Film and Video Recommendations
Here are some films that fans of the Mad Max trilogy might also enjoy. I would hesitate to call all of the films below "recommendations" for everyone, but it's certainly a collection of films I've found that myself and other Mad Max fans have found something of interest in, due to either plot or action similarities, or having some of the Mad Max cast and crew involved.
Cars and Car Chases - Classics
This film is highly regarded by many for its car chase sequence through the streets of San Francisco. Personally these days, I must say that I find the car chase a little lacking - although let's also remember this film is now over 40 years old. It should be acknowledged that this was one of the first true car chases shot on film (if not the first), which is a large part of the reason it is still held in such high regard. Worth a look - just remember the era that it was from, and the precedent it set at the time. The film is currently available as a standard DVD, available as a two disc special edition DVD, and also available on Blu-ray. (For those who are interested, there was also a limited edition collectors DVD box set, but this now seems to be out of print).
The French Connection (1971)
Another classically regarded car chase, although like Bullitt, I think this one is possibly showing its age a bit now. I prefer the chase here to Bullitt (I possibly also prefer Gene Hackman), but the chase scene is starting to show its age. This is currently available on DVD from Amazon (single disc, or two disc collector's edition), as well as being available on Blu-ray. In Australia, is is also available on DVD.
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
One good thing to come out of the 2000 remake of this film was the fact that it made me aware of the original 1974 version, which I had previously not heard of. If you just watch Mad Max for the car chases, then you should definitely give this one a look. The last half hour is one long chase sequence, featuring some spectacular driving, with its fair share of stunts and crashes. This is currently available as a special edition DVD.
There is also the Nicolas Cage / Angelina Jolie 2000 remake on DVD, although it is an entirely different film. The 1974 version is very low budget, made by some hard core car nuts, with lots of great driving and stunts, all done for real. The remake is much slicker, and is a mixture of real stunts and CGI work, which to me detracts from the film as far as being a pure "car" film goes. Still worth a look, just bear in mind that the two versions are made quite differently to each other. This is also available on Blu-ray.
To Live and Die in LA (1985)
This film features a fairly lengthy car chase, which culminates with the getaway car making a break for it by going the wrong way down an LA freeway - at the oncoming traffic! A very well put together chase, and well worth a look. It is worth noting that for me, the car chase was probably the only memorable moment of the film, and I found the rest to be a little average. Maybe just hire this one out to watch the car chase, and skip the rest. This is available from Amazon as a Special Edition DVD, and also on Blu-ray, as well as being available on DVD also in Australia.
The Driver (1978)
The Driver is about a getaway driver, the jobs he gets involved in, and the cop trying to catch him. It's been many years since I last saw this, and my main memory is obviously of the precision driving sequences and car chases. It is now available on DVD through Amazon (finally!), I will need to get a hold of my own copy, and write you all a better review...
I've been a John Carpenter fan a long time now, and this one basically combines John Carpenter, Stephen King and Cars - how could you possibly go wrong? Obviously there is a slight horror element here, but to me it is fairly mild - certainly not on the same level as Halloween or some of his others. And some of the car stuff here is awesome, particularly the memorable shots of the Plymouth on fire, chasing down the bad guys in one of the main sequences from the film. I can't imagine too many car film fans not getting into this on some level (unless you're really not into the horror genre at all). Christine is currently available on DVD as a Special Edition at Amazon.
This was one of Steven Spielberg's first feature films (originally made for TV), and the best way to describe it would be a case of road rage out of control. Some good sequences, although the film uses just as much on suspense as it does on action - don't expect it to be a non stop car chase or anything. Duel is currently available on DVD from Amazon, and also available on DVD from Fishpond in Australia.
