Mad Max celebrates 40 years since release and celebrates in a Mad Max way

Absolute scenes at the 40th celebrations. Photos: The Courier, Ballarat
Absolute scenes at the 40th celebrations. Photos: The Courier, Ballarat

Over 1500 people braved the heat of central Victoria on Saturday for a chance to meet cast, crew and re-enactors of the 1979 classic Australian film Mad Max.

Crowds in black t-shirts and biker colours swarmed in the dust and blazing sun, soaking up the atmosphere of fuel and fitted-outs Fords and Holdens. The day was punctuated by the constant whine of superchargers, the scream of sirens and the groaning, power-laden throb of V8 engines.

It was as good as it could possibly get for anyone who is a fan of the Mad Max films, with hybrid trucks and vehicles from later films in the franchise doing laps of the trotting track, dripping with re-enactors dressed in costume hanging from them.

It was enough to set the heart of any OHS officer into overdrive, but the crowds lapped it up.

A convoy of Kawasaki Z1000 motorcycles and an armada of vehicles replicated from the movie set off from the main street of Clunes at 9.30am, roaring up the road to Maryborough before heading out the Harness Club track at Carisbrook for a day of fans meeting the cast, wandering through almost 100 cars and trucks and an evening concert.

A highlight of the anniversary was the recreation of a scene from the film where a car rips through a caravan, but for most the chance to meet actors such as Steve Bisley (the Goose), Hugh Keays-Byrne (the Toecutter) Joanne Samuel (Jesse Rockatansky), Vincent Gil (the Nightrider) and Roger Ward (Fifi Macaffee) was the most exciting part.

Hugh Keays-Byrne, the memorable leader of the villainous Toecutter motorcycle gang, is now 72 but still enjoys the memories of making Mad Max.

Touring with the famous Peter Brook Shakespearean troupe performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he says he met the ‘love of his life’ here in Australia and decided to make the country his home.

“It’s an absolute joy for me,” he says.

He performed in the cult 1974 motorcycle film Stone as a gang member, which led to Mad Max director George Miller offering him a part in his film. He says the making of Mad Max was a chance for all the actors to really stretch themselves, which resulted in some truly memorable performances.

CLASSIC: Actor Steve Bisley, who played the Goose in Mad Max, gets a ride in the convoy to Carisbrook. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

CLASSIC: Actor Steve Bisley, who played the Goose in Mad Max, gets a ride in the convoy to Carisbrook. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

“We – the gang – talked about a few things before we went (on set), but as a whole I think everybody got it from George, from the script, from the art director Jon Dowding – all these things coalesced very well and luckily so.

“George Miller is never to be underestimated. This was his first film. He’s a very bright and interesting man.”

Stunt performer Grant Page was lucky to survive to make it into Mad Max. Travelling to shooting, he collided with a truck and was almost killed. Actress Joanne Samuel said it was only his skill that saved both him and his pillion passenger from death.

Now 78, Page has worked as a stuntman for most of his adult life, matching it with a career as a physical education and physics teacher.

CHARACTER: Leo Fatseas gets in to character at the Mad Max 40th anniversary celebrations. Picture: Brendan McCarthy

CHARACTER: Leo Fatseas gets in to character at the Mad Max 40th anniversary celebrations. Picture: Brendan McCarthy

“It was FUN,” he says of working on Mad Max. “Films since then have become work, but that was FUN.”

One of the day’s more entertaining moments was the crashing of a replica Police Interceptor through two caravans. Surrounded by a crowd barely kept back by pleas from the organisers, the Ford Falcon hurtled up a short ramp to the roaring pleasure of the throng, before utterly demolishing the two vans and pulling up.

PARADE: The Mad Max convoy leaves Clunes on its way to the celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic Australian movie in Carisbrook. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

PARADE: The Mad Max convoy leaves Clunes on its way to the celebrate the 40th anniversary of the iconic Australian movie in Carisbrook. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

Clunes crowds

Seeing the Mad Max 40th anniversary team off from Clunes, nine-year-old Marshall Brown says he first watched the films a couple of years ago. He says they’re ‘awesome’. 

“I loved how Max was chasing after the terminal crazies,” he says.

Marshall camped at the Carisbrook event for the weekend with his father Tim after travelling from Camperdown.

The event was originally going to be held in Clunes, but was moved after the local showground society grew concerned it would be too big for them to handle.

Doug McDonald was leading the replica bike convoy from the town. He’s a huge Mad Max fan.

“This is something you’ll only do a couple of times in a lifetime,” Doug says.

He said a highlight of the morning was being tapped on the shoulder by Hugh Keays-Byrne, the actor who played the Toecutter, as he got off the bus at Clunes this morning.

Doug also has a special connection to the film as he lived in the areas it was filmed at the time, around Little River and Laverton. 

“We’re all still riding the bikes back from when the film was made.”