Odds are, when you hear the words “Mad Max,” you picture roving bands of psychopaths terrorizing the postapocalyptic hellscape in their souped-up war machines.
But when the franchise first hit American movie theaters, all the way back in 1980, Max Rockatansky was a clean-cut cop who would go home after a long shift to watch the local news with his saxophone-playing wife and their infant son.
Even though civilization was starting to break down, Max was a loving family man — right up until the point a biker gang ran down his wife, killed their son and sent Max flying off the rails.
Things truly didn’t get hard-core until 1982’s “The Road Warrior” and 1985’s “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.”
With “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the first new installment in 30 years, opening Friday, here’s an A-to-Z look back at the franchise and how Max got to be so mad:
Acolytes, The: Biker gang antagonists in “Mad Max.” Not exactly the Sons of Anarchy, they’re about as flamboyantly menacing as the Hi-Hats or the Baseball Furies from “The Warriors.”
Bartertown: Remote trading post that served as the setting for most of “Beyond Thunderdome.”
Bondage: Gear that “The Road Warrior” brought to the mainstream — with all its collars, cuffs and chains — decades before “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Brace: What Max wears on his left leg after being shot through the knee in “Mad Max.”
Clean paperwork: All Max’s boss, Fifi Macaffee, demanded of his sometimes lawless officers. As in, “So long as the paperwork’s clean, you boys can do what you like out there.”
Cow: Animal that must have died by the thousands to provide all that leather in “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome.” “Mad Max,” meanwhile, had such a minuscule budget, everyone but Max and The Goose had to wear vinyl.
Dubbed: Version of “Mad Max,” seen by many U.S. moviegoers, in which American actors replaced the voices of the Australian stars.
Extensions: Goofy looking hairpieces Max wears, giving him a near-mullet, during the first half of “Beyond Thunderdome.”
Few Years From Now, A: When “Mad Max” takes place.
Fifty-seven: Number of deaths that year on Highway 9, Sector 26 — the high-fatality road Max patrols — at the beginning of “Mad Max.” There would be many, many more.
Four hundred thousand: Highest of several estimates, in Australian dollars, of “Mad Max’s” budget.
Gasoline: Fuel that was in such short supply, it started all the marauding that would become the franchise’s trademark. People were willing to kill and die for a gallon or two of it. Surprisingly, there was never a rise in gangs of hooligans on bicycles, skateboards or roller skates.
Gibson, Mel: Hollywood pariah who, in his first starring role, originated the part of Max.
Goose, The: Max’s co-worker and best mate, who is burned alive by gang member Johnny the Boy in “Mad Max.”
Hacksaw: What Max gives Johnny the Boy after handcuffing him to the wreckage of a truck and rigging it to explode. “The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel,” Max tells him. “It’ll take you 10 minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you’re lucky, you can hack through your ankle in five minutes.”
Intensive care: The last place Goose or Jessie are ever seen. They could still be there for all we know.
Jessie: Max’s wife, who is run down along with their young son, by The Acolytes in “Mad Max.”
Joyriding: What every bad guy in the franchise spends an inordinate amount of time doing, despite the extreme gasoline shortages.
Kids: Known as The Lost Tribe, they rescue Max after he’s exiled from Bartertown, bring him to their desert oasis and proceed to ruin the rest of “Beyond Thunderdome.”
“Licorice Road”: Ridiculous song that’s performed during The Goose’s night out at the Sugartown Cafe. It’s the most hilariously random scene in the franchise.
Lord Humungus: Nicknamed The Warrior of the Wasteland and The Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah, he’s the burly bad guy who wears little more than a hockey mask and studded, leather underpants in “The Road Warrior.”
Main Force Patrol: The special police task force that employed Max and governs the highways.
Master Blaster: The tethered combination of a grammatically challenged little person (Master) and the brute with Down syndrome (Blaster) that ruled Underworld.
Melanoma: What eventually would have killed Lord Humungus, if Max hadn’t gotten around to it first. If you’re going to be rampaging through the barren Wasteland with all that skin exposed, the most valuable commodity isn’t gasoline. It’s sunscreen.
Miller, George: The twisted genius behind the “Mad Max” franchise, including “Fury Road,” who also somehow wrote and directed “Lorenzo’s Oil,” the “Happy Feet” movies and “Babe: Pig in the City.”
Mohawks: Hairstyle favored by many of the berserkers in “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome.”
Mousse: Hairstyling product, vast stockpiles of which must have been discovered in order to maintain those mohawks.
Nightrider, The: Member of The Acolytes whose death, as he fled Max in a stolen police car, triggers much of the violence in “Mad Max.”
Oi: Aussie slang for “Hey,” it’s one of several reasons given for releasing the dubbed version of “Mad Max” in the U.S.
Pants: Article of clothing rarely worn beneath all the leather chaps in “The Road Warrior.” Honestly, that’s just unhygienic.
Queensland: Australian state where George Miller was born and where he witnessed many of the wrecks that would help inspire the franchise.
Refinery: The oil-producing compound that provides security for dozens of survivors in “The Road Warrior.”
“Saw”: Series of horror movies whose makers admit was inspired by the hacksaw scene.
Sporting goods: Preferred accessory in “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome.” With all the shoulder pads, shin guards, knee pads, catcher’s masks and hockey masks being worn, it’s as though, when the world went to hell, the first place everyone looted was a Dick’s franchise.
Sprog: Infant son of Max and Jessie. Seriously, who names a baby Sprog?
Turner, Tina: Singer who portrayed Aunty Entity, ruler of Bartertown, and offered the original trilogy its only recognizable name aside from Gibson and Miller.
Toecutter: Theatrical “Mad Max” villain and leader of The Acolytes, portrayed by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who returns to the franchise in “Fury Road” as the evil Immortan Joe.
Thunderdome: Steel cage used to settle disputes with one simple rule: Two men enter, one man leaves.
Underworld: Area beneath Bordertown that turned pig feces into methane to power the city above.
Vacation: Where Max, Jessie and Sprog are when she encounters Toecutter and his men.
Wasteland, The: The “blighted place,” according to the introductory voiceover, where Max wandered after becoming “a burned-out, desolate man” in “The Road Warrior.”
XB GT Coupe: The 1973 Ford Falcon that was modified to portray Max’s iconic Pursuit Special.
Yowza: The only way to describe Turner’s plunging, chainmail dress.
Zilch: Chances that Warner Bros. would knowingly let Gibson anywhere near the “Fury Road” set. Although there’s still a chance, however slim, that he’s in the latest installment somewhere, buried beneath pounds of makeup and other disguises.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @life_onthecouch.