Mad Max: Special Edition
It seems that all major film stars have a breakout role somewhere in their history, and Mel Gibson is no exception. While early successes such as The Road Warrior, Gallipoli, and the Lethal Weapon series vaulted him to international stardom, his first marquee turn came in 1979's Mad Max, a low-budget, high-explosive cop film that did a pretty good job of establishing his credentials in both action and drama categories, even if it was sullied by its American distributor. Gibson stars as Max Rockatansky, a patrolman with the Main Force Patrol (MFP) in a vague post-apocalyptic future. Max is among the top echelon of cops, but despite his skill at running down criminals his priorities lie at home with his wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and their young son. But when Max takes on escaped criminal The Nightrider in a game of chicken and The Nightrider winds up in a fireball crash, a local biker gang led by The Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) vows revenge, first by going after Max's partner Jim Goose (Steve Bisley), and then Max's family. The first picture from Aussie director George Miller, Mad Max is a small textbook on how to make an exciting movie with very little money. The lean script rarely wanders from its essential purpose as a straightforward revenge tale, and while it's clear that most of Miller & Co.'s efforts went into the various driving stunts and pyrotechnics, it's important to realize that Max is exciting not because it features car chases, but instead because of how these sequences are constructed, often with car-mounted cameras that place the action in the middle of the highway, as well as effective montages that wring every last bit out of the iron-and-bone collisions. And with Max's transformation towards the end of the piece from steadfast lawman to avenging angel, it's clear that the film's enduring popularity comes not just from the high-speed excitement, but also from the story's similarity to the morally nebulous Hollywood Westerns of the '50s, '60s, and beyond. MGM's Mad Max: Special Edition improves on the previous bare-bones release from Image Entertainment in several ways, but most significant is the inclusion of the original Australian soundtrack originally released in the U.S. with dubbed American voices, this is the first time Mad Max has been available on these shores in its proper state. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) features a very good source print, while the Aussie track comes in both DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 mono, and the mono American dub is included for good measure (a pan-and-scan transfer is also on board). Features include a commentary with original crew members, documentaries on the making of Mad Max and the early career of Mel Gibson, trailers and TV spots, and a gallery of international posters. Keep-case.