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MAD MAX
Special Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Roger Ward, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Director: George Miller
Audio: Australian Dolby Digital 5.1, Austrailian Dolby Mono, English Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: MGM/UA
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: January 2, 2002

They say people don’t believe in heroes anymore…well damn them! You and me, Max…we’re gonna give them back the HEROES!”

Film ***1/2

In the realm of international cinema, Mad Max will forever remain a groundbreaking film. In addition to being perhaps the first post-apocalyptic movie, it singlehandedly put Australia on the moviemaking map, along with the early works of director Peter Weir. Director George Miller, who would go on to direct the family-oriented classic Babe, fashioned what would be not just the first post-apocalyptic film, but the ultimate one. Twenty two years after its release, the movie still holds its appeal as a full throttle, uncompromising, take-no-prisoners, sci-fi classic.

The movie begins with an absolute bang, as high speed pursuit engages between law enforcement and a speeding madman. Enter heroic officer Max Rockatansky, who wages a one on one pursuit with madman, resulting in a series of destructive collisions. Max is played by a then unknown actor by the name of Mel Gibson, who at the time was only 21 and was just then a rising star in Australia. The actor’s undeniable sense of charisma and tension in his performance as Max put him on Hollywood map, which then led to a power-packed career.

Watching the opening segment of the movie, it’s quite amazing how such scenes of car collisions were pulled off back in 1979. Made on a very low budget, Mad Max introduced the world to a new level of action filming and set pieces. It looks as if special effects were not used at all, and the actual vehicles were damaged to make for a more authentic movie going experience. Miller, along with his director of photography David Eggby, kept this raw feel throughout the next two films in the trilogy, The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Max soon finds himself up against a deadly gang of bikers, led by the bloodthirsty Toecutter. Toecutter and his gang soon get to Max on a high personal level, killing off not only his friend and partner, but soon slaying his wife and infant son in cold blood on the highway. Taken over completely by vengeance, Max forces perhaps one of the most memorable acts of payback ever to be seen in the cinema. The level of violence in Mad Max pretty much set it apart from the rest in terms of how unsettling and intense it was. A few scenes even dare to place infants at the center of close calls and shocking danger; a gesture that many films don’t even dare to do.

As far as hard-edged entertainment is concerned, Mad Max will forever hold a place in my heart as one of the all-time greats. I don’t give it a full high rating only because it slightly pales in comparison to its sequel, The Road Warrior, which contains some of the greatest stunt work ever captured on film. This first installment, though, is and will forever remain a classic post-apocalyptic visions ever filmed.

Video ***

MGM has done a most superb job in transferring Mad Max to the DVD format, even though it was previously available from Image, which didn’t consist of any extras whatsoever. Anamorphically enhanced, this presentation is mostly impressive with it sharpness and crispness, but only suffers from a few brief scenes that don’t seem as a fault of the DVD, but simply of the film stock of the time. Overall, MGM has done a mostly fantastic job.

Audio ***1/2

I never did own a copy of the Image version of this movie, but I can certainly say this, this offering from MGM delivers what I’ve never been able to experience before, which is the chance to hear the movie in its original Australian format. I’ve seen the movie countless times, but only in the English dubbed version, which is also included in Mono format only. The Australian track is also given a big boost with the 5.1 digital presentation, which picks up surprisingly well in everything from roaring engines to the pulse pounding music score. A most wonderful job from MGM.

Features ***1/2  

MGM once again delivers their uncanny Special Edition goods with this release. Included is a commentary by photography director David Eggby, art director Jon Dowding, special effects supervisor Chris Murray, and film historian Tim Ridge. Also included is a Fact & Trivia Tract option, which displays loads on info throughout the presentation. Featured as well are two intriguing documentaries; “Mel Gibson: The Birth of a Superstar” and “Mad Max: Film Phenomenon”, trailers and TV spots, and a photo gallery.

Summary:

A cult classic for all generations, Mad Max remains an eye gazing, intense action extravaganza 22 years after its release, and this nice DVD package from MGM makes it an even more grand experience.