Accented relations: Mad Max on US screens

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When Australian cult classic Mad Max (1979) reached North American cinema screens in June 1980, it received a limited run and resulted in modest box office takings. New York Times reviewer Tom Buckley noted with some irritation that its dialogue had been dubbed and was often out of sync. Declaring the film “ugly and incoherent,” Buckley states: “much of the rudimentary dialogue in this Australian film has been dubbed from ‘strine,’ the thick dialect of the subcontinent, into country-and-western English.” Beginning with this moment of cross-cultural disarticulation via dubbing, this chapter explores how the iconic Mad Max series charts the changing fate of Australian movies and accents in the US market, bringing into relief the stakes involved in speaking Australian on screen. By thoroughly unpacking this instance of English-to-English dubbing, it emerges as a springboard for thinking about the role of language, voice and accent in cross-cultural reception practices and in Australian efforts to assert a sense of cultural distinction and independence. The significance of the vernacular in the Mad Max films is illuminated by viewing them in relation to Australian film industry developments of the 1970s onwards and particularly the much-maligned genre of “Ocker” comedies. Moreover, by positioning the same-language dubbing of the first film in relation to US release strategies developed for other Australian features of the era, it is possible to pinpoint how the Mad Max series deploys language to effect generic reinvention and negotiate ongoing relations with US cultural formats, finance and markets. Accented Relations: Mad Max on US Screens
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmerican-Australian Cinema
Subtitle of host publicationTransnational Connections
EditorsAdrian Danks, Stephen Gaunson, Peter C. Kunze
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783319666761
ISBN (Print)9783319666754
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this

Dwyer, T. (2018). Accented relations: Mad Max on US screens. In A. Danks, S. Gaunson, & P. C. Kunze (Eds.), American-Australian Cinema: Transnational Connections (pp. 117-139). Springer.