Mad Max [Blu-Ray]
Blu-ray A - America - MGM Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Shane Roberts & Noor Razzak (3rd December 2010).
The Film

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 MFPís 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 Miller wanted 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 Frankensteinís monster than human.

Other acting stand outs are Steve Bisley as Maxís smart-arse, daredevil best friend, and Hugh Keays-Byrne as the toe-cutter. As the main villain Keays-Byrneís 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 wonít be disappointed.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps in AVC MPEG-4 compression. Based on the film's age and low production budget I was a bit worried going into this new Blu-ray release hoping that excessive DNR was not used to scrub away any evidence this film was shot on film. Thankfully MGM have remained fairly true to the orignal image, while some shots have been cleaned up a bit the overall result is pretty solid, with a few problems here and there. For the most part the image is sharp and clean, depth of field looks good but there are moments were backgrounds aren't as defined and images are soft this is especially true for low-light interior scenes which tend to suffer the most and especially with a few of those close ups that lose some detail. This film is old and there are some inherent flaws like dirt and specs, it would be nice to one day get a full restoration that cleans these problems. Colors are well rendered, blacks are slightly noisy but unavoidable, there's a nice light layer of grain that helps retain its filmic look.

Audio

Four audio tracks are present on the Blu-ray edition, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD audio, this audio track was created using the original Australian English audio track (rather than the inferior American dubbing). This film's original audio was mixed in mono (included as well for purists), so this up-mixed track does lack the punch and gusto a film such as this deserves. The dialogue is clear and distortion free, the car chases and road action sound good but the track lacks depth and suitable surround activity that help to provide an immersive experience.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

MGM has released this film with some extras from previous "Special Edition" DVD ported over to the Blu-ray, said DVD is also included. We get an audio commentary, a documentary, a collection of theatrical trailers, bonus trailers and the DVD also includes all these plus another featurette, TV spots, and trivia track. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

First up is the feature-length audio commentary by director of photography David Eggby, production designer Jon Dowding, special effects technician http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614884/>Chris Murray, and historian/collector Tim Ridge. The participants engage in a technical track that cover various aspects of the production as well as the challenges faced making a low busget film in Australia in the late 70's. The track can be a bit dry at times and there are some gaps of silence but for the most part there's some interesting content here for fans, Tim Ridge's comments aren't that interesting however, and don't seem in-line with the other participants. While it would have been nice to have a track by the film's director and its star, I realize that's impossible at this time... perhaps once all the heat on Gibson has subsided and he's managed to compose himself we might get a track from him sometime in the future for an "Anniversary" release... one can only hope.

Next up is the "Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon" documentary running at 25 minutes 35 seconds, is a feature that takes us through the production and congratulates everyone for making such an amazing film that's lasted the test of time and fandom... it's a bit on the self-congratulatory side and that gets a tired very quickly, however there are some cool interviews with cast and crew and behind-the-scene footage worth seeing.

The disc also included the fil's original theatrical trailer #1 which runs for 1 minute 53 seconds and theatrical trailer #2 which runs for 2 minutes 9 seconds.

There are also some bonus trailers for:

- "Rollerball" runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.
- "The Terminator" runs for 1 minute 57 seconds.
- "Species" runs for 1 minute 50 seconds.
- "Windtalkers" runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

This DVD includes the same audio commentary, documentary and two Theatrical trailers as seen on the Blu-ray disc, but also includes:

"Road Rants" trivia track, this subtitle stream plays over the feature and offers up some facts and trivia about the film, the cast and crew, locations, etc.

There's also a "Mel Gibson: The High Octane Birth of a Superstar" featurette which runs for 16 minutes 40 seconds, and is a clip about how awesome Gibson is in this role and how it launched him into super-stardom... another back-patting clip that has little reason to exists other than to heap praise onto the film's star.

There's an International poster gallery that features 16 images of posters from around the world.

Next are 4 TV spots that include:

- "The Only Law" runs for 30 seconds.
- "Law & Order" runs for 30 seconds.
- "Hope & Civilization" runs for 30 seconds.
- "Fuel Injected Vengeance" runs for 30 seconds.

bonus trailer for:

- "The Terminator" runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: B- Audio: C Extras: C Overall: B-