Mad Max: The Interceptor

Title:
Mad Max: The Interceptor
NFSA ID:
8230
Year:
1979
Category:
Access fees

A crazed joyrider (Vincent Gil) and his girlfriend (Lulu Pinkus) lead the highway patrol on an extended chase. Their luck runs out when they come up against Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), the best cop on the road. Summary by Paul Byrnes

We see Max for the first time and establish that he is a formidable opponent. The scene also gives the first glimpse of the movie’s kinetic power. Note the speed of the cuts at the end – some are almost too quick to see.

Mad Max Synopsis

In the near future, in a collapsing society, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) patrols the highway in a super-charged patrol car, the Interceptor, like a modern-day samurai. When a bikie gang declares war on him and his family, Max takes justice into his own hands.

Mad Max Curator's Notes

The influence of Mad Max would be hard to overstate. Some would say it is the most influential movie ever made in Australia. The film had a profound effect on filmmakers and audiences around the world. It redefined the idea of what kinetic action cinema should be, along with audience expectations. It also threw a well-timed wrench at the polite veneer of much Australian cinema. The film was neither highbrow nor historical, as many Australian films of the 1970s were.

At the same time, Mad Max is profoundly local in its attitudes and origins. Dr George Miller grew up in Chinchilla in south-western Queensland. The hot, flat plains and 'a profound car culture’ had claimed the lives of several contemporaries before he left school. As a young doctor, he saw the impact of road carnage at close quarters, in casualty wards. The film has both a love of speed and an apocalyptic view of its effects. It also has an ambivalent, even jaundiced view of authority. There is no justice, only vengeance. 

Mad Max was made for $380,000 raised from friends, so it was completely independent of the Australian film funding bodies. It was, in short, a piece of larrikin cinema – impolite, independent, and in a style not considered respectable. Miller was strongly influenced by silent cinema, particularly the techniques of comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. Mad Max was an experiment, he says, in making 'pure cinema’.

Critics compared Miller to the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa but Miller says he did not know who Kurosawa was at the time. When it was shown in the USA, the Australian voices were dubbed into American accents. The sound design by Roger Savage was particularly influential, the tones of different engines being used as a kind of music.

Notes by Paul Byrnes

Education Notes

This clip shows Crawford 'the Nightrider’ Montizano (Vincent Gil) and his girlfriend (Lulu Pinkus) on the run from the police. They delight in the damage they have caused, as police officer Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) prepares to intercept them. Footage of Max starting his engine, putting the car into gear and fastening his black leather gloves is intercut with the frenzied exultations of the Nightrider. Max waits and eventually the Nightrider appears on the horizon. A dramatic head-on collision is narrowly avoided, followed by a car chase that ends in the spectacular destruction of the Nightrider’s car amid the wreckage of an earlier crash. Max is seen properly for the first time as he leaves his car and removes his sunglasses to assess what has happened.

Educational value points

  • This clip introduces Max but withholds details of his appearance to increase suspense. The audience sees the edge of his sunglasses and the back of his head in carefully framed shots, but not his eyes or face. The initial perception of Max as an anonymous threat secures the viewers’ belief in his later transformation into a lethal automaton.
  • Colourful and manic characters populate the dystopian world created by director George Miller (1945–). The Nightrider babbles with pseudo-religious fervour to his girlfriend, whose only role is as a willing disciple. Their disregard for human life, delight in suicidal risk-taking and provocation of the police represent the values of the world Max opposes as a police officer, but it is a world he must ultimately join to exact revenge. The Nightrider is the kind of ego-driven, delusional villain who populates all the Mad Max films, a vital component of George Miller’s view of a future world.
  • Miller’s skill at creating car chases is vividly exemplified. The raw tension created by throaty engines revving, fast tracking shots and clever editing made Mad Max an enormously popular cult film. The suspense of its chases ending in the catharsis of incendiary carnage has been extensively imitated.
  • The clip contains elements of a number of the genres that Miller incorporates into Mad Max. Miller uses elements of 'buddy cop’, science fiction, western and 'road trip’ genres. By drawing from a range of genres in fresh ways, Miller is considered to have revolutionised film and given it new vitality.
  • The buddy relationship between Max and his colleague is one of decency, cooperation and justice, which is pitted against the anarchy, nihilism, violence and ego of the Nightrider. This is the central conflict of the Mad Max series and the irony is that both sides glory in the exhilarating and dangerous escapism of speed.
  • Women are positioned as helpless victims, even when colluding with villains. In Mad Max women take on traditional roles, as seen in the Nightrider’s girlfriend, whose laughing turns to concern. Miller’s future world is one in which masculine pastimes of car worship and drag racing have taken over.
  • The Australian landscape is an integral part of the film’s world view. The barren plains intensify the spiritual desolation and hopelessness of this future society. Victims are even more vulnerable in the emptiness of the desert and help may be far away. The role of the police is elevated in this vacuum, suggesting strong links to the roles of sheriffs and other law enforcers in US westerns.
  • Mel Gibson (1956–) is shown in the role that catapulted him to international fame. He went on to even greater success as a result of his participation in the second film in the series, Mad Max 2 (1981), and further action films such as the Lethal Weapon series.
Production company:
Kennedy Miller
Producer:
Byron Kennedy
Director:
George Miller
Screenplay:
James McCausland and George Miller
Music:
Brian May
Cast:
Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Mel Gibson, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Joanne Samuel, Roger Ward

