Starting a franchise that lives within the heart of the definition of “cult classic,” George Miller’s directorial debut “Mad Max” takes us for a surprisingly leisurely rather than high octane cruise through a crime-ridden dystopia. Mel Gibson, a mere unheard of at this time, plays Max Rockatansky (rock a tan sky?) as one of the few people still upholding law and order in the “future.” Commonly described as post-apocalyptic, this is more present-apocalyptic as the film depicts being on the brink of the downfall of the civilized world. Interestingly, even though it did fairly well internationally upon its release, it still remains relatively unheard of to this day along with its two sequels, both of which further delve into the destruction of civilization as they take us from mere dystopia to being truly post-apocalyptic.
Now viewers can experience the thrilling dystopian action film with an all-new Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. Special features include filmmaker commentary and the documentary “Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon,” featuring interviews with the original crew and film experts. The new release also features the very popular original Australian audio track in addition to the American dubbed track. Considered one of the best films of 1979, MAD MAX garnered three Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards for editing, sound and musical score. The film was also nominated by the AFI for Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Keays-Byrne). In the ravaged near future, a savage motorcycle gang rules the road. Terrorizing innocent civilians while tearing up the streets, the ruthless gang laughs in the face of a police force hell-bent on stopping them. But they underestimate one officer: Max Rockatansky (Gibson). And when the bikers brutalize Max’s best friend and family, they send him into a mad frenzy that leaves him seeking revenge, which is the only thing left in the world for Max to live for.
The cast is surprisingly filled out considering its low budget and setting; the dystopian future commonly being used with small casts to depict the vast loss of socialized civilization. Of course, the only ones that have really made any high-profile additions to their career in this present day are Mel Gibson, and the less notorious George Miller who shockingly has recently been contributing to the movie industry with his directing of movies such as Babe and Happy Feet. Miller and Gibson really went to opposite extremes of absurdity, there. Despite the lack of star power, the cast generally gives acceptable performances though none of them really standing out as noteworthy, aside from the vague exception of Hugh Keays-Byrne’s performance as the crazed antagonist, Toe Cutter. Granted, most of his scenes involve him chewing the scenery, but it pretty much works for the character.
Despite the film’s reputation, it’s a shockingly slow paced movie with very little action given only at the beginning of the movie, and then towards the end. Throughout the rest of the movie you’re unexpectedly treated to drama ranging from dilemmas of personal choices and even relationship woes. It’s very difficult to see why it’s regarded as an action cult classic, especially since the little bit that is there is actually a bit comical. It’s either gratuitous to the point of being cheesy, or barely present at all due to quick editing. Either way, it’s really bizarre. The plot, ignoring the hype, is actually fairly decent as it doesn’t immediately dissolve all sense of decency from humanity but rather shows it withering away as the hopeful population is brought down by bloodthirsty marauders. It’s depressing and yet intriguing at the same time, as opposed to most other apocalyptic movies solely wanting the viewer to feel sorrow.
Overall, if you plan on seeing this movie then ignore any and all hype you have seen of it. I watched it expecting lots of action and car chases but didn’t get much of either, which left me vastly disappointed and confused throughout it. However, there are a few redeemable aspects to be had, so all in all I recommend this as a Rental.
Fox has released Mad Max on Blu-ray in a two-disc Elite Blu-ray case. The film arrives with the usual Blu-ray on one disc, but rather than including a digital copy they just include a DVD copy, which they’ve been doing for awhile now (kind of a nice introduction to the format for the leery…plus these are usually cheap releases too). Menus are simple and easy to navigate and overall it’s a nice little package.
Video is an AVC encoded expedition and the thirty-one years that this film has lived through have been surprisingly kind to it as Fox gives us a very solid presentation. Although there is a heavy amount of grain and whatnot on screen, it is probably one of the best looking old action flicks in existence. It’s not a particularly stunning picture but it has its moments, mainly in the muddied and war torn cars and various explosions that often come as a result of them. Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix which is really complete overkill for a film this old as the sound effects are so dated that they sound muted. Add to the fact they’re center channel only for the most part and you begin to wonder why they tried to branch out with a 5.1 mix. Granted there are the fleeting moments where the surrounds to perk up and realize that they should be chattering, but even the subwoofer seems to take a vacation from this one. Having said that they did at least spice up the vehicle sound effects as there is plenty of cross-channel interchanging done with those—it’s really just the dialogue and any other non-car related sound effect that emits only from the front channels. Same goes for the score, although that does spread itself a bit more than I expected as well. Truthfully speaking this is quite an astonishing mix for a three decade old film so I’m probably being a bit harsh on it.
DISC ONE (BLU-RAY)
Filmmaker Commentary by Jon Dowding, David Eggby, Chris Murray & Tim Ridge
Documentary: “Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon”
New-To-The-U.S. Original Australian Language Track
Two theatrical trailers
DISC TWO (DVD):
New Digitally Remastered Transfer
“Mel Gibson: The Birth Of A Star” Documentary
“Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon” Documentary
New-To-The-U.S. Original Australian Language Track
Theatrical Trailers”Road Rants” Trivia & Fun Fact Track
As you can tell there is quite a bit of overlap between the two discs, but it’s nice they included the commentary on the Blu-ray so that we at least have that to listen to. Overall it’s a pretty rock solid set and one that’s Recommended for fans.
Mad Max is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter