Mad Max: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

A slightly lesser remastering dims this re-release

For Mad Max, cheapness adds credibility. The Australian roads are barren. Businesses are ransacked. A lack of fuel is likely authentic to the set. What remains of a police station – The Hall of Justice – is a discarded mess. There is no need for production design when your behind-the-scenes world is in near ruin to match the film itself.

Mad Max is the rarefied example of pre-apocalypse. Society here is in decay yet not destroyed. Families still have a form of sensible existence. There are rules and curfews although none are further exposed through exposition. People who remain are trying to grasp onto any semblance of order and law. The police force numbers around six. Mad Max’s pro-police and pro violence-as-a-solution posturing is ample; lawlessness can be controlled with a shotgun. And a muscle car, of course.

… an Australian Death Wish less interested in the narrative process than it is the spectacle of death.

Amongst any cinematic peers, Mad Max proves to be an unorthodox feature, a cult-ish, punk car movie pulled together by an amplified revenge story – an Australian Death Wish less interested in the narrative process than it is the spectacle of death. Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky undergoes a wild metamorphosis, from street cop to family man to roadside avenger. The film follows along with a lean surrounding story the best it can, with ample patience.

While infinitely cliché to consider, “They don’t make them like this anymore,” runs true. Mad Max’s mean streak is dirty and explicit. The rawness visible and without a budget to cast a sheen over the action, it has become unsettling. Crashes are visibly performed without careful choreography or safety routines. Camera tricks would have been too expensive so it is, by default, real. Mad Max does not require splattering blood or gore either. The ideas and insinuations are enough.

A rise in murder rates throughout Australia during the late ’70s appear to have prompted Mad Max, an outlet as much as it is an expressive response. Mel Gibson is the answer to Australian murders as Bruce Willis is to a cataclysmic asteroid strike. The difference is Gibson’s cold approach. Fueled by emotion, he actually projects little. His stares are empty as he burns and runs over the men who killed his family. In the ten minutes preceding the credits, any niceties which came before have been forgotten. No one is allowed their happy moment grief-free.

To the extent of its cars – the memorable all black XB Falcon Coupe at its heart – Mad Max earns credentials as a testosterone-laden action film. It hardly needs Gibson as vehicles whip by the camera across the full expanse of the widescreen framing, smash into one another, or are set on fire. Gibson adds the touch of cruelty on foot to pull it together.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Get your motor runnin' @ 1:19:3

Shout Factory follows up MGM’s 2010 Mad Max Blu-ray release with a problematic piece of transfer work. Grain structure is immediately in question. It appears slightly frozen and processed. Filtering effects can be marginally apparent, weakening overall image fidelity. Weeds on the side of the many roads lack definition and close-ups on actors appear digitally smoothed – slightly. Resulting images feel older than a scan from 2010, let alone a new one.

There are also color anomalies. Reds are unusually bright. While the rest of the colors feel in control, those reds take on a glowing quality. Flesh tones veer pinkish, signs of an unnecessary magenta push. There are possibilities some of this could be caused by the source. Splotchy yellowing takes over the frame during a number of scenes, and light discoloration of the sky can be frequently be noticed. No effort to correct these age defects has been made. Print damage is almost silenced otherwise.

But why stop there when there are aliasing issues to consider? With distance, stripes on the police cars will break up. A silo in the background as Gibson runs across the farm shimmers with the camera move. Luckily, these are not widespread concerns.

In terms of detail, contrast, and black levels, any changes are too slim to be worth the update. Each is adequate anyway. High fidelity information is visible. Some close-ups are well rendered, albeit a few. Any signs in the background are legible. It’s a tolerable release, and for Shout, enough to capitalize on Warner’s reboot.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

Decisions are abound for audio. The English dub should be ignored outside of nostalgia reasons. That track’s quality has long since eroded. That leaves the two original Australian DTS-HD options, 5.1 and 2.0. The highlight to the surround mix is tracking. Motorcycles and cars whip through the soundfield effortlessly. Such an effect barely seems artificial at all, impressive coming from a mono source.

Where the mix begins to fall apart is prioritization. A majority remains true to the original mono, staying in the center but giving precedence to action and the score. Certain (albeit minor) lines of dialog feel crushed under the sounds of engines. In comparison to the 2.0, which feels brighter if not necessarily any clearer, this drowning effect is minimized. While neither mix is pure or free of aging, there will be preferences.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Twenty six minutes of new interviews are offered for this Collector’s Edition, bringing in Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, and DP David Eggby. These are edited together out of sequence instead of focusing on one speaker at a time. Die-hard fans may know the stories, yet they’re nice to hear from the key players. Two older feaurettes, Mel Gibson: Birth of a Superstar and Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon, run 40-minutes as a pair. They have been around for some time. Likewise, the commentary is also an older one, but makes for a complete round of bonuses. David Eggby, art director Jon Dowding, effects artist Chris Murray, and historian Tim Ridge are the speakers.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

  • I actually like Mad Max’s sequels more than the original.

  • I was actually surprised to see how slow this one was. All of the images in my head were of Road Warrior and I had never seen this one before now. It was a bit of shock, but I still think it’s an interesting movie on its own.