Friday, 29 November 2013

Mad Max Filmed At Diggers Rest / Bulla Road?

Mad Max burst into cinemas in 1979 in all of its super-charged, leather-clad glory, changing genre cinema forever. Influenced by the 1973 oil crisis that turned many motorists all over the globe to violence, Mad Max depicted a desolate world with long stretches of highways interrupted only by derelict signs of civilization. The remnants of a once strong police force, the Main Force Patrol do their best to maintain law while wild gangs of outlaw bikers loot, rape, and siphon their way through society. One of these officers, Max Rockatansky, looses faith in the justice after his best friend, wife, and infant son fall victim to the nastiest gang of them all, led by the Genghis Khan of the wasteland, the Toecutter.

Shot over 12 weeks in and around Melbourne with a humble budget of $350,000 (Australian), the making of Mad Max was sometimes just as chaotic and dangerous as the world depicted in the film. Director George Miller, making his first feature, pulled together every resource imaginable making his mean-spirited opus. The birth of Mad Max was filled with broken bones, military rocket boosters, and suicide missions to get the most insane shot that was as close to the action as possible. These were real men doing real stunts in real cars going over 100 mph. Sure the stunts and car chases in Mad Max's arguably superior sequel The Road Warrior may be more impressive at times, but that movie had a lot more support behind it with over 10 times the original's budget.

Filming took place in Victoria during November and December 1977. There were then further shoots the following May to pick up second unit shots and stunt work (Mad Max was the first Australian movie to use a wide angle anamorphic lens). Of the motorcycles that appear in the film, 14 were Kawasaki Kz1000 donated by the industry. All were modified in appearance by Melbourne business La Parisienne – one as the MFP bike ridden by ‘The Goose’ and the balance for members of the Toecutter’s gang, played in the film by members of a local Victorian motorcycle club, the Vigilantes.

The camera work during the driving sequences are also beautifully shot. It is very easy to forget that this is an independant film with a tiny budget, such is the dexterity on show with the camera. There is no doubt that the driving action sequences in Mad Max are some of the best comitted to film up until that point. Yes, Bullit had car chases, but Max had chaos on a grand scale and a sheer bloody mind. By the end of filming, 14 vehicles had been destroyed in the chase and crash scenes, including the director’s personal Mazda Bongo (the small, blue van that spins uncontrollably after being struck by the Big Bopper in the film’s opening chase). All the crashes had to be taken in one shot.

When Max gets his revenge, it is delicious and satisfying. Stealing himself the Pursuit Special Interceptor he goes after the gang and runs them off the road one by one. Saving the best for last Max finds Johnny, the root of all the problems, looting from a crashed car. Max handcuffs his ankle to the crashed car and gives him a hacksaw and two options: To cut through the handcuff (slow work), or his own ankle, before the car explodes. It’s a truly classic and memorable scene, and delivers tremendous closure.

Many of the locals believe that the final scene was shot at Jacksons Creek on the Bulla / Diggers Rest Road. Others claim tha the final scene was shot at Gellies Road, Wildwood.

What is your opinion?

Footnote: I have been informed by a very reliable source that the Mad Max car was buried at the Tullamarine rubbish tip. The source was the man who buried the car.

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