With "Mad Max: Fury Road" currently in theaters and earning mostly high praise form critics and fans, it's interesting to look back at the iconic post-apocalyptic film series, and examine some of its more interesting moments. It's also a good time to look at how the "Mad Max" movies affected popular culture, and to explore the background of some of their more famous moments.
First, it's important to consider just how original the "Mad Max" series was, because that's when it becomes obvious just how groundbreaking and influential the film series is to this day. "The Road Warrior" in particular is still referenced in everything from film design and video games to fashion, and many other things that borrowed heavily from that film's visual style. Let's take a look at some of the interesting things about the "Mad Max" series.
5. The "Mad Max" Films Created a New Genre
The idea of survivors battling over resources in a barren wasteland, using their vehicles as war machines has been used so often at this point that many people might take the concept for granted, but it really all started with "The Road Warrior." There had been previous films exploring the idea, such as "A Boy And His Dog," but the elements that resulted in the "Mad Max" films being as influential as they were hadn't been done the same way before.
The success of "The Road Warrior" film spawned countless imitators, and in the '80s, knock-offs from the United States and other countries played at drive-ins and littered late night cable television. Like other previously imitated film genres such as slasher films, the huge success of The Road Warrior "inspired" many low budget and exploitation film makers to get a few beat up cars and dirt bikes, dress their actors in armor and rags, and film their own desert epics, hoping to cash in on the trend. Most of those copycat movies are laughable, and few are "good," but some are still fun. They all owe "Mad Max" and "The Road Warrior" for their existence, and tend to make the series they ripped off look even better by comparison.
4. The "Mad Max" Films Inspired a Lot More Than Copycat Films
The tricked out cars and imaginative costumes of the film series had a huge effect on other types of media outside of movies. In their biography "The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band," Motley Crüe revealed that their original "Shout at the Devil" era image had been heavily influenced by the costumes in "The Road Warrior." Blackie Lawless from the heavy metal group WASP has also gone on the record as saying that his band's '80s look was lifted from that film, and there were countless others who clearly had seen it when they were planning their band's wardrobe or music videos. The appeal is obvious, as it is visually dramatic, and could be cobbled together on a tight budget. Watching old music videos from the 1980s, one can easily see how everyone from Helix to Scandal was appropriating style tips from "The Road Warrior," which had debuted in 1981, just in time for the music video revolution. Duran Duran's video for "Wild Boys" looks like it could've been a deleted scene from one of the "Mad Max" films, and shows just how pervasive style elements from those movies became. Probably the only other iconic visual style stolen as often during the same period was H.R. Giger's work on "Alien."
3. Mel Gibson's Voice Was Dubbed in "Mad Max"
Until 2002, all of the versions of the original "Mad Max" film distributed in the U.S. had the voices of the Australian actors dubbed, because it was thought that Americans wouldn't be able to understand them, despite the fact that they were speaking English. I'm not sure if I think that was a realistic fear, but it's pretty sad to consider that a film would be dubbed because someone thought accents were too much for many of us to handle. Recently, a sexist dipshit named Aaron Clarey wrote a withering criticism of the new "Mad Max" film for being an emasculating feminist story, on the (it's a shame it's not satire) site Return of Kings. There are plenty of reasons to find fault with that clown's line of thought, not the least of which is the entire idea that "real men" are being somehow robbed of their inherent power by women, and that the best way to counter that is to band together and whine. A true display of power there.
But for the purposes of this article, it's not the regressive sexism that's of interest, but Aaron Clarey's declaration that male viewers should boycott "Mad Max: Fury Road" on the grounds that they'll be "Insulted and tricked into viewing a piece of "American" culture ruined and rewritten" (emphasis mine).
What Aaron doesn't realize is that the "Mad Max" movies were never products of America, but are Australian through and through. Perhaps he's the kind of guy that original distributors felt would be alienated by non-American accents when they decided to dub "Mad Max." I'll maintain that most of us deserve more credit than that, and Aaron Clarey is a sad little man with comprehension problems.
2. Max's Iconic Car is a Weird Ford
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In "Mad Max" and "The Road Warrior," the titular character drives a car that's distinctive enough to almost be a character itself. In "The Road Warrior," Max is drawn into a conflict primarily by the motivation to rescue his car. It's that important to him, and it's easy to understand why. The Interceptor that he drives is an example of muscle car beauty. As a kid, I always dreamed of having an Interceptor some day, and that dream is still there rattling around in the back of my head. For years, I wondered what kind of car it was, figuring it was specially designed for the films. Years later the Internet gave me my answer, and I was half right. Mad Max's Interceptor was a modified 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT, a performance model only sold in Australia. It was heavily modified for both films, given a huge supercharger which was non functional in the first film and the real deal in the second, along with cool looking exhaust pipes and a bunch of tweaks to the car's body to make it look more aggressive. Mission accomplished, since Max's Interceptor is an iconic film car now, and people will spend untold time and money building their own accurate replicas.
1. "Mad Max" probably Inspired the "Saw" Series
I'm not sure if a spoiler alert is necessary when speaking about a 36 year old film, but if you want to see the original Mad Max and haven't, spoilers follow.
At the end of the film, Max has exacted his revenge against the marauding biker gang responsible for the murder of his wife and child, and has handcuffed one of the movie's villains to a wrecked car and creates a timed fuse using the vehicle's leaking fuel tank. Max gives the doomed creep a saw and explains to him that it will take twice as long to cut through the handcuffs as it will his own leg, and choosing to cut the cuffs will undoubtably lead to the biker's fiery death. As Max walks away with the biker screaming behind him, the car finally explodes as the film rolls to a close. The film's ending has led many to surmise that it has to be the inspiration for the original "Saw" movie, thus spawning the ridiculous torture porn franchise. It's hard to see how the end of "Mad Max" wasn't borrowed by "Saw," and it would also point to a different kind of film influence than the visual and thematic styles stolen by so many other movies and music videos. But if the saying about "Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery" is true, then the "Mad Max" films have been complimented many many times since their release.