I’m proud to say that I was one of the first people in the US to see the best post-apocalyptic move ever: The Road Warrior.
It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in 1982, after being highlighted in Time magazine as a “new breed of movie violence.” It also ushered in a generation of films in the “Post-Apocalyptic” genre. The term “Anti-Hero” also seemed to gain steam after this movie was release. I got a ticket to watch the premiere through a high school teacher who taught Film Study. I recall that the movie showing was late in the evening, around 10 or 11pm. That meant a 17-year old kid drove into Seattle late at night – alone – to watch one of the bloodiest movies to be released that year.
Not sure I would let my kid do that now…
Yes, it’s true; the movie was very violent. In the first ten minutes there were car chases, shootings, explosions, blood, more explosions, and several episodes of debauchery that pitted human against human. The film tapped into one of the most sensitive topics of the day: Gasoline. The Road Warrior asked the question, “What if civilization grinds to a halt, and this petrol-fed world can no longer get fuel?” It is truly scary that I could see a real society actually degrade when mankind is faced with shortages in commodities that have long been taken for granted. The sense that what we saw on the screen could be an actual outcome was chilling, especially when we were a generation that grew up under the specter of “The Bomb.”
Through the movie most of the viewers jumped and cringed, made “ewww” sounds at the gory scenes, and in many cases jumped right out of their seats. The Road Warrior was a shocker from one end to the other, pushing the envelope on anything that dealt with violence or blood. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. The action brought an excitement out that was hard to explain, but easily vanquished by driving fast after the movie was over. In a weird way the movie was funny at the same time; Mel Gibson’s straight-man character Max interacted with the “Gyro Captain” in a comedy duo. It worked well, and the Gyro Captain ended up returning for *Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome."
When The Road Warrior was released in the theaters a few months later, I saw it again…an estimated 35 times before it left the big screen; tons of my afternoon time was spent at Alderwood Cinemas, watching the matinees in a nearly empty room. There was a point when I knew almost every line of dialogue. I still own copies of the movie, on Laserdisc and DVD.
But my best memory of The Road Warrior is being among the first people in Seattle to see it.