Mad Max: The Art of the Stunt

Mad Max is an amazing movie for many, many reasons (read a fun review here). And having seen the 2000 re-release at the Film Forum in NYC with Australian accents and slang restored, I can safely say that I have truly experienced this monumental offering of Australian culture. Whenever I think about Mad Max, two things immediately jump out at me: 1) is the Knightrider yelling out AC/DC lyrics on the CB, 2) all the amazing chases and stunts. Now, here’s a film that with a shoestring budget ($400,000 which in turn grossed over $100,000,000) re-engineered the cinematic car chase by bolting cameras inside the vehicles and making the viewer part of the action (eat your heart out Steve McQueen). More importantly, the stunts in this film are simply out of this world -whether intended or not. I would really be interested to know if anyone has seen another “stunt”* that matches the visceral and emotional grip of the following scene from Mad Max:

No one was injured during the generation of this short film clip.* Stunt is in quotes because the above scene was not intentional but all the more effective because of this and a little slow motion.

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5 Responses to Mad Max: The Art of the Stunt

  1. Mikhail says:

    I remember when you saw that. I think you woke up on my kitchen floor on the Lower East Side and scurried off to Film Forum. Oh the fond memories of a former life, no?

    Seriously, I had no idea the original was in widescreen. It looks like 1:2.35 here. I always thought it was the old 1:1.33 aspect ratio thanks to late night reruns. Good post. What else would I expect?

  2. jimgroom says:

    Mikhail,

    If I remember correctly, that was after an intense evening of study, right?:) A former life indeed, although not that far away just yet for those ideas, movies, conversations are still fueling me through the countless Muppet movies and Thomas the Train episodes. All I wanna know is, when do I get to watch Sponge Bob? More importantly, though, when do I get to bust out the holy trinity! I tried once, but it was a wee bit premature, who knew a six week old just wouldn’t get it -the kids these days have no aesthetic principles!!!

  3. Keira says:

    I have huge love for this movie. It’s hard to explain to the kids of today my teenage crush on Mel Gibson, but all I can say is imagine yourself, 14 , living in a massive suburb purely designed for the car (donut shops on every corner, car dealerships, gas stations, strip plazas) and seeing Mad Max for the first time. Nothing about my world seemed “sustainable” at all. The apocalypse was surely right around the corner (or perhaps was in progress?) and OF COURSE power would revolve around who had the gas and the wheels.

    Steph and I tracked Mad Max down in a rep theatre after seeing Road Warrior at our local multiplex and The Year of Living Dangerously at an art house on a still rare trip downtown.) Mel drove really fast! Mel loved his wife! Mel was sexy and cool! Mel was brave! Mel could act! (Good enough for us anyway.)

    Another old friend, who also grew up in Scarborough, Ontario gave me a copy of Mad Max for a birthday some few years back. Along with some mix tapes it formed the aesthetic centre of a gift basket that was rounded out by a bottle of tequila, something pretty to wear and some herbal bath stuff. I remember having the bath, pouring a shot of tequila and sticking the vhs tape in the vcr ONLY TO HEAR LOUSY AMERICAN DUBBED ACCENTS. Good god. What could be wrong with Mel’s 21 year old voice?

    SO thanks. I’ve had my mind on other matters the last few years (that and Mel humiliates me everytime I pay attention to him) and didn’t realize there’d even been a re-release. Yet again you guide me back to the video store. Maybe in this case to buy.

  4. jimgroom says:

    Keira,

    Now that there is an appropriate write up for this greatest of all apocalyptic road movies -you nailed it. I agree that kids these days just don’t get the genius of film from the 70s and 80s. What a crazy moment, I have such a love/hate relationship with the explosion of the VHS during the late 70s and early 80s. It changed everything rather quickly. I love the VHS (not the format but the moment) for the unbelievable access to so many films like Mad Max that I had never seen before. Yet, I continually bemoan the ways in which this reality has decayed the social experience of movie-going. Mad Max is necessarily meant to be seen on the screen, anything else is an approximation and a lie. Now, I understand we all have to make these sacrifices daily if we want to watch anything, and the average cineplex theater these days is no bigger than a large home entertainment system anyway, which is a sure fire sign of a dying art form.

    Riffing on your magic. Mad Max is the cinematic artform. Mad Max is the promise and deliverance of cinematic movements on the screen that are taken to the next level and well beyond (has any film ever topped this?). Mad Max may possibly be the last great film of an era that separates the pre- and post- Video Home Cassette epoch and, by extension, is the harbinger of doom for the single cinema movie house. Allegorically, the Toecutter gang represent the endlessly propagating cineplexes of the late 70s and early 80s (crude and violent for they represent the early stages when movie houses where just split in half by a wall -violently bifurcating reality!) Max, our hero, is single-handedly fighting a losing battle to preserve the order and stability that comes with the single screen movie house: a theatre that offers a civilized space to engage all 35 millimeters! Max ultimately loses, but the battle is an epic tale about humanity versus the Taylorization of experience; the Snopesing of commerce. All of which ends in the technological wasteland of Home Entertainment Systems. Reading the signs: we’re all doomed and Mad Max knew this all along!

    But, you even knew it back when it was happening Keira, and hearing you speak about that moment through this movie is the very reason why I love this medium so much – films are such personal affects! Films have a very different and powerful context at the moment in which we see them. For Mad Max the relatively recent gas crisis, hostage crisis, Reagan cold war nuke ’em mentality, and the multiplication of suburban nothingness (the film Suburbia (1984) by the great Penelope Spheeris is the closest thing to a US inspired post-apocalyptic aesthetic that ranks as powerfully as Mad Max) all do as much to frame and inform the energy around this film as do its actors, directors, etc..

    As for Mel, what can I say -he definitely would have kicked Indiana Jones’s ass, and that meant a lot to me back then.

  5. Jerry says:

    With so much work going into creating immersive, 3D environments, I hope that someone soon recreates a 3D cineplex simulator that is high resolution – then we can watch some films virtually with an audience of our choosing from across the world. Now that would be cool.

    Get to work Netflix.

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