Saturday, December 16, 2017

go back to another time

1) Back to the childhood deconstruction. It's 1981. I turn five at the end of January. For whatever reason, the first film from 1981 that made my list didn't come out until May... According to IMDb. However Wikipedia says the film was not out in Australia until December of '81 but came out in the US in 1980. Roger Ebert's review is dated 1 January 1981, but he also mentions Raiders of the Lost Ark, and IMDb says the explosion of hte compound was filmed 22 July 1981, so who knows? I'll have better dates for the rest of the films from 1981 because they weren't imports.

2) This is a bit of a cheat. This is supposed to be a deconstruction of my childhood in terms of the films I watched time and time again when I was young. I did not have The Road Warrior on video until I was a teenager, but I know I watched it more than a couple times on TV. And, I think I saw it in the theater. I am not sure about that. But, as I have said before, the memory is often more important than the reality. And, this film was important to my understanding of film at the time, whether or not I actually watched it often.

(If I went ahead with every film that was important, regardless of repetition, this could get ugly. Plus, so many of the important films have fit into this blog already.)

3) So, picture it. I am 5 years old. I've seen two Star Wars films now. Raiders of the Lost Ark won't be out until next month. And, did I pay attention to trailers? Probably not. Certainly not how I do now. Not how I have done in the years intervening.

(Even before the Internet made it quite easy to know every movie that is coming long before even the trailers were out there, I had magazines. Things like Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Movieline, Starlog, Fangoria, Cinefantastique, Cinescape, Rolling Stone, and more that I am forgetting the titles. That was the 90s for me. Well Starlog and maybe Fangoria, I had subscriptions in the late 80s. Some other non-film-related magazines, too. I read way too many magazines in my teens and 20s. But, back when The Road Warrior came out, I'm not even sure if I had my Ranger Rick subscription yet. Still, I already loved movies)

But, maybe I knew. I mean, I was paying attention already to Lucas because of Star Wars. By the time of Return of the Jedi in '83, I've got tie-in books and magazines. But, hey, I'm 7 years old by then and quite sophisticated.

At 5, I've already got some good movies under my belt, and in this remembered version of history, I have seen the original Mad Max already on TV (cable) or video... Except, in reality, I don't know if we even had a VCR yet. But, nevermind the reality. I have seen Mad Max, and this second film was even easier for a kid like me to follow. It's the future. Gasoline is scarce. Survival is difficult because warlords like the Lord Humungus are out there picking off everyone else one person at a time, one vehicle at a time.

There was an actual gas shortage... Well, an oil crisis, anyway, in 1979, and an earlier one in 1973. I knew nothing of these things. I just saw a future that was mythic in scope but built on cars and motorcycles, warriors good and evil battling it out on the open highway. Good and evil was popular then, in US cinema. In my head. I was in kindergarten, same private school I'd be in through 12th grade. In church they would already be telling me the world was going to end soon. Hell, the leader of that church, Herbert W Armstrong, had already made specific predictions about the apocalypse a few times, the last in 1972. I didn't know this then, but I would wager it made for a strange atmosphere in church. The apocalypse not only was coming soon but was actually already late. Shit was going to go down anyday.


Enter The Road Warrior. The world has essentially ended already in this film. It was already dying in the context of the first film. I could certainly wish that the future held war zones like in this film, something cool instead of living in the presence of God or whatever bullshit out future was supposedly going to be.

It was fantasy on an extra level for me. And, as the years went by, it also became an awesome representation of what an action film can be (but I figure I will say more about that another day).

 

 

 

 

 

It is also one of the harder films to watch and write about at the same time because so much of it is built from visuals.

Great moment that stands out on this viewing: All we know when Max (Mel Gibson) leaves the compound in his car is that those locals are going to make a run for it with the tanker, and the rig he provided. But, knowing what is coming, knowing the--SPOILERS, but if you have not seen The Road Warrior and you are a fan of film, you need to just stop reading and go watch it--way Max is being used, Pappagallo's (Michael Preston) pronouncement that Max is an honorable man for fulfilling his contract and he (Pappagallo) will be driving the rig, is a more interesting moment. He holds a small hourglass, playing with it in his hand, turning it over and over, to drive it home. Pappagallo knows that driving the rig is a likely death sentence; the whole thing is just a diversion so most of the people can flee in a bus.

Of course, the import of that moment is lessened a bit because, even after they have Max (again) to drive the rig, Pappagallo still goes along. (The mechanic goes too, which is odd, unless none of the other volunteers knew the real plan.)

Oh, but I had forgotten about the moment when Pappagallo drives up next to Max and they exchange looks, and there's something more to it, but the film rarely explains itself. Pappagallo tries to the get the Feral Kid (Emil Minty) to jump off the rig onto his vehicle, so maybe that moment is Pappagallo preparing to abandon Max. Unfortunately for Pappagallo, it is then that he gets killed.

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