Cars and Car Chases - Recent
Matrix Reloaded (2003)
In my opinion it is quite difficult at this point to create a car chase that offers much that is new, or that hasn't been seen before. And it is especially difficult to put something together that those of us who have seen so many other car chases will enjoy. To me, the Matrix Reloaded car chase totally pulls it off. The stunts and action are fantastic, I love the long wide camera shots of what's going on (instead of all that quick cut shaky crap that many modern directors use to try and fool us into thinking more is happening) - this one just does it for me. The DVD also includes a detailed behind the scenes docuementary, showing how many of the stunts and other practical effects were put together. This is available on DVD from Amazon, it was also available on Blu-ray, but that seems to be discontinued, and now you can only buy it in the Blu-ray box set? (If anyone knows where to get the single disc, let me know). If you're in Australia, you can also grab this locally on DVD from Fishpond, as well as on Blu-ray (without having to buy the whole box!).
Death Race (2008)
This is actually a remake of the 1975 film "Death Race 2000", although it is certainly much slicker and tighter than its earlier low budget counterpart. Death Race has some great cars and action, but to my mind it hasn't been shot quite as well as it could have been. A lot of the camera work has resorted to shaking the camera about, and lots of quick cuts and tight close ups, making it difficult to get a full appeciation of the action. Which is a pity, because the sets and cars look fantastic, and I don't think that type of trickery was needed. That said, I think the film looks much better on home video than it did in the cinema (those shaky quick cuts just don't work for me on a large screen). Definitely worth checking out if your a fan of cars and action, and there are some interesting behind the scenes features as well (I own the Blu-Ray, I presume the standard DVD has the same features). Available on DVD at Amazon, or on Blu-ray, also available in Australia on DVD at Fishpond, and on Blu-ray.
If you're looking for the original 1975 version, this has also been released on DVD multiple times (and gone out of print just as many), try searching around on Amazon or Fishpond, you should find it cheap enough.
Post Apocalypse / Futuristic SciFi
Escape From New York (1981)
I'm not so sure that the setting of the film is supposed to be post apocalypse, but it is definitely set in the decaying society of the future, very similar to the world of the original Mad Max. Manhattan Island has been transformed into a maximum security prison, which Snake Plissken (Kurt Russel) must infiltrate to rescue the President after he is kidnapped. Definitely one of my favourites (and another on my list from John Carpenter), it is available as a Special Edition DVD from Amazon, and was also available on Blu-ray, however that already appears to be out of print? In Australia you can still find both the Special Edition DVD, and the Blu-ray release.
What you are looking at here is a plot very similar to that of The Road Warrior, but based entirely on water. This film had a lot of bad publicity at the time of its release due to budget blow outs and other issues - if you want to see some great post apocalypse action, I'd recommend you ignore all that, and give it a look. Waterworld has some great action set pieces and impressive visuals - all captured by Road Warrior's own cinematographer, Dean Semler. Waterworld is available from Amazon on DVD, both as the standard version and a two disc Extended Version, as well as being available on Blu-ray.
The Postman (1997)
Straight on from Waterworld, Kevin Costner featured in another post apocalyptic film, this time set on dry land. This time around it has more of a story and character focus, and not quite the action elements that you'll find in Waterworld. The Postman certainly has some interesting ideas, but overall I think it tries to do too much, and ends up being a little bit too long and drawn out. Overall I still enjoyed it, but also acknowledge that many didn't. Still worth a look in my books for some of the imagery and ideas, but if you're after action, maybe stick to Waterworld. This is available from Amazon on DVD, and also on Blu-ray, as well as being available in Australia on both DVD and Blu-ray as well.
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
For a full on horror twist as to what the apocalypse might look like, you can't go much further than Zak Snyder's vision in Dawn of the Dead. Now, obviously you can tell by looking at the DVD cover, this one isn't for the faint hearted - the horror film aspects are pretty full on. But at the same time, it is also an intriguing vision into a society that has fallen apart, and people's struggle to survive. I had really expected not much more than some graphic horror and scares when walking into the cinema on this one, and found myself coming away with a lot more. This is currently available on DVD from Amazon, and also on Blu-ray.
Note that this is a remake of George Romero's 1978 film of the same name, and although the plot is along the same lines, the style is quite different. The original offers somewhat more of a social commentary at a pace to make you think, while the remake is much more full on in its horror and action - I find in many ways quite similar to The Road Warrior in its style and pacing. The original version is also available on DVD from Amazon.
