The Chain Reaction is a 1980 Australian disaster thriller directed and written by Ian Barry and starring Steve Bisley (better known as Jim Goose in Mad Max), Arna-Maria Winchester, Ross Thompson, Ralph Cotterill, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Lorna Lesley, Richard Moir, and Patrick Ward.
The plot involves a nuclear engineer in rural Australia named Heinrich Schmidt (Ross Thompson) who is badly contaminated in a radiation leak caused by an earthquake. He knows that the leak will potentially poison the groundwater and the soil and attempts to warn the public with the help of married couple Larry and Carmel Stilson (Steve Bisley and Arna-Maria Winchester). However, his boss has other plans...
The film's cast is notably composed largely of veterans from George Miller's post-apocalyptic classic, including a brief cameo from Mel Gibson. Miller himself served as the film's associate producer and helped shoot the climactic car chase sequence.
Contains examples of the following tropes:
- Bittersweet Ending: Larry, Carmel, and Heinrich all make it out alive in time to warn the public, but the groundwater is still contaminated, and may remain that way for generations.
- The Cameo: Mel Gibson has a brief appearance as a mechanic who helps fix up the Stilsons' ute in one of the early scenes.
- Cool Car:
- The Stilsons' modified Holden 1-Tonner ute, known fondly as "The Beast". Too bad it gets smashed up in the end.
- Mr. Gray's 1973 Ford LTD P5, which gets pitted against "The Beast" in the climactic chase scene.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The head of WALDO is only interested in protecting himself and believes the accident should be covered up despite the contamination putting thousands of lives at stake, and will stop at nothing to silence the protagonists.
- Decontamination Chamber: Larry and Carmel are both placed in one by the WALDO agents, where they are stripped down and given a good dowsing.
- Fan Disservice: Steve Bisley's junk. That is all.
- Fun with Acronyms: The name WALDO stands for "Western Atomic Long-term Dumping Organisation".
- Going Critical: Actually handled fairly realistically - there's no explosion, only a huge blast of gamma rays.
- Male Frontal Nudity: During the decontamination scene.
- The Mole: Eagle (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne), who provides Larry with information on WALDO and their cover-up attempt while visiting him in prison.
- No OSHA Compliance: Leaving aside the corrupt upper management, the WALDO facility is poorly designed and maintained, thus enabling the radiation leak that sets the plot in motion.
- Scenery Porn: Much of the film's second half is filmed in the abandoned mining town of Glen Davis, NSW, and there are some really nice aerial shots of the area.