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Australia 1980
Directed by
Ian Barry
92 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Chain Reaction

Although the intention of debut feature writer/director Barry was to make a serious drama about the dangers of nuclear energy along the lines of The China Syndrome (1979), what he ended up with looked like a flagrant attempt to present crowd-pleasing entertainment along the lines of Mad Max (1979), some of the cast of which, including Hugh Keays-Byrne and Steve Bisley, and popping out from under a car in the film’s establishing sequence, Mel Gibson, appear here.

Barry, who was a film editor by profession, shows a skilled visual ability but this was in part the problem – he was not the studio hack that had made the kind of genre picture on which this was modelled and continuously ran behind schedule in pursuit of aesthetic quality. The backers reduced the film’s budget from $630,000 to $450,000 and Mad Max director George Miller, who is credited as an associate producer, was brought in to shoot the car chases that arguably provide the film’s highpoint (and that are evidently influenced by the classic chase sequence from Bullit (1968).

A sensationalist storyline involving sinister Government agents, dead bodies and car chases,and graced with male and female nudity, B grade dialogue and acting that at times approaches the laughable (Steve Bisley’s working-class hero is particularly over-the-top) and low budget production design makes for a package that in its day was acclaimed for breaking away from the “good taste” historical recreations that had characterized the 1970s Australian film industry. In that regard the film merits attention although in most other respects it hardly sustains serious interest.

DVD Extras: Brand new 16:9 transfer; Thrill and Nuclear Spills, an valuable if somewhat guarded featurette with Barry, producer David Elfick, Steve Bisley and cinematographer Russell Boyd reflecting on the troubled production; The Sparks Obituary, a 30 minute short film by Barry; Deleted and extended scenes; Stills and Poster Gallery; TV spot; Original theatrical trailer

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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