Published on December 26th, 2018 | by Chris O'Connor
The Chain Reaction Blu-ray Review
Summary: Sharing cast members with Mad Max isn't enough to save this film from horrible fallout.
There are some movies that are so bad they are good… there are some movies that are so bad you have to turn them off shortly after starting them… then there are movies that are bad, but some how intriguing. The Chain Reaction falls into the latter category.
The basic story is that mechanic Larry Stilson (Steve Bisley) and his wife Carmel (Arna-Maria Winchester) head off for a weekend away but soon find themselves in the middle of a top-secret government cover up of a nuclear spill. There’s a reasonable concept behind the premise… at the time of the films production nuclear power was obviously something people were starting to hear about. Predating the disaster at Chernobyl, the prospect of what might go wrong at a nuclear power plant were obviously concerns felt by many. The problem is how that story is told and The Chain Reaction really doesn’t do a good job of it.
As I was watching the film I couldn’t help but feel that it felt like a collection of scenes mashed together… there is a thread that goes through them all… but there are scenes that really don’t do much for telling the story and could easily not be in the film… while there are other pieces of the story that it might have been nice to see in the film to flesh it out more that just don’t exist. I was relieved to hear Steve Bisley himself in one of the extra features essentially saying the same thing.
Another problem the film no doubt has is that the marketing tried to cash in on the success of Mad Max despite the films really not having much in common. They do share cast members and some of the production crew too (most notably George Miller)… but as Bisley himself states “there were only dirt tracks… you can’t squeal the wheels on dirt”. It almost seems like they wanted to make another Mad Max but had to make it different enough to not be called a copy cat and in the process ended up with a film that has elements of popular films (car chases, shootouts, nudity) but ultimately doesn’t really tie all of those together or have any heart.
Visually the print is fine… but suffers from the limitations of cinematography of the day, that is to say that there are lots of night scenes and in 1980 camera technology wasn’t really well suited to shooting in low light, as a result there are plenty of scenes that will have you squinting to try and figure out if you can see anything happening at all. As far as the audio is concerned… it’s a bit hit and miss. My main issue with the audio is there seem to be portions of the film in which the dubbing hasn’t been matched to the visuals. This could be due to a number of problems but my guess is that the film had some pick ups for sound that just wasn’t caught sufficiently during filming and then when it came to splicing the audio into the scene… whoever was in the editing chair just didn’t line it up very well.
In the end the thing I liked most about this disc was listening to Steve Bisley talk about the film and the experience of making it. He is pleasantly honest about it (he seems fine having a laugh at how rough it is). I know a little about that time of his career from reading a few biographies and basically he and Mel Gibson (who appears for a split second in the scene at the Garage) were room mates and helped each other a bit with work. Bisley is clearly one of the strong points of this film and does give it some credibility with his performance… but ultimately it’s a car wreck of it’s own design.
Director – Ian Barry
Actors – Ross Thompson, Steve Bisley
Film Genre – Australian Cinema
Label – Umbrella Entertainment
Audio – English (DTS-HD 2.0)
Subtitles – English
Running Time – 92
Aspect ratio – 1.78:1
Region Coding – B (Blu-Ray)
TV Standard – HD
Rating – M
Consumer Advice – Moderate violence
Year of Release – 1980
Primary Format – Movies/TV – Blu-Ray