Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Favorite Era: The Road Warrior (1981)

Ah, the days before Mel Gibson was an irredeemable pile of detritus not even worth spitting on.  Hard as it might be to believe, there was actually a time-and man does it feel like an eternity-when the man could not only find steady work but also was fairly well liked.  Born in New York but raised in Australia, he first got noticed in a little B-movie called Mad Max.  A gritty, breathlessly exciting post-apocalyptic thriller, it vaulted Gibson into the limelight both in Australia and stateside.  Naturally, a sequel was required and in this case, it not only surpassed the original but to a small extent, made folks forget the original even existed.

Not only that, it ended up influencing many areas of pop culture such as sci-fi novels; cheap Italian exploitation movies, pro wrestling and probably more than one or two misguided advisers trying to sell a world leader on a plan to prevent what happens in the film from becoming a reality.

The Road Warrior is an action film in the purest sense of the word.  Mel is Max, a former cop whose life was shattered in the first film and now he roams the wastelands where gasoline is more precious than life and it's every man for himself.  You get great car stunts all the way through, very little in the way of dialogue, some iconic villains and just a teensy weensy bit of character development for Max.  Let's take a closer look.
  • Like all the ripoffs that would follow, we begin with a voice over explaining just how the world went to hell.  In this case, it recaps the first movie via an old guy who Max encountered at one point in the story we will see.  Who is this mysterious man?  I'll get to that later.
  • The opening chase scene is a great example of insane stunt driving, as is the rest of the action stuff in the film.
  • I'd also be remiss in not mentioning the great Vernon Wells as Wez.  Decked out in leather ass less chaps and a red Mohawk, he's one of the more...memorable villains in action movie history.  Of course, we'll see Wells later on in this series but we can hold off on that till then.
  • The music box Max finds in the aftermath of the first scene is a nice touch, one of the few moments where he actually smiles a little.  Gibson is quite good in the role, basically playing a standard Western character only in a futuristic setting.
  • Also good is Bruce Spence as the Gyro Captain, another desert loner who just so happens to have a small gyro-copter.  He's quite amusing and happily doesn't turn into the Odious Comic Relief some lesser movies would make him into.
  • Another iconic character is the main baddie, Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) who covets the huge gasoline supply that is the film's Macguffin.  Clad in a few leather straps and a hockey mask, he's certainly memorable to say the least.
  • Given how much of a freaky lunatic Mel has turned out to be, what are the odds he was really eating dog food in that one scene?  I'm thinking yeah.
  • The group of settlers Max ends up helping are an interesting lot though my favorite has to be Feral Kid (Emil Minty).  I don't know why not a single person in the settlement would take a week or so to teach the kid how to speak along with some basic social skills but he's just running around with his razor sharp boomerang, yelling incoherently for the whole damn movie.  He also bonds with Max which would be sweeter if the kid wasn't coming across as a miniature shaven werewolf on crack.
  • Making it even funnier is that the kid turns out to be the narrator so I have to assume after the events of the movie, a few survivors got together and said "Okay, we have to get this kid acting semi-normal just in case we pick up some new friends.  At the very least we should make sure he can actually use coherent sentences."
  • While the action is great throughout, the easy highlight is the huge stunt-laden finale as Max drives a truck with the settlers gasoline through the bad guys.l  Words cannot describe how simply awesome the sequence is, you just have to see it for yourself.
 The Road Warrior was released in Australia in late 1981 and in the U.S. in the summer of 1982.  It still works today as one of the best action films of all time.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.