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Feature


In the ravaged near-future, a savage motorcycle gang rules the road. Terrorizing innocent civilians while tearing up the streets, the ruthless gang laughs in the face of a police force, hell-bent on stopping them. But they underestimate one officer: Max (Mel Gibson). And, when the bikers brutalize Max's best friend and family, they send him into a mad frenzy that leaves him with only one thing left in the world to live for – revenge! (From Scream Factory’s original synopsis)

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition
The Road Warrior (1981), known as Mad Max 2 throughout most of the world, is a truly unique, impressionistic action experience. It is a Great and Important Movie by design. Director George Miller’s previous (and debut) film, Mad Max (known as Mad Max 1 by unnecessarily pedantic people), is a cheap, dirty, and perfectly pure exploitation vehicle. Like all the best and most enduring exploitation movies, Mad Max didn’t set out to be a Great and Important Movie – it set out to entertain jaded audiences with a good gimmick; in this case, insane car stunts. Of course, insane car stunts were nothing new in 1979, so Miller and his crew had to get double extra insane with their car stunts and this plucky fortitude makes Mad Max an accidental Great and Important Movie.

The opening chase is twelve minutes of perfection and a regular master class in low-budget action. The stuntmen are fearless, the vehicles are utterly decimated, the editing is tuned to perfection, and the camera work will give you whiplash if you’re not careful. Miller doesn’t only establish the scale of action he’s attempting – he establishes the rules of a crime-riddled near-future (unlike every other movie in the series, Mad Max isn’t a post-apocalyptic story) and the super-powered driving abilities The dramatic and story-driven sequences that follow are admirable, but don’t follow quite the same standard. Despite some surprisingly boring stretches in the middle act, even the slowest sequences are rarely wasteful. Lasting themes of corrupt, ineffective bureaucracy are developed alongside character, which gives genuine impact to the savage, systematic murders that feed Max’s furious acts of vengeance.

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition

Video


When Scream Factory released a special edition John Carpenter’s Escape from New York last month, they remastered MGM’s HD transfer. According to release info, they decided it wasn’t necessary in this case and ‘did a clean-up’ (their words) on the previous Mad Max Blu-ray transfer. Aside from some occasionally mushy details and the clumps of dirt that cake over some scenes (largely action sequences, leading me to think that there was literally oil and dust leaking into the camera), this 2.35:1, 1080p transfer is acceptable and possibly as good as we can expect from the material, unless someone puts the money into a full 4K rescan. It might be possible to squeeze more detail from the original negatives (assuming that those still exist).

I do not own the older release, so I can’t make a direct comparison between the releases to specify the breadth of the supposed ‘clean-up,’ but I do know that a lot of fan forums have been buzzing with fear that Scream Factory would employ the dreaded DNR wand and smooth the finer textures into waxy blobs. Good news, worrywarts – all evidence points to very little DNR enhancement. Some of the sweaty faces and craggy textures have a slightly plastic transitional quality, but it’s so minor that it may just be an oversensitive reaction on my part. By the same token, the grain is thick and consistent, including plenty of those clumpy, dirty inserts. Because I’ve only ever seen Mad Max on television and DVD, I can only say that the gamma balance matches my expectations, but also acknowledge that the overriding darkness does soften and shade some of the details. The edges aren’t encased in thick enhancement haloes (though they are present in the broadest wide shots), though some scenes show other signs of over-sharpening, including moiré effect along some of the more complex patterns. Colours are punched up, especially well-lit reds and yellows, to the point that they bloom. Some of the dimly lit blacks suffer a slightly green tinting, but, otherwise, the colour timing seems accurate.

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition

Audio


So, Scream Factory didn’t fully upgrade the video, but they have upgraded the audio. More specifically, they’ve given viewers more uncompressed audio options. This disc features a 5.1 remix, a stereo mix (which I think might be mislabeled, because it sounds mono to me), and the original mono version of the American dubbed track, which MGM made for Mad Max’s US release (it’s fun to have the option, but, boy, is it not the ideal way to watch the movie). The MGM Blu-ray included the 5.1 remix in DTS-HD Master Audio, but their two original mono options were compressed into Dolby Digital. I spent most of my time listening to the 5.1 remix, which is tastefully produced to enhance the existing sound effects without losing the basic feel of the single channel treatment. The bulk of the dialogue and basic effects are still centered and no one has fiddled with the volume levels in an attempt to normalize the occasionally uneven dialogue. The original sound design, which brilliantly fetishized the rumbling, screaming sounds of the car engines, is given a nice bump from the stereo, surround, and LFE augmentations.

Mad Max was composer Brian May’s follow-up to his success on Richard Franklin’s incredibly popular supernatural thriller Patrick (1978). Not to be confused with the lead guitarist from Queen, May went on to be one of Australia’s most prolific feature film composers until his untimely death in 1993. His boisterous, melodramatic motifs are the final ingredient in the stew. The music is slightly stifled on all of the tracks (it doesn’t seem like it was remixed from a stereo original), but still plenty effective and very rarely distorted at high volumes. My only concern here is that there isn’t a mono ‘Australian language’ option – at least not according to the specs.

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition

Extras


  • Commentary with art director Jon Dowding, director of photography David Eggby, special effects artist Chris Murray, and historian/critic/George Miller’s friend Tim Ridge – This composite commentary track has been transplanted from MGM’s first special edition, way back in 2002. It’s relatively fast-moving, full of information, but can be a little stiff as well. Ridge helps fill the gaps.
  • Interviews with Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, and director of photography David Eggby (26:30, HD) – These new interviews are probably the biggest deal about this release. The fact that they were able to get Gibson to participate is a pretty big deal, but Samuel’s appearance is also a pleasant surprise. Despite some overlap with the commentary track (naturally, considering Eggby’s involvement), the discussion has a nice personal slant.
  • Mel Gibson: The Birth Of A Superstar (16:40, SD) – A fluffy featurette on the actor’s ‘meteoric rise’ that first appeared on the special edition DVD.
  • Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon – Another holdover from the MGM DVD. This quickly covers the movie’s production with a number of cast, crew, and critical interviews.
  • Trailers and TV spots
  • Image galleries


 Mad Max: Collector's Edition

Overall


After years of forcing myself to acknowledge that there was no way Mad Max could ever match the unique force of The Road Warrior, I’ve finally been able to appreciate its fearlessly exploitative acts of violence, tasteful homoerotic undertones, and exceedingly weird villains on their own merits. Scream Factory has prepared a nice collector’s edition set here, but I’m not sure I can whole-heartedly recommend that the people that already own the MGM Blu-ray to spend money on a double-dip (likely a triple or quadruple-dip for some fans). Still, it appears to be an improvement on most levels. Though the transfers are more or less the same (I apologize that I can’t supply specific screen cap comparisons in this case), Scream Factory has supplied more uncompressed audio options, and a more complete set of extras, including a brand new interview with Mel Gibson.

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition

 Mad Max: Collector's Edition
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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