Tuesday, 14 October 2008

30th Anniversary Mad Max

As told by the inevitable James Jackson and accompanied by the B-Movie Lord Leslie Morris who went on a road trip to where George Miller immersed himself in maximum madness.

James Jackson thinking of doing a runner or should I say "driver".

"As I waited for my the petrol tank of my car to fill and the dollar amount to enter triple figures, I took in my surroundings and realised that I was indeed in the middle of nowhere. As a child I remember feeling an eerie malaise in the back seat every time we did the trip to Geelong. Those who have had to go to Geelong will understand but this feeling was not caused solely by an entirely understandable fear of my destination. As I waited for the pump to click off at that petrol station just out of Little River I realised that even as a child I recognised the inherent bleakness west of Melbourne. Little wonder George Miller decided use the area for the bulk of the locations in Mad Max (1979) which was completed exactly thirty years ago.

There are very few incentives that would get me to Little River but the 30th Anniversary of the completion of Mad Max is one of them. The weekend long festival to celebrate this auspicious occasion was run by the odd couple of event management organisations – the Little River Historical Society and “Back 2 the Max” a Melbourne-based Mad Max fan club. Thankfully the local council was also involved, possibly to mediate any “we’re driving the tanker down the main street of Little River and if the kindergarten don’t like it they can have their open day elsewhere” style disputes. The weekend’s activities included rides in amazing replica Mad Max cars, an exhibition of memorabilia from the films and various bus tours to filming locations. We heard later that many people had even come from overseas for the occasion including a busload of Japanese tourists who stroked the bitumen on which Max drove. Needless to say Mad Max is even more popular in Japan than it is in its country of origin meaning it can be added to the list of death match wrestling, tentacle porn and mobile phone novels to support the hypothesis that a nuclear explosion has the power teach anyone good taste.

The weekend’s activities were all well attended, just not by me or Lez who got to Little River late Saturday afternoon, just in time for the dinner with “special guests”. We were expecting a thirty year old Sprog (Max’s murdered son) and one of Johnny’s lawyers now suffering from dementia but we were pleasantly surprised. When we arrived the first thing we saw was a replica Interceptor with which we posed for photos. Lez suggested we climb inside it but having no desire for my entrails to feature in next month’s “remains of pricks who touched me car” section in Street Machine I admired it from afar. Near the Interceptor we talked to some nice people who asked us where we were staying. I told them we were going back to Melbourne that night because I had a puppy at home. When one lady asked if it had two feet or four and I replied “two” she suggested I “should have brought her along”.

The dinner was served in a large white marquee reminiscent of something in which Aunty might have entertained guests with the regrettable omission of the blind Asian saxophone player. On our way to be seated I recognised Vince Gil and felt I had to go over and introduce myself. If Vince reads this I just want him to know that although I look, speak, write and often act like a crazy person I am not in fact certified. Hoping he might be more inclined to say something meaningful to me if I didn’t just shout “I’m a fuel-injected suicide machine” in his face, I decided to mention some of his other films. I thought I was being astute; a veritable David Stratton, Cannibal Corpse T-shirt notwithstanding. Vince thought I was a nutcase. I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned Body Melt (1993); that thankless piece of shit but I momentarily forgot about Mallboy (2001) where Vince plays a lunatic who runs around his backyard naked. It all turned out to be irrelevant as at that moment an officious woman, probably from the Little River CWA or some such neo-fascist collective said, “I’m sorry we have to get him seated,” and probably to Vince’s great relief, bustled him away.

Lez and I then had to find a seat which we did at a table with a lovely coupe from Darwin. Greg was wearing a replica Mad Max jacket which he bought online for five hundred dollars. His partner was wearing a bemused smile. Priceless. Both Greg and his partner were adamant that Max Fairchild had been in Beyond Thunderdome and that he had played Blaster. Not wanting to cause a scene I gently pointed out that when I had Max Fairchild interview for my magazine ... Not to be petty, but does the name “Paul Larsson” ring a bell? Don’t fuck with the king, baby.

Then we saw the Feral Kid, or should I say, the feral adult looking as if he had been taken in, civilised and had his mullet cut off, presumably like many feral children since Romulus and Remus. Lez and I ended up behind him in the dinner queue and introducing ourselves. Emil Minty was eight when he was cast as the Feral Kid in Mad Max 2 and had to have a bodyguard at school even though, as he told us, his best friend beat up a lot of his detractors. Later when he spoke as part of the proceedings, he explained that he had only seen Mad Max on the set of Mad Max 2 which you would think must have been quite a screening for an eight year old. Emil retained his famous boomerang and music box which George Miller gave him at the end of filming and has spent the last twenty years working as a jeweller.

