Mad Max and Its Mad Musical Aftermath

Tina Turner and Mel Gibson: Together at Last

Tina Turner and Mel Gibson: Together at Last

Today Mad Max: Fury Road, the latest of the Mad Max movies, hits theaters nationwide. While it's been about three decades since the last Mad Max picture, the franchise has remained a cult classic and something of a benchmark for all dystopian post-apocalyptic Australian films ever since.

In all seriousness,  the Mad Max films have been among the most influential of the past 50 years of cinema. The original film stands as a striking example of how to make a powerful, imaginative movie on a modest budget (for decades it held the record for most profitable film of all time), and its influence stretches far beyond getting so much bang from the filmmakers' bucks.

One particularly under-appreciated element of the franchise is how influential the music of Mad Max has been. In an attempt to correct this oversight, we present to you Mad Max and its Musical Aftermath.

The original Mad Max was released in '79, ending perhaps the greatest decade in cinema history. Given how experimental and innovative so many films were around this time, Mad Max's borderline avant garde elements caused quite a mania.

Without even taking the plot into effect, the camerawork and editing alone were so unlike anything most viewers had seen. Composer Brian May (NOT Queen's Brian May, but the gent who later scored Freddie's Dead: The Final Nightmare) added a musical component that helped bridge the film's unorthodox style into the classic movie creation, while still maintaining jarring musical shocks to keep viewers on edge.

Dissident in both the unnerving staccato moments, as well as the brooding, unsettling builds, May's score is truly a perfect vision realized from a true master. The original Mad Max was recently re-released by loving pop-culture preservationists Shout! Factory in a very special edition blu-ray, and May's score, which won an AFI award, has never sounded better.

May returned for the sequel Mad Max 2, better known to those of us in the states as The Road Warrior. While the first contained elements of a more direct early Hollywood action picture, Mad Max 2 felt like a cinematic epic. With the dystopian landscape so much bigger, May makes the soundscape just as daunting.

Listening to the music away from the film still manages to create just as vast and awe-inspiring of a universe. Seemingly with a much bigger orchestra and undoubtedly more resources to play with, one can't help but marvel at Mad Max 2's music. You could put it over stock footage of children's education films from the '50s and it would still make whatever you're watching feel legendary. [page]

By the time Mad Max fans found themselves in 1985 and ready for the third installment, Beyond Thunderdome, they discovered the beloved titular character joined by Tina Turner onscreen. Turner famously also contributed the immortal "We Don't Need Another Hero" to the soundtrack, a number she still performs to this day.

That indelible hit and (legendary Lawrence of Arabia composer) Maurice Jarre's quirky score make the film's soundscape a noticeable departure from the unhinged bad-ass quality of its predecessors.

With May and Jarre both having passed on several years ago, that leaves Mad Max: Fury Road to be set to music by Dutch electronic artist Junkie XL, a frequent Hans Zimmer collaborator who worked with him in scoring The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel. Universally acclaimed, Junkie XL's score is said to be such the type of imaginative battlefield that the franchise thrives on.

But what about the music that the Mad Max franchise has inspired? After all, its direct decedents include the iconic Hype Williams-directed 2Pac and Dr. Dre video for "California Love," as well as a particularly memorable Busta Rhymes-led Mountain Dew commercial.

While it's not clear yet what pop elements will be present in Mad Max's Fury Road's score, it's a safe bet that the film will be a touchstone reference point for aspiring composers and fans alike for years to come.

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