Mad Max appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though a few concerns popped up along the way, as a whole I was quite impressed with the quality of this image.
Sharpness seemed strong. The movie remained crisp most of the time, as I discerned few signs of softness or fuzziness. It was a nicely focused and tight presentation as a whole. I detected no concerns related to edge enhancement or jagged edges, and shimmering also was absent.
Print flaws appeared quite minor for an older film. I saw a handful of specks and marks, but nothing major occurred. The movie remained pretty clean as a whole. Not a lot of grain appeared, which made me fear the use of excessive digital noise reduction, but I suspect that the source simply was never very grainy. Some bouts of grain still materialized, and a lot of the movie was shot either in daytime exteriors or in bright lighting, which wouldíve minimized apparent grain.
In terms of colors, the movie featured a somewhat overblown and washed-out look to match the desolate setting. However, when brighter hues made sense, the disc replicated them with solid vividness and accuracy, and the colors consistently appeared clear and distinct. Black levels also came across as reasonably deep and rich, and shadow detail looked clean and appropriately opaque. Overall, I was impressed with the visual presentation of Mad Max, as it easily exceeded my expectations.
The filmís remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack wasnít quite up to the standards set by the picture, but it was decent. One positive note: the audio came from the original ďAustralian EnglishĒ recording and not from the atrocious American dub that most US fans know. Apparently the distributors thought Yanks couldnít handle those thick Aussie accents, so we were stuck with a terrible looped edition.
In any case, the disc replicated this situation. For those who remain interested, the American dub also appeared on the disc, as did the original monaural Australian track. While the 5.1 mix expanded the horizons of the latter, it didnít do so to a tremendous degree. During many parts of the movie, the soundfield essentially remained monaural. Music and effects demonstrated some spread to the sides and the rear; for example, at times I heard cars as they zoomed from one area to another, and music came from a mix of channels. However, the track stayed largely focused in the center, so donít expect any audio gymnastics from it.
Sound quality seemed acceptable but lackluster. Speech often sounded somewhat flat and indistinct, but the lines always remained intelligible, and they showed no signs of edginess. Effects were similarly clean but they displayed little dynamic range; overall, they came across as relatively accurate but showed no power. Music seemed pretty flat as well; though the club scene added some depth, the score generally seemed bland though still clear. Bass response rarely mustered more than a vague rumble. Overall, this was a listenable track that appeared acceptable for its era and budget limitations, but it seemed fairly lackluster nonetheless.
How did the picture and sound of the Blu-ray compare to those of the 2002 Special Edition? Audio was similar, as I didnít think the lossless track added much to the experience. It mightíve been a bit more dynamic, but not much; there was only so much that could be done with crummy old monaural stems.
On the other hand, visuals demonstrated a nice step up in quality. I thought the DVD looked nice, but the Blu-ray demonstrated tighter, better defined material. It looked very good and clearly topped the DVD.
The Blu-ray includes all of the 2002 DVDís extras Ė partially because it also includes the 2002 DVD! It tosses in that Special Edition DVD as a bonus. Thatís nice on its own, but itís especially good because only a few of its material port over to the Blu-ray. If something appears on the Blu-ray and the DVD, Iíll mark it in special blue print. If you donít see the blue type, that means the component resides solely on the bonus DVD.
We begin with an audio commentary from director of photography David Eggby, production designer Jon Dowding, special effects technician Chris Murray, and historian/collector Tim Ridge. The first three men clearly were recorded together, but it sounded as though Ridge was taped separately; he only turns up on occasion, and his remarks seem somewhat detached from those of the other participants. That said, Ridgeís work is integrated awfully cleanly, to the point where although I believe he didnít sit with the others, Iím not positive
Whatever the case may be, this is a reasonably interesting track. Not surprisingly, technical issues dominate the piece, and those elements add some useful information to the package. We learn about a variety of production elements, many of which revolve around the challenges created by the low budget. At times, the track sags, but as a whole, it seems reasonably entertaining and instructive.
In addition, you can watch the film along with Road Rants. Billed as a ďtrivia and fun facts trackĒ, this subtitle stream provides just what it indicates. A variety of factoids pop up fairly consistently throughout the movie, though quite a few empty spaces occur. These tell us about the filmís vehicles, its actors, production details, goofs, translations of Aussie lingo, and a few other elements. It canít be called a tremendously informative program, and it gets some facts wrong - such as its claim that only six women appear in Max - but it adds some interesting details to the mix.
We also discover two different featurettes. First up is Mel Gibson: The High Octane Birth of a Superstar. This 16-minute and 40-second piece features movie clips for Max and a couple of other Gibson flicks from the era along with new interviews from some folks who worked with Gibson in the early days. We hear from college acting teacher Betty Williams, producer Phil Avalon and actor John Jarratt - who worked on Melís debut flick, Summer City - plus Gibson agent Faith Martin, Max casting director Mitch Mathews and director of photography David Eggby, as well as director Michael Pate and actress Piper Laurie, who knew Gibson during his follow-up to Max called Tim.
Abandon hope all ye who expect substantial information here! Instead, ďOctaneĒ is a painfully superficial discussion of how everyone knew Mel would be special. We learn how talented and handsome he was and how he was destined for greatness. The program is insanely fawning and gushing as it piles praise upon praise upon even more praise. A couple of minor factoids add slight interest, but overall, this is a bad program.
The second featurette - called Mad Max: The Film Phenomenon - isnít great, but itís a substantial improvement over its predecessor. This 25-minute and 30-second piece combines a little behind the scenes footage and some more movie clips plus additional interviews. We hear from DP Eggby, production designer Jon Dowding, special effects technician Chris Murray, Australian film critic David Stratton, American critics Andrew Johnston and Kirk Honeycutt, and Max historian/collector Tim Ridge.
On the negative side, ďPhenomenonĒ is also pretty gushy as it frequently tells us what a great movie Max is. However, at least this one includes some actual information. Due to the personnel involved, it tends toward the technical side, and frankly, it seems rather redundant since we hear from so many of the same folks in the commentary. It really could have used a wider scope; the absence of director George Miller or any of the actors is a definite problem. Overall, ďPhenomenonĒ is a decent but excessively fawning and hyperbolic documentary.
A few minor extras round out the package. We get two trailers, both of which use the awful US dub. Donít watch these first if youíve not seen the movie; they reveal an awful lot of the story. We also get four TV Spots.
An International Poster Gallery includes 16 images, some from a later reissue of the film; these call it Mad Max 1. The Blu-ray also tosses in Bonus Trailers for Rollerball (2002), The Terminator, Species and Windtalkers.
Though undeniably influential, I didnít think Mad Max offered a terrific film experience. The flick had its moments, and I could definitely see its impact on later movies, but the flick itself seemed decent but unspectacular as a whole. The Blu-ray provided a very strong picture with acceptable sound and a fair though somewhat drab pile of supplements. While Iím not wild about the movie, I like this Blu-ray, and with a reasonable MSRP of less than $25, itís a nice upgrade for fans who already own the DVD. For those who donít have the 2002 SE but want to own Mad Max, this is a no-brainer, especially since it includes both discs.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of MAD MAX