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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sean Kelly

Revisiting 1982 – The Road Warrior

The Road WarriorIt is time for the ninth entry in my year-long series in which I revisit some of the most classic films to be released 30 years ago in the year 1982 (the year of my birth).

In a last-minute change, I decided to switch from talking about Fast Times at Ridgemont High this month to the classic post-apocalyptic action film The Road Warrior.  As aways, there may be SPOILERS during this discussion.

Let’s begin.

I should probably begin by noting that The Road Warrior just barely qualifies as a 1982 film, since its original Australian release date was December 24, 1981.  However, most of the international release dates (include the North American release) were in 1982, so it can be valid to call it a film from the year.

The film was originally released as Mad Max 2, but the title was changed to The Road Warrior for its North American release, since the original Mad Max film from 1979 was not readily available.  The character of “Mad Max” Rockatansky was the first iconic film character for Mel Gibson.  Gibson (who was born in the US, but raised in Australia) was a relative unknown when he first took the part and it can be said that Mad Max put him on the map. 

The Road Warrior actually works as both a sequel to Mad Max and a stand-alone action film.  There are very few references to the original film and it is very easy for a first-time viewer to completely understand what’s happening without seeing what’s come before.  In this age of films (especially in the action genre) that feel obliged to set-up sequels, The Road Warrior stands out as the middle entry of a trilogy that can be watched as its own independent entry (in fact, I still have yet to see the third film Max Mad Beyond Thunderdome).

While Max Mad featured the beginnings of a post-apocalyptic landscape with civilisation still somewhat intact, by the time of The Road Warrior, the world has become a barren wasteland.  Fuel has become extremely rare and it has become the currency in this new world where gangs rule the roads and loners like Max drive endlessly.  The plot of the film has Max reluctantly help a colony transport a tanker of fuel to safety.  Their main obstacle is a gang lead by the villainous Humungus.  In an interesting bit of coincidence Humungus is depicted as a large balding man in a hockey mask, which is the signature look Jason Voorhees will wear for the first time in Friday the 13th, Part III, released a few months later.

I would be hard pressed to called Humungus the main villain of the film.  While he is the leader of the gang and plays a major role in the climatic chase scene at the end, I would argue that the true central villain is Humungus’ henchman Wez, who is much more prominent throughout the film and even has an encounter with Max in the film’s opening scene.  It doesn’t really matter in the end, since both Humungus and Wez die at literally the same moment when both crash into each other in a head-on collision.

It’s also interesting to note the apparent connection between The Road Warrior and professional wrestling.  In 1983 saw the debut of the tag team The Road Warriors (aka The Legion of Doom in WWE), whose mohawks and spiked shoulder pads seem inspired by the members of Humungus’ gang (most notably Wez).  In addition, WWE introduced a team in 1987 called Demolition, whose costumes seemed directly inspired by Humungus’ own outfit.

Some comparative photos of both:

Road WarriorsWez

Demolitionhumungus

And that will probably be a good spot to end this discussion on The Road Warrior. Things will get scary for October as I take a look at Poltergeist.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).