a burnt out Australia, he himself acts upon instincts. I doubt it was an influence on Ledger as The Joker, but their characters are very similar. They have quirky gaits, interesting mannerisms that freak out those who get in their way and they are ultra nihilistic.
I fear that Mad Max is a forgotten film. I make it my cult movie in a sense for this reason. If you are reading this and are saying either "NO, I haven't seen this film" or saying "I can't really see what is so great about this film," go out there and rent it or check your local listings. Fans of straight action films will enjoy it as it's from a time where stunts were stunts and not CGI. It has a bit of romance, plus Mel in his prime is a hunk. It's funny in a way with the strange lingo and good comic releif care of The Goose. But most of all, it's a classic that deserves recognition. In fact, I'm about due on my viewing of Mad Max for the month.
1. Cinema Paradiso (1988) dr. Giuseppe Tornatore
2. Rushmore (1998) dr. Wes Anderson
3. Jurassic Park (1993) dr. Steven Speilberg
4. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) dr. Frank Capra
5. Trust (1990) dr. Hal Hartley
6. Donnie Darko (2001) dr. Richard Kelly
7. On The Waterfront (1954) dr. Elia Kazan
8. Monty Python & The Holy Grail (1975) dr. Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
9. Do The Right Thing (1989) dr. Spike Lee
10. Stop Making Sense (1984) dr. Johnathan Demme
11. Trekkies (1997) dr. Roger Nygard
12. Fight Club (1999) dr. David Fincher
13. The Sting (1973) dr. George Roy Hill
14. Ghost Busters (1984) dr. Ivan Reitman
15. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) dr. Rob Reiner
16. Better Off Dead (1984) dr. "Savage" Steve Holland
17. Robin Hood (1973) dr. Wolfgang Reitherman
18. Mad Max (1979) dr. George Miller
Up Next: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) dr. Milos Forman