Forty years ago a privately financed low-budget dystopian film opened at Village East End in Melbourne. It was the first film for writer and director George Miller, who, during the day, worked as a doctor in Sydney. From this start he has gone on to write, direct and produce a number of well-known films quite removed from the style of the Mad Max franchise: Happy Feet, Babe, Lorenzo’s Oil.
Mad Max is seen as a corner stone for many of today’s action blockbusters and the post-apocalyptic film genre. Filmed on a budget of A$400,000, it earned more than US$100 million worldwide in gross revenue and held the Guinness record for most profitable film. However, at the time it was met with mixed reactions. Phillip Adams condemned Mad Max, saying that it had "all the emotional uplift of Mein Kampf" and would be "a special favourite of rapists, sadists, child murderers and incipient [Charles] Mansons".
Despite this, the film would develop cult status amongst many, was claimed to have opened up Australian films to a global market and certainly launched Mel Gibson’s career, helping him to secure the role of Frank Dunne in Gallipoli. Not that the US audiences would hear Mel Gibson when the film was first released. The film was re-dubbed with American accents as it is claimed that the distributor American International Pictures feared that American audiences would have had problems understanding the thick Australian accents.
Whilst some aspects of Mad Max today are described as ‘kitsch’ it is amidst overall praise that: ‘The results are simply spectacular! By shooting at incredibly high speeds through the desolate roads of the Australian outback - the film never lets up on its visual intensity. With the use of decommissioned vehicles, the vehicle impacts look absolutely insane. Considering the conditions they were shooting under, it's a modern miracle that no one was killed!...The motorcyclists were part of a real gang that had to show up to the set dressed and ready to shoot, including carrying their archaic looking weapons. As legend would have it, the gang was given "get out of jail free cards" - notes from the producers to any police officer - just in case they were stopped and prevented from.