Just after getting our scrumptious dinner (probably prepared by the afore-slandered CWA) and meeting the Feral Kid I realised we were sitting behind the ADD kid. Thirty years ago this kid would have been called a little bugger and given a smack on the BTM. Now he’s diagnosed with ADD and arse-burgers’ syndrome and he still won’t shut up. This kid talked through speeches by men who played bikers who ran over a baby who never did anything to piss off anyone so at least he’s got balls but he certainly busted mine as did his ineffectual father who kept telling him to be quiet. It must have been a visitation weekend.

The evening’s presentation started with the formalities – namely a speech from a hilariously bookish man from the Little River Historical Society though in all fairness Alice Cooper would have looked bookish in that tent. The next and only slightly less absurd speaker was a female councillor who explained she was filling in for the Mayor who couldn’t make it because of a “prior commitment”. Yeah right; and Mel would have been there if it wasn’t for the International Zionist Conspiracy.

Vince Gil was probably the most charismatic speaker of the evening and strangely the least enthusiastic about Mad Max. After telling us he understood the “so called magic” of film he pointed out that it is mainly illusion. For a terrible couple of seconds it felt as if his foray into reality was going to destroy the entire evening but then someone shouted out “you’re a legend”, Vince reluctantly conceded and things stayed completely surreal. Vince explained that he had quit acting and can’t remember any of the lines he shouted as the Nightrider in Mad Max which was surprising considering everyone had been shouting them at him for the entirety of the evening. Then he talked about Stanislavsky and how he always wanted to know what happened to the woman who rode in the car with him in his one and only scene in Mad Max. If you know her, contact Vince Gil!

Bertrand Cadart (Clunk) and Nic Gazzana (Starbuck) gave entertaining tag team recollections of being part of Toecutter’s gang. Cadart was cast for the role by George Miller on the strength of his being able to throw a tantrum on demand. When Cadart raised concerns about his French accent Miller assured him that would not matter because Clunk does not say a word. Gazzana explained that he later found out to have done the stunts alone for Mad Max in America would have cost a million dollars which was more than half the film’s budget. George Novak (Scuttle) said when he went to get stunt work in America after Mad Max he was immediately hired on the strength of his involvement which possibly belies the “Americans didn’t know anything about Mad Max and that’s why they had to call it The Road Warrior over there” story.

And ADD kid kept fiddling, eventually resulting in the spilling of a can of Coke and his father muttering at him once again to be quiet. A question sheet was handed out which featured questions to which nobody knew the answer. Eg: (9) In the nightclub “Sugartown”, which letter is not lit in the neon sign? and (20) What colour is the handle on the hacksaw Max gives to Jonno? Which I’m sure those dickheads who made Saw could answer as they directly ripped that scene to their own two-bit, penny-dreadful excuse for a film. In fact probably many of the folk in attendance could have answered the questions considering watching the film enough to produce a flawless replica car may transport one to a new plane of consciousness.

Then it was time for dessert and for all the things Little River doesn’t have (i.e. a river, a sense of humour) it has the best chocolate mousse I have eaten since the closure of Sizzler. In fact, the Little River Mousse is better; so good in fact that after I had finished I decided things could not get any better so I bullied Lez into going home. There were other speakers but we were really approaching Sprog material and ADD kid was fidgeting like a man forced to saw off his own foot.

As I started the engine and the sweet song of the XR6 rang throughout the otherwise peaceful Little River night, I wondered how long it could all last. Driving down the highway the lights of Geelong glistened behind us like tomorrow-morrow land (God help us all) and I pondered the fragility and contradictory nature of Western civilisation. Surely recent events in Iraq, the instability of the stock market and the continued existence of Geelong are portents of society’s imminent collapse. Perhaps sooner rather than later the guzzle-ine will run dry, leaving us to descent into anarchy. And leaving those beautiful replica Mad Max cars to rot in suburban driveways and become the ultimate definition of irony.

Thanks to Back 2 the Max and the Little River Historical Society for a great evening, for keeping the dream alive and for giving us back our heroes."

Leslie Morris gives us a one thumbs-up which is about as good as you can give with thumbs.

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