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MAD MAX
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Roger Ward, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Director: George Miller
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, DTS HD Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Shout! Factory
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: May 5, 2015

I am the Nightrider. I'm a fuel injected suicide machine.”

Film ***1/2

In the realm of international cinema, Mad Max will forever remain a ground-breaking film. In addition to being perhaps the first post-apocalyptic movie, it singlehandedly put Australia on the moviemaking map, along with the early works of director Peter Weir. Director George Miller, who would go on to direct the family-oriented Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet, fashioned what would be not just the first post-apocalyptic film, but the ultimate one. Twenty two years after its release, the movie still holds its appeal as a full throttle, uncompromising, take-no-prisoners, sci-fi classic.

The movie begins with an absolute bang, as high speed pursuit engages between law enforcement and a speeding madman. Enter heroic officer Max Rockatansky, who wages a one on one pursuit with madman, resulting in a series of destructive collisions. Max is played by a then unknown Mel Gibson, who at the time was only 21 and was just then a rising star in Australia. The actor’s undeniable sense of charisma and tension in his performance as Max put him on Hollywood map, which then led to a power-packed career.

Watching the opening segment of the movie, it’s quite amazing how such scenes of car collisions were pulled off back in 1979. Made on a very low budget, Mad Max introduced the world to a new level of action filming and set pieces. It looks as if special effects were not used at all, and the actual vehicles were damaged to make for a more authentic movie going experience. Miller, along with his director of photography David Eggby, kept this raw feel throughout the next two films in the trilogy, The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Max soon finds himself up against a deadly gang of bikers, led by the bloodthirsty Toecutter. Toecutter and his gang soon get to Max on a high personal level, killing off not only his friend and partner, but soon slaying his wife and infant son in cold blood on the highway. Taken over completely by vengeance, Max forces perhaps one of the most memorable acts of payback ever to be seen in the cinema. The level of violence in Mad Max pretty much set it apart from the rest in terms of how unsettling and intense it was. A few scenes even dare to place infants at the center of close calls and shocking danger; a gesture that many films don’t even dare to do.

As far as hard-edged entertainment is concerned, Mad Max will forever hold a place in my heart as one of the all-time greats. I don’t give it a full high rating only because it slightly pales in comparison to its sequel, The Road Warrior, which contains some of the greatest stunt work ever captured on film. This first installment, though, is and will forever remain a classic post-apocalyptic visions ever filmed.

Video ***1/2

This new Blu-ray handling from Shout Factory delivers what is by far the best presentation this 36 year old movie has gotten to date, although I’ve heard that this is basically the same transfer used for MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, which I never saw. Though the overall picture may a bit too “smoothed out” for some to handle, as the original film negative for this movie has long been lost, it’s still a visual pleasure for folks like me who grew up watching this on TV and home video. Color and picture clarity are superbly strong, and the Australian countryside appears most beautifully, even in the midst of all the chaos.

Audio ***1/2

Offered are two DTS HD mixes. The first is a 5.1 for the original Australian sound mix (aka the preferred one), and there’s also a mono mix for that version as well as the infamous American dubbed version. The 5.1 mix is the best of the bunch, of course, with composer Brian May’s pulse pounding score sounding more ferocious than ever! Dialogue delivery is clear from beginning to end, and is terrifically balanced between the action and music score.

Features ***1/2

All of the extras from MGM’s DVD release (with the exception of a trivia track) have been ported over to this Shout Factory Blu-ray, which features one of their best cover arts to date! The one new feature, though, is the highlight of the package, which is near half hour featurette. It features interviews with Mel Gibson, co-star Joanne Samuel and cinematographer David Eggby. Amongst the ported-over extras is a commentary by Eggby, art director Jon Dowding, special effects supervisor Chris Murray, and film historian Tim Ridge, as well as two intriguing documentaries; “Mel Gibson: The Birth of a Superstar” and “Mad Max: Film Phenomenon”, trailers and TV spots, and a photo gallery.

Summary:

A cult classic for all generations, Mad Max remains an eye gazing, intense action extravaganza 36 years after its release!And with the highly anticipated Mad Max: Fury Road about to be unleashed into theaters (yours truly couldn’t be more excited), now marks a perfect opportunity to rediscover the original that started it all, thanks to this terrific new Blu-ray release from Shout Factory!

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