What would you do for a tank of juice?
Mad Max 2: Road Warrior (1981)
Wednesday, December 10th
Films starts at 8pm
633 Grand St (bet Leonard & Manhattan), Bklyn, NY 11211
Free popcorn, Juke Box Meccanica, $2 Bingo for Prizes. PRIZES!
This weeks review brought to you by Man Boy In The Promised Land!
Ah, how does one review a 30 year old pelicula that nearly everyone has seen already? Lil’ Marlo did it right with an in depth expose on Verhoeven’s Robocop but where does the Road Warrior fit in today’s scheme of things? Mad Max in the Age of the American Meltdown? A Portrait of the Humongous as a Young Man? One wonders what the post-apocalyptic scene will look like cum December 22 and what grotesque shapes the children of man will evolve into in the not so distant future. We may in fact be there already, albeit doing it with a lot less style than Humongous and company did. What would you do for a tank of juice? What are you doing right now for one?
We were first introduced to Señor Rockatanksky in Mad Max, the original and first installment in the Mad Max franchise of peliculas. “In the roar of an [superbike] engine, he lost everything,” explains a disembodied voice who we later learn comes from the Feral Boy, all grown up now and recanting the past from an even more distant future. Various stock footage clips of war and destruction narrate the fall of man and give an explanation as to what the world has now become and clue us in as to why all these maniacs are running amok in the Australian outback. It’s all about the gas baby, the sweet juice and the lifeblood of the wastelands; as it was then, as it is now, and as it will be in due time. Indeed, our first glimpse of the warrior Max is spied through the windshield of his supercharged apocalypticar, the last of the V8 interceptors and the car Max drives into oblivion at the end of the first Mad Max, a wink and a nod to the original. And although there are more than a few references to the original, The Road Warrior stands alone and as one of the greatest post-apocalyptic westerns ever made, if not the greatest. For a moment, such was the brilliance of his performance as the Toecutter, that one wishes Hugh Keyes-Byrne could have been resurrected in just some sort of guise to continue to wreak havoc in the outback but it’s all for naught as only Max returns and instead we are treated to the maelstrom of funky weirdness, unforgettable in its own right, that is Humongous and his dogs.
First and forement is the Humongous, the Lord Humongous and warrior of the wastelands. Despite hiding his war-scarred face behind a hockey mask, Señor Humongous manages to deliver a perfectly believable performance as the leader of a pack of gas and flesh hungry mad dogs roaming the post-apocalytic Australian desert. The Humongous is both well-spoken and charming, seemingly a man of some class and education who, before the end, might have supervised a Best Buy or been a police captain. One gets the feeling that both he and Max are not all that different and that only by chance did their ends take such different means. “We all lost someone we loved,” whispers the Humongous into the ear of his rabid lieutenant Wez, “…but we do it my way.” And one wonders why Stallone wasn’t taking notes here when he wrote Brian Thompson’s character into Cobra, who manages to lead a cult of seemingly hundreds of people to their death with little more than grunts and snarls and anti-cop rhetoric. All hail the Humongous! A thoughtful arch-villian indeed.
Ah, and what about Wez? Played by Vernon Wells in perhaps his greatest role, Wez nearly steals the show from both Max and Humongous with but only a few lines and lots of menacing grunts and grins. But it’s never too much nor overdone and it’s all just right as Wez seems to rule his own little corner of the wastelands, blasting through the desert on a KZ900 superbike in assless chaps and mohawk, blond twink in tow. Of all the silverscreen supervillains that have come and gone over the last thiry years, you know, the ones who utter little but grunt often(see Zeus in No Holds Barred or the aforementioned Brian Thompson in Cobra), none of them can hold a candle to the illustrious Wez.
Humongous and Wez and all the dogs of war are all but bent on and obsessed over a great big fat tank of gas firmly ensconced behind the makeshift walls of a wasteland fort peopled by civilized folks all done up in white bedouin garb. Max has got designs on the tank too, but for only so much gas as he can carry and the whole movie revolves around that tank and the interplay between the thick-lipped Papagallo’s desert bedouin(the good guys) and the Humongous and his savages(the bad guys). This is all spied through the company of Max, who seems to care not either way and just wants his gas, always preferring to do his own thing alone, always. If Max wasn’t Max he’d be the man with no name, drifting through the deserts of America as in countless westerns, always alone. Indeed, the Road Warrior is a western, a classic one at that and one always seems to know where they’ll end up come the rolling of the credits. Although, it must be said that The Road Warrior is a true original and that while The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly may have had Tuco and Angel Eyes it never had Lord Humongous and Wez in bondage gear on superbikes and it never had flamethrowers.
George Miller, who also directed the first Mad Max as well as Babe: Pig in the City, sets a frenetic pace throughout and The Road Warrior is constantly awash in action packed scenes of violence, suspence, and despair. Little thought or time is given to the dimension of romance in the wastelands and indeed you will find none of it. At first glance there appears to be some chemistry between Max and the crimp-haired warrior woman but this leads to nothing at all and is quickly erased and the only real developed nod to humanity is left to fall on the shoulders of the Gyro captain, in a great performance by Bruce Spence, who with some comic relief pursues both Max as a friend and the quail-haired girl as a potential mate. In the end it is revealed that he goes on to succeed Papagallo, leader of the bedouins, and make the great charge toward the Promised Land.
Vehicles: What ARE those wonderful cars!? Humongous and crew, the Papagallo team, and even Max and the Gyro captain all rock amazing post-apocalyptic vehicles of choice. Max can be seen piloting the V8 Interceptor which, like him, is one of the last of its kind. In reality, the Interceptor police special (Max was a cop in the first film) is based off of a Ford XB Falcon, highly modified of course, and a ride that was only produced in Australia during the mid seventies. Our friend the Gyro captain, the man who came from the sky, beats air in some sort of jury-rigged VW powered autogyro, which adds a different element to the film as no one really seems to know what to make of that thing buzzing about. In the opening scene Wez, astride a custom KZ superbike, lustily pulls an arrow out of his bicep and then pulls off an endless wheelie into the outback with the Golden Youth riding bitch. The custom work on all the cars and bikes is awesome and intricate indeed and one often dreams about constructing their own post apocalyptic vehicle as an insurance and safeguard for the future (see Bellflower).
The Road Warrior culminates in an epic chase in which Max and the bedouins attempt to break through the Humongous Gate with that fat tank of gas pulled behind a Mack Truck driven by the warrior Max. Death and violence reign supreme in an orgiastic feast of blood and metal and mayhem. Wez and Humongous fuse together for a brief moment and then are blown into a million pieces as Max and the Mack splatter their guts all over the desert floor in an atomic collision. And of course we knew all along that Max was going to triumph over the dogs and yet we are left with the same mellifluous vibe at the end as we were at the beginning. Max is again alone, free to roam and the bedouins go off to do whatever it was they were doing before but somewhere else. Was Max’s humanity restored? What kind of parallels can we draw between The Road Warrior and a gas hungry society headed towards a major meltdown? In the end, maybe it matters not and maybe it’s better to just kick back with a plastic cup of trago, enjoy the spectacle, and get your things in order before the end of days, lest you be left like Max, the warrior Max, to wander the wastelands alone, with sand spilling through your hands.
What would you do for a tank of juice?
– Richard Staab