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Mad Max Collector's Edition

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
1979
Studio: 
Scream Factory
Genre: 
SF/Action
Format: 
Blu-ray
Region: 
A
Aspect Ratio: 
2.34:1
Directed by: 
George Miller
Cast: 
Mel Gibson
Hugh Keays-Byrne
Joanne Samuel
Steve Bisley
Roger Ward
Movie: 
5
Extras: 
4
Bottom Line: 
5

With the long-in-gestation Mad Max: Fury Road finally hitting cinemas in Summer of 2015, a whole new generation of moviegoers will be introduced to George Miller’s bold, brutal, and highly influential creation he’d first unleashed upon the world nearly forty years ago. Over the course of three films, Miller’s Max went from dedicated lawman to “Man with No Name”-style wasteland wanderer, and it’s the latter of which that new initiates will be presented with in Fury Road. However, to truly understand why Max is so goshdarned Mad, one must start from the beginning, and that’s 1979’s Mad Max.

Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is an "Interceptor" for a ragged band of policemen called the Main Force Patrol who work the desolate highways of an Australia teetering on the edge of total anarchy. The backwater towns and highways have become a playground for freewheeling biker gangs and homicidal hotrodders. When a high speed pursuit brings about the death of the nefarious gang leader, The Nightrider, his associates come to town to give their friend a proper send-off as well as payback for his death. Led by The Nightrider’s most loyal follower and friend, Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the gang targets Max and his fellow MFP officers, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.

Being both a husband and father to a young son, Max decides to call it quits to protect his family, but, when he and his wife, Jessie (Joanne Samuel) venture off into the perceived safety of a friend’s rural farm, Max soon realizes (quite tragically) that the world is a safer place with him behind the wheel, and, with nothing left to lose, he returns to the MFP and hunts down Toecutter and his men in a revenge fueled frenzy.

Mad Max could have just as easily been carried out on horseback as it was motorcycles and hotrods, as, at its core, it’s a film that mirrors the classic western perfectly, with the bikers representing the cowboys and Max embodying the spirit of a down-under fuel-injected Wyatt Earp. As much as Miller may have been inspired by the westerns he watched as a kid, his creation would prove just as influential, serving as the blueprint for the literally dozens of post-apocalyptic copycat films that would follow. While much of the credit for that is attributed to Max’s first sequel, 1981’s blockbuster hit The Road Warrior, the foundation was set with Mad Max, making it one of the most important films in the history of action/sci-fi cinema.

Scream Factory brings Mad Max into its Collector’s Edition fold, smartly timing its release with Miller’s new offering, and presents the film in a 2.34:1 1080p transfer. I received my review copy a bit late, so I’ve been beaten to the punch by several other outlets, many of which are decrying this release as a substandard offering, or not much of an upgrade over MGM’s 2010 Blu-ray release. Personally, I don’t own the MGM disc, so I can’t comment on that either way, but I can say that, to my eyes (which, upon my last exam, were still working pretty good despite an apparent need for bifocals in the near future) the image looks quite good and is a HUGE improvement over the various DVD copies I’ve got laying around here. The image is quite crisp and vibrant, while the level of fine detail in a few scenes proved striking. Yes, there are times when the image looks a bit overly grainy (most notably, to me, in the corners when blue skies dominate the frame), but, otherwise, I’m pleased as punch by this presentation.

In terms of audio, we get a 5.1 and 2.0 Mono DTS HD Master audio versions of the original Australian track, as well as a 2.0 Mono DTS HD Master Audio version of the hilarious and terrible US dub. Mad Max was Initially butchered in its American release, saddled with an awful American dub (back in 1979 distributer American International Pictures were not sure if an American audience would be able to understand Australian accents!) that actually ruined a lot of the film for me. The voices fit for some parts (Gibson dubbed himself), but other characters came off completely ridiculous, especially Max’s MPF supervisor, Fifi McCafee (Roger Ward), who sounded more like a WWF wrestler than a police captain. It’s obviously included here for completists, but, if you’ve never seen (heard) this version, I highly recommend it for purely shits and giggles.

Scream Factory offers up a nice collection of bonus goodies, a few of which are ported over from The MGM Special Edition DVD (and, I’m guessing, the MGM Blu-ray release), but also include some really cool new supplements made exclusively for the Collector’s Edition.

Obviously the biggest “get” here are the new interviews, including none other than Mel Gibson. Say what you want about the guy and what goes on in his private life, but this man’s name is synonymous with the term Action Hero, and I commend Scream Factory for going that extra mile to secure his involvement in this release.  Gibson is joined by Joanne Samuel and cinematographer David Eggby, and, between the three, we are given a really nice stroll down memory lane, with each offering interesting tidbits on their respective parts in the film. Gibson is especially playful and endearing, and, goddamnit, I want this man back in my multiplexes pronto.

Also included is the previously available lively and informative commentary track with Eggby, here joined by FX team Chris Murray and David Ridge, as well as Art Director, Jon Dowding.

Featurettes include the previously released Mel Gibson: The Birth of a Superstar (HD) which offers a quick take on his rise to stardom, and Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon, which covers the franchise and its influence on cinema.  Rounding out the bonus features are some TV spots (HD), trailers (HD), and a photo gallery.

Mad Max is a classic, hugely influential example of action cinema, and Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray does right by it with an attractive transfer and booming audio, as well as a welcome collection of bonus features old and new that will surely please fans and newcomers alike. Highly recommended. 

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