The Film (4/5)
It is interesting watching Mad Max with people who are not totally familiar with the film these days. The last few times I've watched the original film, it has been in the presence with someone who knew the series from the more popular sequels in the latter case this was my own fault, as the Road Warrior was the 2nd Blu-ray I bought, and I used it to show off the format. The thing that people associate with the series is a dry post-apocalyptic landscape with huge epic chases, and thrilling action sequences, and while Mad Max does have some of the latter two items they are on a much smaller scale.
Mad Max stars Mel Gibson in his first starring role as Max Rockatansky, a rural Australian cop in a world on the brink of falling apart. The film opens with one of those car chases that George Miller excels at, in this case the gang member Nightrider (Vince Gil) has made off with a police vehicle, and is driving off in it with his girlfriend in what he thinks will be a grand escape. The police who are in pursuit of him, are not exactly of the bumbling variety, but aren't doing the best job keeping up. As it looks increasingly likely that Nightrider is going to get away, Max joins the chase, and causes Nightrider to get into a huge explosive crash.
This sets out Nightriders's gang the Acolytes and their leader Toecutter(Hugh Keays-Byrne) on a quest for revenge against the police and specifically against Max. Of course, Max living in a world on the bring of apocalyptic disaster realizes the thanklessness of his job, and plans on getting out, but stays on the fringes. After his partner is attacked, he decides to get away, unfortunately Max and Toecutter have similar minds for vacation destination and their little getaway ends in tragedy, setting Max on the path to revenge.
And that essentially is what Mad Max is when it comes down to it. It's basically an Ozploitation Revenge epic. The whole film from the beginning seems like an attempt to push Max to his limits until his job goes beyond a paycheck, and becomes personal, and Max Rockatansky becomes Mad Max. It's interesting when watching this film, considering what came after. Both The Road Warrior, and Beyond Thunderdome have a bleak and dry look to them, and it appears from previews that Fury Road will carry on that style that the other sequels perfected. What this essentially does is make this film the origin story of both Max and the end of the world. Mad Max in direct contrast to it's sequels is a much more colorful film, it's slower, there is more room for pause, even light character moments, and the events that unfold in the third act truly help set the stage for what's to come.
The chase and action sequences in the film though not as prevalent as they are in the later films still manage to pack quite a punch. There are also little things that Miller does like putting a young child in the middle of a busy highway during a chase, that really escalate the tension during these sequences.
Scream Factory have presented Mad Max in a decent, and very natural 2:34:1 MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer. The transfer present on this disc appears to be quite similar to the original 2010 MGM Blu-ray with some additional cleanup removing some damage from the source. We have nice stable colors, flesh tones, and very decent detail. There is also a nice natural grain structure at play throughout.
There are 3 audio options present on the disc. There are DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 tracks both in English, but with Australian accents. There is also a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track also in English with Sam Arkoff's American dub of the film. This American dub sounds ridiculous, and should be avoided, but if you want to amuse yourself check it out. The audio options present on the discs work nicely with dialogue coming through nicely, as does the films score, and effects. I did not notice any issues with the audio during my playthrough.
Scream have put together a decent slate of extras for their release of Mad Max. The Blu-ray kicks off with a commentary featuring members of the film's crew including DP David Eggby. We then get 26 minutes worth of interviews with Eggby again, Joanne Samuel, and Mel Gibson. These are followed by 2 archival extras Mel Gibson: Birth of a Superstar is 2 featurettes running 16 minutes in length that go into detail about Mel's career. The second is called Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon it runs 26 minutes, and discusses the series. The disc is rounded off by TV spots, trailers, and a photo gallery.
Mad Max was essentially the last Ozploitation epic. The film still holds up quite well today, and the Blu-ray from Scream looks and sounds quite good. There are a good number of extras also included. RECOMMENDED.