Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MAD MAX (Blu-ray & DVD)

Arguably the most influential genre film of the late 70s, the George Miller/Byron Kennedy-directed MAD MAX (1979) was released last month on high definition Blu-Ray by MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Set in the near-future where society's infrastructure is crumbling and the economy and government are rapidly falling apart, the officers of the Main Force Patrol are the last bastion of law and order, attempting despite incredible obstacles, to protect civilians from nomadic bands of ravagers. One MFP patrolman, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) gets on the bad side of a particularly vicious gang of these motorcycle marauders, and when they brutally murder his wife and child, Max sets out alone - behind the wheel of his ebony, V8 "Interceptor" - down the bloody road to revenge.

A major international hit in 1979, the Australian-produced MAD MAX sired two theatrical sequels, which were released domestically by Warner Brothers (MAX was distributed in the U.S. by American International Pictures, who re-dubbed all the Australian voices with American actors), and made a major Hollywood personality out of Gibson. MAX and its sequels also spawned a slew of imitators from all over the world, action-packed post-Apocalyptic Westerns where the good guys wore fetishistic leather and the barbarians of the future sported a look inspired by the punk rock and professional wrestling scenes.

What is sometimes forgotten is just how good a movie MAD MAX is. Produced on a microscopic budget by an inventive and intrepid crew of filmmakers in the Australian outback, MAX is remarkably well-paced, acted and shot. The story is simple, straightforward and emotionally resonant, and the action scenes not only still hold up now, 31 years later, but are more impressive than much of what you see on screen in 2010. There was no CGI when this film was made. So what you get are real cars, real drivers, real explosions and real stuntmen risking life and limb to capture the astounding chase sequences that open and close the film.

The new Blu-Ray disc from MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment appears to use the same source material as the 2002 Special Edition DVD (which is included in this package). That's fine, because it's an amazing, pristine transfer that is now presented in 1080p HD at its correct, 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Audio is a resounding 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio in the original Australian English. The American voice track, as well as Spanish and French dubs, are provided as mono options. Extras on the Blu-Ray disc are both duplicated from the SE DVD - an audio commentary by crew members Jon Dowding, David Eggby, Chris Murray & Tim Ridge, a retrospective documentary, and theatrical trailers.

As noted above, this package also includes the 2002 Special Edition DVD. This "flipper" disc includes both a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and a 1.33:1 pan & scan version. Audio is 5.1 Dolby Surround. It sports the same extras as the Blu-Ray disc plus a photo gallery, TV spots, and a pop-up trivia track.

MAD MAX is a genuine classic and should be in every cult film fan's video library. Obviously, this new high definition Blu-Ray is the finest presentation of the film to date, far surpassing even the original theatrical showings (especially those in U.S. drive-ins), and it's very reasonably priced. Highly recommended.

BUY: Mad Max (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)