Mad Max: The Complete Collection
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Shane Roberts (29th November 2006).
The Film

"Mad Max" (1979)

A few years from now violent biker gangs are terrorizing the roads of Australia. Barely keeping order is the MFP (Main Force Patrol), a police force using super-charged cars. After Max (Mel Gibson), the MFP’s top driver, kills a gang leader during a pursuit, he is the object of a vendetta which leads to attacks on his friends and family. This leaves Max pretty mad, in both senses of the word.
Generally known as the film that made Mel Gibson a star, it is also a cult favourite with petrol heads and car chase fans as it contains some of the coolest and most original car action ever filmed, and all done years before the CGI of "The Fast and the Furious" (2001) and "xXx" (2002). Director George Millerwanted to get a feeling similar to "Grand Prix" (1966), the film that first put cameras on cars to give the audience a real feeling of being on the road at speed, and boy did he get it right.
Hitting the ground running with a thrilling chase involving cars, vans, motorcycles and a toddler, Grant Page and his stunt team perform some amazing near misses and big smashes, all at speeds of up to 180mph. This first chase is actually the biggest in the film. Due to budget concerns, about 20% of the action planned for later in the film had to be cut but there is still plenty of cool action.
Up until the release of "The Blair Witch Project" (1999), "Mad Max" held the independent film record for the highest profit-to-budget. Produced for AUD$40,000 it made over $100 million worldwide. Like a lot of other indie films the low budget ended up being one of its strengths. If it had been made by say Peter Weir, with Jack Thompson as the star, then it would have ended up a much glossier production, unlike the Hammer Horror Western it turned out to be. Brian May‘s (not be be confused with the guitarist from Queen) music seems very Hammer influenced. A bit over the top during some of the heroic scenes including Max and the other cops but really creepy during the horror of the gang attacks, especially when Max's wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) is stalked through a forest and the young couple attacked in their car.
The fame Mel Gibson gained from his first starring role was completely deserved. He is excellent as the young hotshot cop who begins to tire of the violence and becomes a destroyed vigilante in the last third of the story. His entire body language changes until, in one of the last shots, he limps up a hill moving more like Frankenstein’s monster than human.
Other acting stand outs are Steve Bisley as Max’s smart-arse, daredevil best friend, and Hugh Keayes-Byrne as the toe-cutter. As the main villain Keayes-Byrne’s almost Shakespearean performance seems to portray almost multiple personalities, even with different accents.
This Aussie classic should be tracked down by anyone who loves action/thrills and car chase movies. You won’t be disappointed.

"Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" (1981)

Set roughly 15 years after the first film Max (Mel Gibson) roams the wasteland of the Australian desert living in his super-charged police car with only his dog for company. Seemingly happy as a burnt out loner he is initially reluctant to help a compound of people to protect their precious stash of petrol from a hoard of crazies led by The Humongous (Kjell Nilsson) and Wez (Vernon Wells), his second in command/attack dog.
There are only a handful of sequels that are better than the original, this is one of them. Beginning with a far bigger budget than the first film because of that film’s success, George Miller was able to film everything on a much larger scale. The chases are more intense and exhilarating, and the stunts far more elaborate. They pack real impact with a large variety of outrageous vehicles which, at the time, looked like nothing that had been made before. This is also true of Graham 'Grace' Walker‘s production design and Norma Moriceaus‘ punk/fetish inspired costume designs.
Basically, a post-apocalyptic punk rock spaghetti western including Max becoming his own version of a leather clad ‘man with no name’. The very definition of the strong silent type (he only has about a dozen lines in the whole film), Gibson’s performance is based far more on attitude and body language. The western influence continues with the jaded loner helping the weak, this is borrowed from the classic "Shane" (1953) starring Alan Ladd.
The action and pace does slow a bit around the middle of the film but the last 30 minutes are full tilt with the epic finale chase featuring more inventive carnage and mayhem than any other car chase.
Much like the first film, "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" is populated with a mixture of oddball, resourceful and just plain crazy characters. From Bruce Spence as a slightly stir crazy Gyro Captain and Mike Preston as the compound’s proud and staunch leader, to Kjell Nilsson as The Humongous, leader of the attackers and Vernon Wells as Wez, his mohawked, mad dog second in command.
This film has been on my Desert Island Top 5 for over 20 years. It was the first film I felt I had to own (on a full screen video, thank goodness for DVD!) because I never got tired of watching it. Top to bottom, start to finish, this is one of the greatest action films ever made!

"Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" (1985)

Searching for his stolen vehicle, Max (Mel Gibson) discovers a trading post called Bartertown and finds himself mixed up in a power struggle between the evil Auntie Entity (Tina Turner) who has control of the town and Masterblaster (Angelo Rossitto and Paul Larsson) who has control of the town’s power supply. After he is left to die in the desert Max is rescued by a tribe of orphans who need his help.
I do like this film a lot, just not as much as the first "Mad Max". For a long time I totally disagreed with the casting of Auntie Entity. I have described "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" as a punk rock western so surely if you are going to cast a singer who acts and fits Max’s world you should get Johnny Rotten,Joe Strummer or maybe Henry Rollins. But who do we get instead? Tina Turner. After watching the film again for this review I have changed my mind slightly. Turner’s portrayal as a tough but not totally ruthless leader, unlike the main villains in the first films, is part of George Miller‘s plan to show civilization rebuilding itself. She really does care about trying to build the city and make things better; it is just her methods that get out of hand.
Just like the first two films, this third installment has a distinct and totally original look and setting. This is Miller’s "Laurence of Arabia" (1962), and he even worked with the same composer Maurice Jarre. He brought in Co-Director George Ogilvy who did most of the character scenes with the kids so George could concentrate on the action scenes. Dean Semler‘s awesome cinematography became a lot more accomplished in the four years since "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" and he would then go on to do "Dances With Wolves" (1990), the upcoming "Apocalypto" (2006) and "Waterworld" (1995), which was virtually a "Mad Max 4" (and included an attack on a floating compound which was an almost exact replica of one from "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" but with jet skis and boats instead of cars and bikes).
Having the tribe of kids and Bartertown as symbols of hope for the future and Max’s redemption is fine but it is the sometimes juvenile humour that takes the edge off some of the violence and is the film’s main fault. It makes it weak and disappointing as a "Mad Max" film - and I still would have liked to have seen Joe Strummer.

