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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Science Fiction > Australia > Western > Mad Max (1979/MGM Blu-ray w/DVD)

Mad Max (1979/MGM Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: B/C+/C-†††† Sound: B-/C+†††† Extras: B†††† Film: B



Though hardly any of the films made it to the U.S., Australia had a huge cycle of action films often with as many cars as actors in one of the most popular cycles of what is now being called Oz-Ploitation, with the most popular films usually directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith.However, it would be unknown co-writer/co-producer/director George Miller who would create the international hit peak of the cycle, Mad Max.Released in 1979, the film was picked up by American International and Filmways in a big coup for both companies, featuring only the third-ever film appearance of unknown Mel Gibson in the role that put him on the road to eventual superstardom.


With a breakdown of authority and much of civilization thanks to an overall collapse in the near future, new criminals roam the highways and drive through them with their cars, often out to rob, hurt and kill people.What power still exists has formed an auto-equipped, armed police force out to protect as much of what is left (and especially them where necessary) as possible.The results are brutal violence in a brutally violent world, but one officer stands out from the rest of the force, Max Rockatansky (Gibson) who tends to have more skills than most in driving, shooting and fighting.Soon, the criminals will cross the line going after his wife and child, then the title of this film will really show it true meaning.


A huge hit because too many of the earlier such films (especially the Trenchard-Smith films) did not make it to enough markets, the addition of a Science Fiction element (inspired in part by the 1975 film Death Race 2000, reviewed on Blu-ray and a couple of DVDs elsewhere on this site) and so many things working well so often has made this a favorite ever since.Gibson was a natural talent, the cameras liked him even then and he did a fine job carrying the film.The cats of mostly unknowns are also better than they often get credit for, though Roger Ward (Stone (1975), Death Cheaters, Mad Dog Morgan, Australian TV sensation Number 96, all reviewed elsewhere on this site) stands out in some of his best work of his long career.


But it is also Australia itself and the well-rounded screenplay by Miller and James McCausland (based on the story by Miller and Byron Kennedy) that ultimately solidifies what remains one of the most successful low-budget productions in cinema history.The controversy in recent years over Gibson off-screen did not hurt my new viewing of this film, nor did it enhance it.The film is nicely self-contained and though I enjoy the Gibson sequels, it has a certain look and feel no other film has had since and probably never will.That is why its arrival on Blu-ray is a welcome development.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 37 MBPS digital High Definition image was shot by David Eggby (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Pitch Black) in the big screen anamorphic Todd-AO 35mm film format (see the Loganís Run Blu-ray review elsewhere on this site) and despite some limits in absolute definition here, the print looks good, has fine color just about all the way through and was done by someone who respected the cinematography as it is.For an independent production of its age, this source is in fine shape and it is better overall versus the anamorphically enhanced DVD version and especially the awful 1.33 X 1 pan & scan option for old analog TVs that butcher the frame and composition to no end.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix is a decent upgrade from the original theatrical monophonic sound, but the original mono is also here in Dolby Digital 2.0 form for fans and yes, the Mel Gibsonís voice (along with the rest of the Australian cast) is here instead of the bizarre dubbing job that was done when it came to the U.S. for reasons that will never make sense, though MGM has that version here so you can hear how bad it really is.Maybe MGM should have hired the Mystery Science Theater cast to mock that dub.However, for the original Australian tracks, there is only so much that can be done to upgrade the sound, though Brian Mayís score benefits most form the remix, followed by sound effects.


Extras on the Blu-ray include Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon featurette, two HD trailers for the film, trailers for other MGM releases, a feature-length audio commentary Miller, Eggby, Special Effects Supervisor Chris Murray, Art Director Jon Dowding (not credited on the back of the case!) and film historian Tim Ridge, while the DVD adds TV spots, Photo Gallery, trivia, Mel Gibson: Birth Of A Superstar documentary and the Blu-ray featurettes (in low def where applicable).


Itís been a few years since we covered the high-def release of Road Warrior and Mel Gibson is no longer going to do a fourth Max film, but one is now lensing though it is not finished and who knows what it will turn out like.Warner will soon hopefully have Beyond Thunderdome out on Blu-ray with extras, hopefully not waiting for that fourth film.In the meantime, you can read about Road Warrior at this link:





-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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