Five Things To Know About: Mad Max

From Max’s killer wheels to attempts for the movie to be banned upon release, here are five facts to know about George Miller’s 1979 dystopian hit, Mad Max.

Mad Max

George Miller’s vision of a world on the cusp of total wipeout was a worldwide smash in 1979 and Mad Max has continued to captivate and wow with its insane stunts and anarchic sensibility. But do you know what car Max drives? Or where the movie was filmed? Well, wonder no more with our five facts to know about Mad Max


The black-on-black V8 Interceptor is arguably the most famous car in screen history. A 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon (exclusive to the Australian market) was repainted and modified by Murray Smith and the production team, as Miller wanted an “evil-looking, Australian car” for his crazed anti-hero to drive. After filming ended, the car toured shopping malls and car shows around Victoria – as part of the film’s promotion – and was put up for sale. Strangely, nobody bought it, allowing Miller to wheel it out for Mad Max 2.


With little budget to make sets, Miller opted to use degraded and old buildings, which would achieve the required effect (a world rotting in social decay). The result on screen is marvellous. For instance, the gothic-looking exterior serving as the Main Force Patrol headquarters was in real life a water tower facility and its interior shot at the Port Melbourne gasworks. The garage – where Max first sets eyes on the iconic V-8 Interceptor – remains to this day the University of Melbourne’s underground car park.


Mad Max was hell to make, with George Miller almost swearing off film-making and returning to his previous career as a medical doctor, but within days of the movie opening (on 12 April 1979 at Melbourne’s East End 1 cinema), the director knew he had a certified hit. The film sold 1,447,491 tickets in its homeland. While it wasn’t as big a hit in the USA, it still netted $8 million dollars from showings at grindhouses and drive-ins.


When released in the US, Mad Max’s memorable Aussie slang dialogue and accents were re-looped by distributor AIP, because they feared American audiences would not understand. Even Mel Gibson (born in New York state) was replaced. Bizarrely, the US dub was released in British cinemas. This version of the film can be watched on DVD releases as bonus material, and it’s quite horrifying.


Mad Max caused a right kerfuffle. Aussie critics generally hated it, though some acknowledged – begrudgingly – Miller’s talent for high-octane thrills. Members of the Australian Parliament caught wind of the film’s increasing popularity and called for it to be banned, so offended were they by the action spectacle and anti-authoritarian attitude. Over in New Zealand, it was. Somehow linked with a real-life incident involving the murder of a policeman caught up in a battle between biker gangs, Mad Max was slapped with a ban there until the early Eighties, while in France, news reports went around stating two stuntmen had died during the filming. There, too, it was pulled from distribution for a time.

Mad Max Anthology is available on Blu-ray now from Warner Home Video. Read our interview with Mad Max cinematographer David Eggby here.