Sunday, June 23, 2019

Chaos in the Outback

This is my second entry in the Blizzard of Oz Blogathon hosted by Me

Earlier in this blogathon I intimated that my first entry, Strictly Ballroom, was not really, in general, my type of movie.  Many of you may already know this, but for those of you new to the blog I'll map out what IS my type of movie.

Science fiction.  Cars.  Explosions.  Guns.  Chaos.  To wit, the average "man cave" movie.

The Road Warrior  was one of the first movies I saw in the theater after I turned the age of consent and could go to any damn movie I wanted to without my parents' permission.  I really had no idea what to expect.  Although it is a sequel to Mad Max, a 1979 Australian film directed by George Miller, it was promoted initially as an independent feature.  Meaning I had no knowledge of the first movie when I went to see The Road Warrior, and it wasn't even promoted as Mad Max 2, at least not in the United States.

It was also my introduction to Mel Gibson.  His star had yet to rise in the U.S. (that would come later), but he had been around for a few years.  Credit could probably be given to George Miller for his "discovery", however.  And after The Road Warrior, he never had to look back. 

The first Mad Max film never really went into detail about the background for the society that surrounds Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), although this brief synopsis should help:  Max is a policeman in a world where chaos has pretty much taken over and gangs rule the road.  A gang that Max tangles with ends up killing his family and Max ditches his policeman status and goes on a revenge rampage. 

By the time of The Road Warrior some time has passed.  (I estimate maybe a year or so).  At the beginning of the movie the narrator tells a little more of the background of how the world that Max currently lives in came to be.  It was a world war initiated by two great powers (and although they never state which powers, it doesn't take a PhD to infer the culprits).  Now the road is ruled by various gangs who are out in search of the elusive commodity, gasoline, to power their cars and motorcycles.

The Road Warrior (1981): (aka Mad Max 2)

Max (Mel Gibson) is a loner who roams the Outback with his dog. 

He is assaulted by a gang, intent on taking his vehicle and whatever gasoline he has.  But max has other ideas.  Wez (Vernon Wells) and his gang come away empty as Max outmaneuvers and out guns them.

Farther down the road Max stumbles upon an apparently abandoned gyrocopter.  Intent on raiding the vehicle for gas for his own car he is captured by the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence).  But Max quickly turns the tables on the Gyro Captain and takes him prisoner.  In an effort to save his own skin, the Captain tells max of an enclave just up the road where he can get "all the gas you want."

Upon arriving at the enclave, Max and the Captain discover the enclave surrounded by a gang intent on taking the gasoline for their own purposes.  As Max and the Captain watch from afar, two separate vehicles leave the compound, but are immediately surrounded by the gang.  The gang is being run by a character called the Humungus (Kjell Nillson), whose right hand man is our old friend Wez from the earlier assault on Max.

After the gang leaves the victims, Max approaches one of the vehicles and finds one man still alive.  Assured by the man that if Max takes him back to the compound he can have as much gas as he can carry.  Unfortunately the man dies upon arrival, and the leader of the compound, Pappagallo (Mike Preston, who looks, to me, quite a bit like a rather well-worn  Peter O'Toole...) tells Max that his "deal" died with the dead man.  Not only that, but he takes Max prisoner.

As the gang continues their assault outside the compound, Humungus addresses the besieged people, claiming that if they surrender the entire supply of gas within the compound he will allow them to leave.  Of course, no one believes him.  Max then tells Pappagallo of an abandoned rig he saw just down the road that he promises he can bring to them in exchange for the gas that he originally wanted.

With the help of the Captain, who apparently must be desperate for companionship after the way Max has been treating him, they end up getting the rig to the compound.  Although Pappagallo pleads with Max to drive the rig and gas out into the Outback, max claims that his part of the bargain is over and leaves.  But he is attacked by the gang and his car is wrecked.  And a couple of would-be gang thieves are killed as the car explodes taking the precious gas within with them.  Max, severely wounded but still alive, manages to crawl back to the compound where he finally agrees to drive the rig to safety.

I just realized I completely forgot about one of the secondary characters in the flick, a boy only referred to in the credits as The Feral Kid (Emil Minty).  A wild child in the extreme,  and a deadly shot with a boomerang, the Kid bonds with Max and tries to tag along with him.  And it is revealed at the end of the movie that the Kid, now grown, is our humble narrator.  (As a side note: Minty only appeared in three movies, all as a kid.  According to wikipedia he went to school and studied to be a jeweler and now resides in Sydney in the capacity of a jeweler.)

Australian films of this type rival Hong Kong action flicks for sheer chaos and destruction.  An excellent documentary I saw a few months ago, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild Untold Story of Ozploitation! (which, by the way was the inspiration for creating this blogathon) tells the riveting story of how Oz became the rival for sheer action on film.  Some of the films in the documentary I am actively seeking for future entries on The Midnite Drive-In.

Well folks time to power up the Plymouth and head home.  Hope I manage to avoid the road gangs.  Drive safely folks.



  1. Admittedly, I have to be in a certain mood for this sort of all out assault on the senses. I can usually handle the visuals more easily than the audio. My daughter laughs at my whining about a movie with "it's so loud!"

    I hadn't realized the extent of the ozploitation and look forward to your future entries.

    1. One called Dead End Drive-In is on my wish list, but I haven't found it yet. Thanks for reading.

  2. This film was my introduction to Mel Gibson--unforgettable, incredible charisma and star power. The film itself set the trend of the post-apocalyptic nightmare--so well done.
    My second Mel Gibson film was Tim, in which he played a mentally handicapped young man having an affair with an older woman--Piper Laurie. Showed me what a fine actor he is as well.
    Say what you will about Mel--he has his problems and prejudices but is a first rate actor director and filmmaker! Still gotta love him!

    1. Loved him in all the Lethal Weapon movies, too. Thanks for reading.

  3. Huh. I saw both this and Mad Max about 15 years ago, but I just realized while reading this that I remember basically nothing about them. Weird.

    1. Mad Max 3 (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) was a letdown in my opinion, but they made up for it in the reboot. The other two Gibson MMs are great though. Thanks for reading.


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