Image Entertainment // 1979 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // July 7th, 1999
The Maximum Force of the Future.
The "widescreen edition" of Mad Max on DVD is nothing to be happy with, unless you want to buy the film for $30 on DVD which is just a slight upgrade of the VHS version.
Mad Max is the film that shot Mel Gibson into internationally stardom and out of the outback. The film is the story of Max who is a police officer in a bleak futuristic Australia, where biker gangs rule the highways. After Max causes the death of "the Nightrider," a member of a gang led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the gang targets Max's partner Goose (Steve Bisley) for revenge. Following the death of his partner, Max decides to quit law enforcement and travel the countryside with his family. Unfortunately for Max, his family runs into Toecutter and his gang, which leads to a fight for survival and revenge on the highway.
The film itself looks its best in widescreen (as opposed to pan and scan) as the 2.35:1 aspect ratio reveals more of the on-screen action. Director George Miller does a great job filming the exciting chase scenes that really pull you into the film from the start of the movie. This story of revenge is very common but given a new face in the Australian outback where he who controls the roads, controls the world.
Mad Max is my favorite film of the Mad Max series, but unfortunately its DVD treatment is probably the worst the series has received on DVD.
There are enough problems with this disc to shake a stick at. First of all, I'll deal with the transfer. The widescreen image is not anamorphically enhanced and is really just a little better than what you can get on VHS, except for the fact that the resolution of the image is a bit higher. Being 20 years old the film is dated and the transfer displays this. Watching the film you can see a great deal of nicks and scratches as well as a constant state of grain that never goes away (although it does sort of fit the motif for the film). Then there is the audio...a mono track! If someone took the time to develop a Dolby Digital 5.1 track for Mad Max it would definitely be a great mix because of all the car chases and gun battles which allow for great use of a subwoofer and surround speakers. But no, you get a mono track, which leads me to my next complaint.
Dubbing. Yes, this film is dubbed. It has always been dubbed for Americans because director George Miller felt Americans would not be able to understand the Australians in this film with their thick accents. However, the non-dubbed audio track is out there and would really be good as an extra track on this disc as watching people being dubbed over who are speaking English just really looks stupid.
You might have noticed I didn't mention anything about extra content above...that's because there isn't any! The menu screen you access on this disc is used as scene selection. Not even a trailer. There are plenty of things they could do with this disc, especially given the film's cult following, such as a commentary track, a documentary, production notes, behind-the-scenes information, et cetera. With these additions the disc would probably sell tons of copies...but instead they let a film with a real audience fall by the wayside.
Granted, this was one of the first DVDs ever to be released. It could definitely use an update now that more features of the DVD format have been exploited.
For $30 I find it hard to even recommend this disc to fans of the Mad Max series. Save your money and watch the widescreen version when they air it on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Image Entertainment is sentenced to death by electric chair.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated R