Mad Max: Every Which Way but Loose

For reasons I won’t explain, I recently watched Clint Eastwood’s slapstick comedies Every Which Way but Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980). Surprisingly, they often reminded me of the first two Mad Max movies (1979 & 1981), though I’m pretty sure they’re not meant to be in the same genre.

Eastwood’s character, Philo Beddoe, fights an inept motorcycle gang that likes to think of itself as the terror of suburban Los Angeles. Meanwhile, in Max’s world, Australian society is collapsing, and he fights a motorcycle gang that’s the terror of the open road. Philo’s enemy gang comes back in the sequel, but Max exterminates his enemies. Max’s sequel, which is called Mad Max 2 in some countries and The Road Warrior in others, is set in a post-apocolyptic world where a new gang terrorizes the Wasteland with a variety of homebuilt vehicles.

Max also had a third movie that combined elements of Lord of the Flies and The Three Stooges, but we won’t talk about that. The most recent installment, Mad Max:  Fury Road, puts things back in gear by retelling the apocolyptic story with ten times as many homebuilt vehicles, ten times as many stunts, and lots of badass women, including one who’s arguably the main character. But I digress.

In the Which Way movies and the first two Mad Max movies, each gang has a leader who’s creepy and unkempt.  Philo’s nemesis is there to provide comedy when the orangutan isn’t onscreen (did I mention the orangutan?).  Max’s first nemesis, who’s played by a Shakespearean actor, is scary in a Richard III kind of way.  His next nemesis belongs in a bad horror movie.

Ever since The Beverly Hillbillies, old ladies have had some badass shoes to fill.  In these movies, if the motorcycle gang comes calling while the hero isn’t home, his mom will fend them off with stern words and a shotgun.

In Philo’s movies, the inept gang keeps getting their asses kicked and their bikes destroyed.  In Max’s movies, the bikes get destroyed with the people on them.  In both cases, the preferred method of motorcycle disposal is to run over it with a truck.

For cars, dragging behind the truck works better.

Sometimes you have to get under your car and work on it.  Then you’re vulnerable to mischievous orangutans and sadistic protagonists, who will threaten to drop the car on you.

If they won’t let you fix your car, just use an aircraft.  In Any Which Way You Can, some zany Texans taxi a jet down Main Street.  In The Road Warrior, the Gyro Captain taxis his damaged gyrocopter down a road after the climactic battle.

The oddest similarity between these movies is the scarf.  Sure, there are other movies with shotgun-wielding grannies and inappropriate use of aircraft, but can you think of any other movie in which a shirtless man and his silk scarf are inseparable?  Philo’s villain uses his scarf to accent the tattoo on his belly (sorry you don’t get to see that).  For Max’s boss, Fifi, the scarf somehow manages to accent his overall studliness.


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