“Save it … I’m just here for the gasoline.”
Picture“They say people don’t believe in heroes anymore. Well damn them! You and me, Max. We’re gonna give ‘em back their heroes!”
Mad Max (2.35:1) has the same transfer that it received last time around – and a bloody good one it is too. Here’s what I said back then.
I like this hi-def transfer of Mad Max quite a lot. The 2.35:1 print comes to BD via an AVC encode and it takes an image that has almost always looked quite dry and shabby and spruced it up with appreciable vigour so that it now boats stronger colours, some clearly apparent improvement in the definition and more robust blacks. The picture is film-like and retains its grain with no untoward use of the DNR button. Print damage is still noticeable, but it is extremely mild – there are a couple of white dots (one very glaring that lingers over a couple of shots), some fluttery yellow stain-blobs, one frame jump (right at the start as Charlie argues with Big Bopper as to who is going to drive) and some rapid colour fluctuations during the opening chase (most obvious during our introduction to Goose in the roadside diner).
Contrast is actually quite good, in the main, although this does fluctuate on occasion, which I think will also be down to the original source. Colours may have had some boosting, but with the exception of the neon sign for Fat Nancy’s diner – which has always been on the bright side, but blazes so intensely now that it becomes fuzzy, and does look like an error to me – they seem fine and appropriate to me. Skin tones are reasonably naturalistic – especially the swarthy, grime-scuffed complexion of the Nightrider – and the bleached-blonde locks of Steve Bisley’s Goose now stand out all the more. Fifi’s shiny bald bonce and that curious little blur-blob tattoo on the back of it look more naturalistic, but I’m still having trouble seeing that little spider that is apparently wandering over it. Those piercing blue eyes of Gibson are surprisingly restrained, however, with only a couple of iconic shots allowing them to blaze through the screen. Blood is now a touch brighter. The explosion of Max’s knee-cap, for instance, looks a lot more vivid. The brilliant blue and yellow of the Ford Falcons provides a beautiful contrast to the otherwise drab (and intentionally so) landscapes that surround them. The poor Chevy that gets ripped apart provides scarlet and silver-chrome highlights against the dusty blacktop and fields. I think the primaries have been lifted perhaps a little bit too much but, as I say, this works well as a garish counterpoint with the dry and grubby setting.
When we turn our attention to the extra definition, we find more detail in the MFP badges on the jackets and crests on the cars. The scruffy interior of the Halls of Justice yield more junk, scrawl and bric-a-brac littered about. The detail on the costumes is definitely improved, from the zips and buckles to the possum epaulettes on Toecutter and the shine on the leather jackets. Car interiors, bike speedometers and the tools in the beach-side garage offer cleaner and crisper edges and delineation. The shotgun pellet holes in the mannequin and the wounds on the face of the stricken bloke within the bashed-up wreck of his car are more finely etched. The excellently lensed chase through the woods is also sharper and more convincingly shadow-drenched than ever before. Detail on the bark and on the leaves may not be finite, but you won’t have seen it this clear, and the sheer depth-of-field makes this sequence a distinct improvement of any prior home video incarnation. Fast action, an essential element of Mad Max, is well held with smooth panning and no overt aliasing taking place as bodies and vehicles take to the skies and go for some bone-crunching gymnastics.
This is a fine 1080p makeover. It certainly won’t set the world of high definition transfers alight, but this is definitely a very worthy upgrade for a little backwaters exploitation flick that put Australian Cinema on the world map.
“The deal was I wouldn’t kill you. I’d say you got a bargain, wouldn’t you?”
Mad Max 2 (2.40:1) now gets a new transfer – well to be more precise, a new encode. We have gone from VC1 to AVC. One that was alleged to be a little bit more realistic and natural in terms of skin-tones and the overall colour palette, although the much-mooted rumours of a newly timed transfer have proved to be pretty much unfounded in actual terms. Personally, I actually like the film to look hotter, and I am pleased that the more burnished veneer that dripped the arid desert of the scorched Outback off the screen has not been altered. This image, at first though, did appear more subdued, and with a vista that was somewhat cooler, fresher looking and less comic-book vivid as a result. But closer inspection and flicking back and forth between the two discs (only over a couple of scenes, though – far too fiddly otherwise, and my eyes were going as bulbous as Bruce Spence’s!) reveals that the timing is the same, it is just that contrast levels seem to have been modified ever so slightly this time around. Which, to me, makes the image appear that bit more vitalized and crisp. Again, this is a minute difference, though, and it would probably take much larger displays to make such things out.
Detail is excellent again. Gravel and stone is sharply rendered on the roads and the desert. The patterns in body-armour, the rivets in steel plates, the fastenings of wrist-mounted crossbows, the smut on clothes and neckerchiefs – all the minute little things are closely adhered to. We can see more of the colours and design-work on the Gyro-copter, including the nudie picture. Quivers of arrows and little pennants in the enemy camp, the colours of darts etc. The purple parts of the costume of one marauder who breaks into the good guy’s camp before being shot down. These are more apparent than before. Or, at least, seem to be. Although it is a somewhat amusing example to use to illustrate the clarity that this transfer is capable of, have a look at Dog rolling about as he realizes that Max has just opened up a can of Dinky-Dis. Or, if you prefer, have a gander at the young lady astride the marauder as Max’s rig wrenches their tent-cover away. The grains of sand falling through Max’s fingers. The dirt and rust on the handcuffs and chains. There is a lot more here than may have previously met the eye.
