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The Chain Reaction

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Director  Ian Barry
Budget  450,000 AUD
Country  Australia
5.6/10 IMDb

Genre  Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Music director  Andrew Thomas Wilson
Writer  Ian Barry
Language  English
The Chain Reaction movie poster

Release date  25 September 1980
Initial release  September 25, 1980 (Australia)
Cast  Steve Bisley (Larry), Arna-Maria Winchester (Carmel), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Eagle), Ross Thompson (Heinrich), Ralph Cotterill (Gray), Lorna Lesley (Gloria)
Similar movies  Journey to the Safest Place on Earth, SHIFT
Tagline  One terrifying mistake and there was no return!

The chain reaction 1980 trailer

The Chain Reaction is a 1980 Australian independent disaster/science fiction thriller film directed and written by Ian Barry. The film stars Steve Bisley and Arna-Maria Winchester. The film's plot is about an engineer badly injured in an accident caused by an earthquake. He knows that the nuclear waste will poison the groundwater and wants to warn the public.


The Chain Reaction movie scenes

The movie features many cast members from Mad Max, among them Mel Gibson as a bearded mechanic, though he doesn't appear at all. The taglines used in advertising the film included "A fast drive to Paradise turns into a nuclear nightmare!" and "Mad Max meets The China Syndrome"; the latter referring to the car chase and nuclear accident.

The Chain Reaction The Chain Reaction Wikipedia

The film was rated M in Australia.

The Chain Reaction Pulp Friday The Chain Reaction Pulp Curry

The chain reaction 1980 awesome chase scenes compilation


An earthquake in rural Australia causes a dangerous leak at WALDO (acronyms of Western Atomic Longterm Dumping Organisation), a nuclear waste storage facility. Heinrich Schmidt (Ross Thompson) an engineer badly contaminated in the accident, knows that the leak will poison the groundwater for hundreds of miles around and wants to warn the public. His boss, however, is only interested in protecting himself and believes that the accident should be covered up, when in fact the contamination risks thousands of lives. Heinrich escapes from the facility but is badly injured. Lost in the woods and suffering from amnesia, he is rescued by Larry Stilson (Steve Bisley), a car mechanic on holiday, and his wife Carmel (Arna-Maria Winchester). As Heinrich tries to piece together his memories of what happened, his boss' thugs are quickly closing in on the trio.


  • Steve Bisley — Larry Stilson
  • Arna-Maria Winchester — Carmel Stilson
  • Ross Thompson — Heinrich Schmidt
  • Ralph Cotterill — Gray
  • Hugh Keays-Byrne — Eagle
  • Lorna Lesley — Gloria
  • Richard Moir — Junior Constable Pigott
  • Patrick Ward — Oates
  • Laurie Moran — Police Sgt. McSweeney
  • Michael Long — Doctor
  • Bill McCluskey — Ralph
  • Margo Lloyd — Molly
  • Tim Burns — Survey driver
  • Mel Gibson — Bearded mechanic (uncredited)
  • Production

    The film was the idea of director Ian Barry. He had been talking to producer David Elfick about making a film called Sparks about a blind film director, based on a short film he had made, but Elfick thought the subject matter would be too difficult to finance. Barry had written another film, a thriller then entitled The Man at the Edge of the Freeway, and Elfick decided to make that instead. The movie was budgeted at $600,000 but the Australian Film Commission thought it was too high so it was re-budgeted at $450,000. George Miller came on the project as associate producer.

    Funding came from the Australian Film Commission, Victorian Film Corporation and Hoyts. Shooting started in September 1979 and took place in Glen Davis and Sydney, both located in New South Wales in Australia. Elfick says the location at Glen Davis was rumoured to be the site of an aboriginal massacre and was supposed to be cursed; he believed it because filming was extremely difficult.

    Filming took longer than expected and the movie went 40% over budget. George Miller was brought in to shoot the car chase sequences, which featured the Ford Fairlane LTD in most scenes as the preferred vehicle of the antagonistic authority chasing Larry's modified Holden utility vehicle (Ute). David Elfick also filmed some second unit.

    The film was shot with a Widescreen anamorphic lens.


    The film was released shortly after Mad Max and it has a similar theme to that film as well as American films like The China Syndrome in regards to the whole nuclear-apocalyptic storyline.

    The film was distributed in Australia by the Palm Beach Picture, join with Victorian Film Corporation and Australian Film Commission and released on 25 September. In the United States the film's distributor was Warner Bros., and in the United Kingdom it was Columbia-EMI-Warner.

    Post production was reputedly very difficult with representatives from the AFC, VFC and Hoyts supervising and discussing every cut of the film.


    The music for the film was composed by Andrew Thomas Wilson.

    Track listing

    1. "Awakening" (1:46)
    2. "The Beast" (4:17)
    3. "Decontamination" (2:05)
    4. "Heinrich's Theme" (3:00)
    5. "WALDO" (1:17)
    6. "A Swim in the River" (1:48)
    7. "Chain Reaction" (4:52)
    8. "Once More with Feeling" (3:00)
    9. "Paradise Valley" (1:03)
    10. "Car Chase" (4:31)
    11. "Carmel's Theme" (1:38)
    12. "WALDO Arrives" (1:57)
    13. "The Hand at the Window" (0:42)
    14. "Message to a Friend" (End tiles)(4:28)

    Awards and critical reception

    The web page TV gave 3 out 4 stars. In Yahoo! Movies, the users rating to the film with a C and 5.5 out of 10 in Internet Movie Database.

    Titles around the world

  • Detector (Italy)
  • Ketjureaktio (Finland)
  • Die Kettenreaktion (West Germany)
  • Nuclear Run
  • Peligro: reacción en cadena (Spain)
  • Perigo...Reacção em Cadeia (Portugal)
  • Skotoste ton, xerei polla! (Greece)
  • The Man at the Edge of the Freeway* (Australia)
  • *Working title

    DVD extras

    The DVD includes these extras:

    1. Thills and Nuclear Spills: The making of the film (31:37)
    2. The Sparks Obituary (24:50)
    3. Deleted and extended scenes (8:14)
    4. TV Spot (0:32)
    5. Poster and Still gallery (2:54)
    6. Umbrella trailers

    The video presents a 1.70:1 aspect ratio, originally 1.66:1.

    Box office

    The world-wide distribution rights were bought by Warner Bros studio, which put the film instantly in profit. The Chain Reaction grossed $796,000 at the box office in Australia, which is equivalent to $2,825,800 in 2009 dollars.


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