RSS Feed

The Great Villain Blogathon: The Lord Humungus in Mad Max 2 (1981)

Kjell Nilsson

If you’ve ever seen George Miller’s Mad Max 2 (released in the U.S. as The Road Warrior), you know the Lord Humungus.

He’s hard to forget.

The Lord Humungus is a cryptic but endlessly fascinating villain played by Swedish bodybuilder Kjell Nilsson. He’s clad in skimpy black leather bondage gear and wears a steel hockey goalie’s mask. He packs a Smith & Wesson Model 29 fitted with an optical scope (the same piece Dirty Harry carries, sans scope of course). He drives a heavily modified F100 truck with six tires, exhaust stacks, and a pair of injured, screaming men tied to poles attached to the front.

Humungus truck

The Lord Humungus is the leader of a band of marauders in a post-apocalyptic Australia. Like any good king, he has a herald. In Mad Max 2, the herald is known as “The Toadie,” and he’s memorably played by Max Phipps. The Toadie introduces his leader to the embattled denizens of a stronghold in the outback (and to the audience) with the following speech:

Greetings from The Humungus! The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!

Unlike The Toadie, whose simpering whine carries across the desert wasteland without amplification, The Lord Humungus uses a PA system and has a disconcertingly quiet, rasping voice. And the fact that he speaks in Swedish-accented English is bizarre to say the least. His quiet exhortation to the besieged people that they “Just walk away” is more terrifying than a thousand threats.

Who is The Lord Humungus? Where did he come from? And what’s under that mask?

SW 29

Mad Max 2 never answers any of these questions, which is why The Lord Humungus is my favorite movie villain of all time. He is humanized, but in strange and unpredictable ways. When his vicious lieutenant Wez (Vernon Wells) screams for vengeance after his boyfriend, the “Golden Youth” (Jerry O’Sullivan) is killed, The Lord Humungus puts Wez in a chokehold, his muscles bulging, and whispers, “Be still my dog of war. I understand your pain. We’ve all lost someone we love. But we do it my way.”

I first saw Mad Max 2 on my 12th birthday, and since then I’ve seen it more times than I can count. I know every beat of the film like a piece of great music. I know every edit, every musical cue, every line of dialogue, and the way every shot is framed.

And yet … The Lord Humungus continues to terrify me and fascinate me.

MSDROWA EC016

One reason I think he’s such a successful villain is that there’s no unmasking — no single shocking moment that slowly loses its power after multiple viewings.

There’s also no back story. The Lord Humungus is humanized in a few unexpected ways, but when the film ends we still have no clue who he was before he became the leader of a band of post-apocalyptic marauders. The viewer can assume that his face is horribly damaged in some way (and his mostly bald head with a few wisps of long hair supports this theory), but we’ll never really know.

———

This post is part of The Great Villain Blogathon, hosted by Karen at Shadows and Satin, Ruth at Silver Screenings, and Kristina at Speakeasy. Click on the picture of the mama’s boy below to see all the great posts about cinematic villainy that are part of this event!
Norman Bates

About these ads

6 responses »

  1. EXCELLENT! One of the baddest of the bad-bad! There’s something operatic about the guy; in fact, I’d like to see The Road Warrior remade as an old school German opera! A great write-up about one of my fave mutants!This is the first blogathon I’ve done, and it’s cool to see all the badness. Well done!

    Reply
  2. First of all, I love that a villain has no back story. He is who he is. I get a little tired of filmmakers trying to EXPLAIN a villain; often the movie suffers because of it. I respect that the makers of Mad Max 2 didn’t fall into that trap.

    Secondly, I have never seen ANY Max Max movie – it’s not my thing – but I enjoyed your review so much, I might have to give it a go.

    Reply
  3. Mad Max 2 is my favorite of the trilogy because of Lord Humungus :-) Nice review!

    Reply
  4. Great review! Mad Max is one of my guilty pleasures, so thanks for including Lord Humungus in this blogathon. The power of his character certainly is in the enigma.

    Reply
  5. you gotta love being just thrown into a character without exposition and backstory, it gives the actor freedom to put his spin on it which he did, and lets your imagination go wild, which our sure does. love these movies and Humungus reminds me of Bane, only way better. Thanks for joining the event :)

    Reply
  6. Yikes, Adam — I’m scared of this guy from just watching the clip! Like Ruth, I’ve never seen a Mad Max movie, and I think I can safely say that I never will, but I sure enjoyed your write-up and your enthusiasm for this film! Good stuff!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 364 other followers

%d bloggers like this: