The Archivist Volume XIX: The MAD MAX Edition

by Ryan Lewellen

The Archivist

Welcome to the Archive. Following the infamous “Format Wars” (R.I.P. VHS), a multitude of films found themselves in danger of being forgotten forever due to their admittedly niche appeal. Thankfully, Warner Bros. established the Archive Collection, a Disc On Demand and Streaming service devoted to some of the more idiosyncratic pieces of cinema ever made. Being big fans of the label, we here at Cinapse thought it prudent to establish a column devoted to these unusual gems. Thus “The Archivist” was born — a biweekly look at some of the best, boldest and most batshit motion pictures the Shield has to offer. Some of these will be recent additions to the collection, while others will be titles that have been available for awhile. With over 1,500 pictures procurable on Warner Archive (and more being added every month), there’s no possible way we’ll get to all of them. But trust me when we say we’re sure going to try.

G’day Archiveys, I have an extra-special treat for you this week. With Mad Max: Fury Road still barreling through cinemas, it seems appropriate we should celebrate its extravagance with films covering the OZploitative, as well as the Apocalyptic. Here, we find two titles which are not necessarily excellent companion pieces to each other, but compliment the Mad Max Oeuvre beautifully. They are stylish, rugged, mostly insane, and the latter of the two even shares cast and crew in common with The Road Warrior. Buckle up, horde your weapons and ammo, and pack the Tums, because shit’s about to get messy.



In No Blade Of Grass, A mysterious, plant-killing virus is quickly creating a food shortage. Once riots envelop London, a wealthy Briton escapes with his family on a long and treacherous journey to his brother’s farm. The treachery runs the typical Armageddon gamut of rape, robbery, cannibalism, and belligerent biker gangs. The entire cast quickly exchanges its humanity for a new survival code, and the movie is surprisingly relentless in forcing you to practically bath in the debauchery. Every gunshot wound is bloody. The rapes are brutal and cruel. This is a new world with no rules, and the movie doesn’t seem to have any, either. Yet, despite is unflinching grotesquery and valiant effort to tell the story artfully, it yields a nagging made-for-television, after school special quality and tone.

The whole thing is cheap. A major part of the blame rests on the tragically dated music. Every time a delicate flute lulls itself to sleep, or a wah-wah guitar tries to funk up an action sequence, I couldn’t not be distracted by memories of educational film strips from my elementary school days. That “THIS MOVIE WAS MADE IN THE SEVENTIES” musical announcement cuts right through any solemn message its painful events might try to convey. The lighting is bland (though the framing is on-point), and the acting and writing are humdrum. In the end, the project mostly feels obsolete and pointless, despite how many of its environmental issues are contemporary concerns. Still, you have to hand it to a film which, had it found an audience, could clearly have been a major influence on so many memorable works to come. Fortunately for us, the influence came from several similar pictures.


Razorback, on the other hand, is a lively blast of intense style. American journalist, Beth Winters, heads to Australia, hoping she can break a story on animal poaching by a pet food company. When she discovers, the very hard way, not all outback critters are helpless prey, her husband, Carl, follows her to the Down Under, hoping to discover his missing wife’s fate. Along the way, he meets Jake (a kind of half-breed between Quint from Jaws, and Captain Ahab), who lost his grandson to an enormous wild boar. Aside from Jake, the film holds many other similarities to Jaws, and every other monster movie Jaws influenced. There is a framework here that won’t exactly keep you guessing, but the film’s surreal imagery will surprise you often.

Right from the start, director Russell Mulcahy is putting a unique stamp on Razorback, showing his eclectic experience as a prolific music video director. Its familiar story and stock characters may not stick with me, but Mulcahy’s shots, aided by Dean Semler’s (The Road Warrior) keen eye for eerie cinematography, will never leave me (I’ve already had a dream about this movie). The film is overflowing with eye-watering visions, gut-wrenching violence, and just a little touch of sex, but it was one of the least successful works from late in the ozploitation era. I can see why, considering the third act is nothing but predictable monster movie plotting, and a gallon of 80s cheese whiz. It even ends on a freeze frame, for god’s sake. Even so, this is a film well worth your time because it shows you so much you have never seen before, and showcases the talents of, as mentioned above, the great Dean Semler, as well as actress Arkie Whitely (the headband/pony tail lady from The Road Warrior), and further connection to Mad Max 2 as it was mostly filmed at Broken Hill. Max is all over this thing, making it a delight for any dedicated cinephile. Seeing these elements in a new setting is truly fascinating.

If you still haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road (What the hell is wrong with you? Haven’t you been reading this site?), go see that five times, watch the second film in the series twice, then watch Razorback. You can watch No Blade Of Grass if you insist, but don’t tell them I sent you.

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