Australian Cars and Car Culture
Unlike the films above, many Australian movies are unfortunately not as readily available as we would like. Some of these have been re-released on DVD in recent years, and wherever possible I have links to online retailers that have them listed. For anything without a link, or if the retailer I have linked is out of stock, you could also try ezydvd.com.au, dvdorchard.com.au or The Video Shift in Sydney.
Despite not being as well known as Mad Max internationally, Stone has a cult following comparable to Mad Max within Australia. It is centred more around bikes than cars though, and obviously has its heaviest following from the biker crowd. Featuring quite a few familiar faces from Mad Max, this is worth a look if you're interested in seeing another Australian cult movie from the 70's. It is available as a special edition DVD in Australia, although this seems to go frequently out of print for some reason, you might have to search around.
The Big Steal (1990)
This one is kind of hard for me to describe, I think possibly because the humour is quite Australian, and might not translate too easily to other cultures. It features Steve Bisley (The Goose!) as a dodgy used car dealer, and the consequences of what happens when he tries to pull a fast one on some young kids. I enjoyed it a lot, probably mostly because of Steve Bisley, and I'd recommend all you other Aussies out there to give it a look. Which is not to say that the audience should just be limited to Australia, just bear in mind that some of the humour in this one is quite heavily based in Australan culture, so just be warned that you might not fully understand some of it...! This is available on DVD in Australia.
Running on Empty (Fast Lane Fever in the USA) (1982)
I am still yet to view this one myself, but it's another film based on street racing in Australia, fast cars and so on - I've had a number of other Mad Max fans recommend it to me. It is available on DVD in Australia.
Midnite Spares (1983)
This is another one I've heard about, and seen a trailer for, but unfortunately have not yet been able to track down. It's basically about illegal spare parts dealers, stealing and stripping cars by night. It features the usual selection of hot Australian cars from the 70's, along with some familiar faces and stunt men. This is now available on DVD, I will post a better review in the near future.
Chain Reaction (Nuclear Run in the USA) (1980)
Made not long after Mad Max, this features a selection of the Mad Max cast (Steve Bisley, Hugh Keays-Burne, Tim Burns and more), and was even partly directed by George Miller. Another one I haven't viewed in a while (I need to refresh my memory again!), but if you're a big fan of the first Mad Max I think you'll be interested enough in the people involved to take a look at this one. It is available on DVD in Australia (For those outside Australia, be careful not to confuse this with the 1996 Keanu Reeves movie of the same name).
Love The Beast (2009)
As you would all know, the Mad Max Interceptor is an XB Falcon Coupe - and so to is Eric Bana's first car. This documentary is Eric's directorial debut, and explores his journey with this car, which he has owned for 25 years. This is available on DVD in Australia, it does not appear to have had a US DVD release (it is listed at Amazon, but that appears to be an import of the Australian DVD).
Australian Landscapes / Australian Classics
Wake in Fright (Outback) (1971)
Wake in Fright, also known by its international title "Outback", is highly regarded as one of the best films ever to have come out of Australia. The story centres on an outsider, caught up in the peculiarities of Australian outback culture - something that still exists very much today, and which is at stark contrast to the city culture most Australians experience and grow up in. The film features some fantastic Australian landscapes as the backdrop to the story, and was in fact produced in Broken Hill and Silverton - the same locations as used in Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) some ten years later. Although the film has been unseen for many years, and was even thought to have been lost for ever, it has finally been restored in 2009, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray. In Australia, try Fishpond to buy the Wake In Fright DVD or the Wake In Fright Blu-ray. You can also currently find the DVD listed at Amazon, although at this stage it just appears to be imported copies of the Australian DVD.
Also from 1971 is Walkabout, another fantastic film where the Australian landscape is as much a part of the story as anything else - if not more so. Currently you can either purchase Walkabout as a single DVD, or purchase Walkabout as a double pack with The Tracker, a more recent Australian film also starring David Gulpilil, along with Grant Page (Stunt Co-ordinator, Mad Max / Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). The DVD can also be found at Amazon, either as the standard DVD, or the Criterion Collection version.