Video

The transfer for the first film is surprisingly good, presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this anamorphic transfer displays sharpness consistently throughout, colors are well rendered but do show signs of age such as a lack of vividness. The black levels are deep and shadow detail is appropriately consistent as well, I did find some flaws such as film artefacts, mainly in the form of spots that pop up occasionally, I also spotted minor issues with banding and some minor visible grain, otherwise this is probably the best this film has looked in years.

The second film is also presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 in anamorphic widescreen, considering this is a single-layered DVD-5 the transfer is quite good but could be much better. The image is sharp and for the most part clean, the same problems seen in the first film are also a problem here, with film artefacts and dirt popping up. I noticed film grain dark spaces of the transfer and also very minor edge-enhancement. This film's presentation will do for now, but with High Definition already here this film could use a clean up.

Finally the third film is presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 in anamorphic widescreen and has also been formatted on a single-layered DVD-5 disc. This transfer is mediocre at best, I felt that the image was flat and detail wasn't that great. The blacks are murky and shadow detail is limited especially in Masterblaster's underworld. Problems such as compression artefacts, dirt and moire issues are evident in this transfer that could use the most amount of clean up between all three films.

Audio

The audio on the first film is presented in English full bit rate DTS 5.1 as well as an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. If there is any reason to buy this DVD it's for the DTS track, this track is presented in the original Australian English and not the dubbed American version. The track presents the dialogue clearly and without distortion for the most part one or two scenes can be difficult to make out but that's probably more due to the accents rather than the track itself. For a film made in 1979 this new DTS track is totally aggressive with the surround channels put into effective and impressive use, the action scenes roar off each speaker and the musical score travels across the channels beautifully. As far as restored and remastered sound tracks go this DTS is at the top of the game.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired.

The second film includes three audio tracks, an English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as an Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack, while not nearly as impressive as the DTS track on the first disc this 5.1 number wanders in a completely different direction. The sound mixing doesn't feel right, with inadequate and often unnatural use of the channels for directional sound, the music was also mixed at a much higher volume that it became distracting. This seems like an up-mixed 5.1 track created from the film's original Stereo track. It's of average quality but definitely needs some work, maybe one day a special edition will be released with a new kick ass soundtrack as well as the film's original Stereo track.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Italian, Italian for the hearing impaired, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.

The third and final film includes three audio tracks, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround as well as French and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround tracks. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. Dialogue was clear and distortion free, with the surround channels used for environmental surrounds that add depth to the locations in the film, music is rendered well and makes good use of the 5.1 space. Overall this soundtrack fares much better than the second film.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Italian, Italian for the hearing impaired, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.

Extras

DISC ONE: Mad Max

First up is the original theatrical trailer for "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" which runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds.

Next up is the original theatrical trailer for "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" which runs for 1 minute 23 seconds.

Rounding up the extras is a detailed collection of production notes entitled "To The Max - Behind The Scene Of A Cult Classic" that covers 8 sections that include:

- "Genesis" which consists of 4 text pages.
- "The Director" which consists of 13 text pages.
- "The Producer" which consists of 6 text pages.
- "The Star" which consists of 10 text pages.
- "Cast and Crew" which consists of 6 text pages.
- "The Awards" which consists of 1 text page.
- "Max Fax" which consists of 13 text pages .
- "The Words About Max" which consists of 10 text pages .

These production notes contain a wealth of information for fans and provide a unique look at the production, however a good documentary could have also done the same thing!

DISC TWO: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

There are no extras featured on this disc.

DISC THREE: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

A series of biographies and filmographies are included for the following:

- Mel Gibson which includes 6 text pages.
- Tina Turner which includes 3 text pages.
- Director George Miller which includes 4 text pages.
- Co-Director George Ogilvy which includes 3 text pages.
- Screenwriter Terry Hayes which includes 2 text pages.
- Frank Thring which includes 3 text pages.
- Angelo Rossitto which includes 3 text pages.

Next are a series of production notes that include:

- "Evolution Of A Trilogy" which includes 6 pages about the three films.
- "Creating The Future" which includes 7 pages on the production design and look of the film.
- "On Location" which includes 4 pages on shooting in Australia.

The film's original theatrical trailer is also included and runs for 1 minute 37 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are recommendations which is a static page that features covers for the following films you might like to purchase:

- "Blade Runner"
- "Demolition Man"
- "Lethal Weapon"
- "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior"

Finally an 8-page booklet has been included in this set with a synopsis of the films.

Packaging

This 3-disc set is packaged in an amaray case that is housed in a cardboard slip-cover. The first disc is encoded R4 only while the other two are dual coded R2/4.

Overall

Ratings breakdown:

MAD MAX
Film: A- Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: D+ Overall: C+

MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR
Film: A+ Video: B- Audio: C Extras: F Overall: C+

MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME
Film: B- Video: C+ Audio: B+ Extras: D Overall: C+

The Film: B+ Video: B- Audio: B+ Extras: E+ Overall: C+

 


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