We see Max sitting inside his car watching the road in front of him. His police radio squawks at him as Goose calls him.
Policeman Hey Max!
Max Go ahead.
Policeman We are 100% snafu!
Max Are you OK?

We see Goose talking on his police radio having fallen onto the road.
Policeman Nothing a year in the traffics wouldn’t fix.
Max Much damage?

We see a tow truck overtake a smashed up caravan that is spread across the whole road. Nightrider and his girlfriend are in a stolen police car speeding down an empty road. Max can hear him speaking over the radio.
Nightrider You should see the damage, Bronze huh? Metal damage. Brain damage huh? (Laughs). Are you listening Bronze? I am the Nightrider. (Laughs). I’m a fuel-injected suicide machine.

We see the key ignition of Max’s car, the engine lights turn on and a shot of his muffler as he prepares his car for a chase.

Nightrider I am a rocker! I am a roller! I am a patroller! Ha, ha, ha! I am the Nightrider baby!
Girlfriend Woo!

We see Max put his interceptor into gear.

Nightrider We are going away and we ain’t never coming back. Woo, ha, ha, ha!

Max drives his police car down the road towards the Nightrider. We see the Nightrider and his girlfriend in the car speeding away down the road.
Nightrider The toe-cutter, he knows who I am. I am the Nightrider!

We see Max’s car stop on the side of the road waiting for the Nightrider’s car.

Nightrider I am the chosen one. The mighty hand of vengeance sent down to strike the un-roadworthy! (laughs)

We see Max’s radio inside his car and he looks onto the road in anticipation. He readjusts the gloves on his hands.

Nightrider I’m hotter than a rollin’ dice. Step right up chum and watch the kid lay down a rubber road right to freedom!

The Nightrider’s car speeds away and we see Max in his car waiting for them to come over the hill and meet him. Max revs his engine in anticipation. The Nightrider’s girlfriend is now sitting closer as they both look out onto the road and see Max’s car. The Nightrider pushes his girlfriend’s face away as he speeds up towards Max. Max turns on his police sirens and speeds towards the Nightrider’s car. They both play ‘chicken’ on the road but the Nightrider quickly swerves to miss Max’s car and avoid a collision. Max quickly jams his brakes as he turns around in haste to chase after the Nightrider. The Nightrider quickly turns and looks behind him to see Max following him. His girlfriend turns around and looks behind to see Max catching up with them. The Nightrider starts to break down and cry as his girlfriend watches him and she starts to get emotional as well. Max catches up with the Nightrider and starts honking his horn at them.
Girlfriend What’s wrong?
Nightrider It’s going … (starts to cry)

Max nudges the back of the Nightrider’s car. They head over a slight hill and a man on the side of the road waves a red flag to indicate that a car accident has blocked the road ahead. Max slams on his brakes. The Nightrider tries to swerve to avoid the accident. He misses an overturned truck with barrels but smashes into some overturned cars in the middle of the road. There is a huge explosion. Mad Max gets out of his car and takes his sunglasses off to get a better look