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Director: George Miller
Writers: George Miller and James McCausland
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley,Tim Burns, and Roger Ward
Length: 93 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: May 4, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2:35:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
- Newly Commissioned Interviews with Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, and David Eggby
- Pre-Credit Sequence in Color (English and Italian Version Available)
- Audio Commentary with Art Director Jon Dowding, DP Eggby, and Special Effects Artist Chris Murray And Tim Ridge
- Mad Max: The Phenomenon
- Mel Gibson: The Birth of a Superstar
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spots
- Photo Galleris
As we gear up for the release of Fury Road this week, Scream Factory has given us one more reason to keep Mad Max on our minds…a nice new Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray of the original 1979 film, Mad Max. The film, which is famous for numerous reasons, jumpstarted not only Mel Gibson’s career but also hand its hand — alongside The Warriors, which was released in the same year — in influencing a solid run of post-apocalyptic films over the next few decades. But, Mad Max is also a very different film than the work it would go on to inspire, including the, now, three consecutive sequels…
Full disclosure, the first time that I saw Mad Max I was thoroughly underwhelmed. I went in expecting wall-to-wall action, a disparaged terrain, and maddening car chashes. Like many others, my image of Mad Max was informed not by the original film but through what I had seen of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. In reality, Mad Max is a far more nuanced film. It can, and probably should, be considered more of a melodrama than an action film — although almost all action films are melodramas in their own right. Mad Max, however, has a unique power that may require multiple viewings to appreciate.
The world of Mad Max exists in a state between the desolated landscape of the sequel and everyday reality. Crisis has started to set in, which allows disorder to reign, but the world still maintains some semblance of order. Order, however, is challenged and peaceful citizens are at the mercy of the violent gangs that terrorize the rural communities. The film opens amidst one of its best scene. A criminal, Nightrider (Vincent Gil), has stolen a Main Force Patrol (MFP, this dystopian’s response to a police force) car, which sets off a high-speed chase. Nightrider is able to best two MFP officers and seems to have been able to get away. His excitement, however, is crushed when on the horizon emerges the sight of Max Rockatansky’s (Mel Gibson) patrol vehicle. As the cars begin to speed towards each other head on, Nightcrawler’s machismo is destroyed. Foreseeing his demise, he is reduced to tears, crashes, and dies in a fiery wreck.If the rest of Mad Max continued along these lines, the film would be one of the most marvelous spectacles of action cinema. The first ten minutes of Mad Max is nothing if not thrilling — easily in the running for greatest film opens of all time and greatest character intros. But this was not the film that director George Miller had in mind, at least not yet. For the remainder of the film’s 93-minute runtime, Mad Max sets off on a decidedly different path. Most of the film works to set up Max’s character arch. We experience Max as a family man, a husband, and a father. This is highlighted strongly by Brian May’s melodramatic score, which Miller uses to reinforce the drama and romance. The film’s score has proven to be a make-it-or-break-it element. For some, the lofty, emotional undertones will come off as a bit too cheeky, but others will revel in its throwback, classical sound. For what it is worth, for his effort May was actually awarded for Best Original Score by the Australian Film Institute. Aside from the score, the film is technically inconsistent. It must be noted that Mad Max is Miller’s directorial debut; prior to the film, Miller worked as a doctor. Technically speaking, there is a lot to marvel. The down and dirty style of filmmaking awards us with some truly impressive stunt work. These are old school stuntmen, who have no qualms hurling themselves off of moving vehicles and putting themselves in danger. While the film industry is better off for implementing stricter safety precautions, it is sad to see the level or realistic stunt work replaced by an overabundance of CGI. As far as the cinematography is concerned, the film is serviceable — and rather stunning for its low budget — but does leave a little to be desired. Where this is most noticeable is in the setting, but, again, for its budget Mad Max can hardly be faulted.
Mad Max was a smashing success, both in Australia and Internationally. With a budget of less than one million dollars, the film grossed over 100 million. The influence of the film and its style is insurmountable, there really is nothing quite like it. It is easily one of the most important film’s in the action, cult, and midnight cinema canons. If you have not managed to see it yet, the film may be a bit of a slow burn, but with time it will undoubtedly grow on you.
If you are looking to upgrade from your MGM BD for PQ reasons only, this Scream Factory release is not really going to be either a major improvement or depreciation. All in all, a side-by-side comparison reveals a rather similar looking image. MGM have been rather inconsistent with restoring their less-than-prestigious titles, and the print Scream have licensed appears to fall in line with most of the strengths and weaknesses of the former releases. With that said, the video fidelity on this release is more than adequate. The main issue probably comes with what looks to be elements of digital compression apparent in specific scenes. If you can live with that, there will be little else that will really disappoint you.
The audio track does fare a bit better than the video one. As standard protocol dictates, Scream have provided both a 5.1 and 2.0 soundtrack of the film’s original audio elements. For fun (I guess?), they have thrown in a 2.0 track of the American dub — I guess American producers thought US audiences wouldn’t be able to handle the Australian accents —, but I find it hard to believe many would willingly watch it with this feature enabled. Overall, the track is in good condition and there are no signs of age-related issues.
Unlike a lot of these re-releases by Scream Factory, for Mad Max they did what most would not think they’d be able to, they got Mel Gibson to come in for a new interview. Despite Gibson’s torrid and unpleasant actions of the last few years, his charisma on screen is undeniable — and his interview is no exception. While many of his stories about the film have been regaled in the past, it is nice to see him still happy to talk about the series and still excited about the impact it had on his career. Alongside Gibson, there are new interviews with co-star Joanne Samuel and cinematographer David Eggby, making for an overall fine featurette. In addition to this featurette there are a few ported over additional features, including a commentary track (featuring Art Director Jon Dowding, Eggby, and Special Effects Artist Chris Murray And Tim Ridge), a vintage featurette highlighting Gibson called Mel Gibson: The Birth Of A Superstar, and a featurette documentary on the film Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon. Finally, there are trailers, tv spots, and galleries to round the disc off. As always, the newly commissioned cover art is stunning and really beats the drab renditions that MGM have released.
The take away with this release is that Scream Factory did a fine job representing the film but probably could have done more to really offer a superlative, true collector’s edition. You aren’t getting much more out of this release than the former Blu-Rays haven’t included. The newly commissioned interview piece is fantastic, but the absence of Miller really is a shame. Ultimately, Scream’s release is still the best on the market, but it would have been nice to see a bit more effort in the special features department, but a solid effort nonetheless.