Mad Max

 

Mad Max

Written by George Miller & Byron Kennedy

Directed by George Miller

1979


Cast:

Mel Gibson

Joanne Samuel

Hugh Keays-Byrne

Steve Bisley

Tim Burns


Studio:

Theatrical:  Kennedy Miller Productions

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Video:

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 33.45 GB

Feature Size: 29.93 GB

Bit Rate: 36.64 Mbps

Runtime: 93 minutes

Chapters: 33

Region: A


Audio:

(Australian) English DTS-HD MA 5.1

(Australian) English Dolby Digital 2.0

(American) English Dolby Digital 2.0

French Dolby Digital 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

English Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles:

English, French & Spanish


Extras:

BRD:

• Audio Commentary with Art Director Jon Dowding, Cinematographer David Eggby, Special Effects Director Chris Murray, and Mad Max Historian Tim Ridge

• Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon

DVD:

• Feature film

• Audio Commentary with Art Director Jon Dowding, Cinematographer David Eggby, Special Effects Director Chris Murray, and Mad Max Historian Tim Ridge

• Mel Gibson: The Birth of a Superstar

• Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon

• Chris Murray & Tim Ridge Road Rants & Trivia

• Original Theatrical Trailers

• Photo Gallery

• TV Spots


Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case:

BRD + DVD (double-sided)

Release Date: October 5, 2010



The Movie: 6

Mad Max, the movie, is not so much a great film but an historically important one in that it spawned greatness of a certain sort.  Most significantly it led directly to its sequel, the iconic and completely brilliant Road Warrior, the movie (along with Gallipoli, released the same year) that made Mel Gibson an international star.  The two movies together developed high octane stunt driving and crashing to benchmark status.


     


The first Mad Max is not so much a movie as it is the outline of a movie.  Despite its raw energy, some it deliciously comical, the editing leaves a great deal to be desired: the film has a few bone-crunching crashes, but it also has several clips of people simply flying through the air with the cycles just out of reach on a similar trajectory.  Nothing much to write home about there.  Moreover it is not always clear how we arrive at some of the stunts or what the effects are.  For example: Why does Goose lose control of his bike? And how did Toecutter and Johnnie Boy just happen to be in just the right place to disable his truck?  We expected these guys to show up sooner or later but how did they know to be there?  When two baddies go flying off a bridge into a creek, Max seems satisfied that they have been taken out, but it sure doesn’t look that way to me.  They had a softer landing than Goose, so I figure they’re still good for another go at Max.  Elsewhere, when Toecutter’s gang drag some hapless fool through the streets of a deserted town why do the young man and woman suddenly leave?


     


It’s not that we can’t come up with the answers to questions like these – and others throughout the movie – it’s that it wouldn’t have taken much thought or budget to include the necessary insert to explain this or that behavior or consequence of action.  Any respectable “B” picture would have done this.  Why doesn’t Miller?  Come to think of it, it is more than a little remarkable how Toecutter and Max’s family just happen to run into each other.  I always thought of Australia as a pretty big place until now.


Then there’s Gibson himself. Given this performance I fail to see the promise.  His postures lack authority, his face is so young as to be almost unformed (The Invasion of the Body Snatchers springs to mind here), his line readings are dull, his voice lacks character, and there’s not a whole lot going on behind his eyes.  It strikes me that there is as much difference between the 21-year old Gibson as Max on the one hand and Gibson two years later as the Road Warrior on the other as with early and late Marilyn Monroe.


     


On the other hand, perhaps the best way to think of Mad Max is in terms of a live action graphic novel, where narrative flow is a succession of animated panels rather than a logical flow. David Eggby’s photography underscores the barren wasteland dominated by lawless gangs and spineless laws that fail to bring criminals to justice, and where the legal system offers only a small and dedicated, if a little nutty, police force to deal with rampant lawlessness. It is inevitable that the police force itself is in constant danger of becoming like the monsters they try to bring to justice – thus, Mad Max.


     


Image: 6/8

Scene for scene, the Blu-ray appears to be little more than the same picture as on the Special Edition DVD upgraded to 1080p. . .  which is not to say there isn’t an apparent increase in detail and clarity.  The problem is that the source material isn’t all that vivid to start with: it’s often flat and thin.  There are a few scenes where the lighting permits some useful dynamic contrast but by and large Mad Max always looked a bit undernourished.  Therefore, it is fair to say that the Blu-ray, with its exceedingly high bit rate, is faithful to the original, and, except for its being a reliable, noise and artifact-free transfer, nothing more.  Those that find a “restoration” wanting, I think, really want the movie to be “re-shot” in post-production.  I know Mad Max has its fans, but I don’t see that possibility as a commercial likelihood.  But what do I know: I was frankly somewhat surprised to see the movie in HD without its being presented as part of the trilogy that includes Beyond Thunderdome.


     


Audio & Music: 5/6

The good news is that the original Australian mono track has been preserved (as it was on the DVD), the bad news is that MGM did not think enough of it to make it uncompressed.  (How hard would that have been?)  For as it sits, played through a good Digital-to-Analogue converter into only the front speakers, the mono sound is almost as good as the DTS-HD MA played through a good surround system.  The latter offers a little more air and some left/right cues, but not much for the rear channels – keep in mind, however, there wasn’t anything back there in the first place.


In any case the audio lacks the weight or the dynamic punch that we want from a pack of high performance cars and bikes. The dialogue on the Australian track is clear enough, if you understand the language – and, if you don’t, subtitles are available.  Brian May’s percussive music gets a better rap here and kind of takes over when the action revs up.


     


Extras: 4

We’ve seen all of these features before on the 2002 DVD.  For reasons passing understanding, Fox/MGM has opted for porting over from that DVD to the Blu-ray only the commentary and the featurette, Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon.  The other extra features are accessible only by playing the accompanying DVD.  I would go further and question the reasoning behind including a DVD at all at this point.  Surely anyone who was in the market for a home video of Mad Max would have bought the DVD long ago, and wouldn’t have delayed in hopes of a better or higher resolution presentation. 


I’ll not comment on the Extra Features except to note that the commentary with Art Director Jon Dowding, Cinematographer David Eggby, Special Effects Director Chris Murray, and Mad Max Historian Tim Ridge focuses mainly on production issues rather than story.


     


Recommendation: 6

Fox’s Blu-ray of Mad Max is not a restoration of the Special Edition DVD but a presentation of the source for that DVD in high definition picture and sound.  Both image and audio benefit but in neither case does the bump to HD warrant an upgrade if you already own the DVD.  The DVD that is included is exactly the same as the double-sided affair that Fox published in 2002.  For first timers and hard-core Mad max enthusiasts, however, the Blu-ray is definitely worth the purchase.


Leonard Norwitz

LensViews

October 7, 2010



     




                           
       
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