Now the image has photography that may be quite stunning for much of the time, but you have to accept that there are many, many times when the picture loses distinction and becomes fuzzy round the gills, almost out of focus. This has always been the case and should not be lambasted here. One particular set of frames really exemplifies how detailed and sharp this image can be. When Max and the Gyro-Captain are observing via telescope and binoculars Wez and Co. rape and mutilate, there is a wealth of detail in their faces, their hair, their eyes, their teeth – especially the Captain’s horrible molars. Little flies incessantly buzzing around and crawling on clothes and props are also much more apparent. Plus, in the scene, once the Gyro Captain recoils and turns away after the woman has been murdered, the image becomes very yellow, the contrast slightly thwarted. This is exactly the same on both versions.
So, we have excellent sharpness at times, and we also have the softer, much less defined elements too. This said, the action, where it really counts, is never smudged, nor blurred and there is no aliasing to mar to the walloping incidents that hurtle across the screen. 21-year-old Guy Norris, who performs that death-defying 65-foot somersault through the air looks sharply delineated despite his eye-popping velocity. The hideous expression on Wez’s blood-smeared face when he suddenly rears up over the hood of the engine to grab the Feral Kid and then turns, in horror, to face the oncoming Humungus is very clearly presented, with his eyes, his Mohawk and his feathers, war-paint and blood gashes really standing out prominently. Naturally, this replicates the bulging eyeballs of the Toecutter as he faces the truck coming straight at him at the end of Mad Max.
So, as we have seen, Semler’s photography has more of that anamorphic softness to the sidelines this time out, but it is still remarkably sumptuous and startlingly composed, with a keen eye for long-shots filled with a variety of action. His aerial shots are also striking.
Varying cloud cover and differing natural light have not been altered or smoothed a la Jaws, so don’t go expecting any sort of express visual continuity. Flames aren’t garish and do not seem as boosted as I once thought they were. Skin-tones are less florid, and appear paler and dustier. Striations in hair are well-adhered to in many shots. I should know – I have been studying that cool blonde streak in Max’s hair, virtually strand by strand to that my own could replicate it as perfectly as possible. Oh, and a little plug for the salon that MAXimised me – it’s called, get this, Mac & Mohawk!!!!! How about that!
Three-dimensionality is at a premium too. There are the obvious shots of shotguns, crossbows and telescopes thrust into our faces, but the camera set-ups and lenses also afford tremendous fore, mid and rear-ground separation. Even the first film had great elements of this, although it still had a flatter overall appearance.
To my eyes, Mad Max 2 looks extremely good in this transfer. There hasn’t been any detrimental digital manipulation, and the image looks perfectly cinematic, rough edges and all. It is a film that will never have a consistent “look” because of the way in which it was shot and all the extraneous variables that were incurred with such an extensive location, and on-the-hoof, catch the light shooting style. There will be some people who insist that it is no longer as colourful and ribald as the previous release, but I don’t think this is the case at all.
“They always said that the living would envy the dead.”
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (2.40:1) Really wobbly title on this one.
Both Georges Miller and Ogilvie had high aspirations for this one. So much so that they presented it 70mm in the tradition of Lawrence of Arabia and the magnificent large format classics of Hollywood’s heyday. You can see why this would be so – the film is absolutely sumptuous and totally in love with its immensity and engrossing panorama. The locations, be they as a barren and sun-scoured as hell’s backside, are lent such an enormity and a sense of impenetrable immediacy that you feel small and insignificant as the screen sucks you in. Dean Semler’s photography is the best of the series here. No question. Lots of astonishing depth, terrific angles, immaculately constructed compositions and totally organic and fluid movement rule every scene and shot. And for those in awe of such things – like me – there are lots of lens flares too. Those long shots are now much more starkly rendered and better focused. Max’s first glimpse of Bartertown, Aunty’s armada setting off, down from the ridge, the appearance of the sand-covered plane, the sudden vision of the buggies and bikes and trucks hurtling after the train.
Much of this larger-scale material is dusty and swirled-up with clouds of sand. This naturally mires a lot of finite detail during the wider action, but this is only to be expected, and the fact remains that you can still perceive a remarkable amount of information even during the most frame-packed and most propulsive shots. There are definitely items, characters and oddities on display in the bustling environs of Bartertown and the kids’ idyllic enclave. Look at the flags of the Imperial Guards. Know what? I’d never noticed them before and I’ve seen this film countless times. As with Road Warrior, there is a great sense of depth and three-dimensionality. Spatiality is wisely and rewardingly accomplished.
There are some smudges on the print, noticeable against the blue skies. One elongated thumb-print seems to linger for a little bit too long. I noticed a couple of hairline vertical slices, but they are faint. This palette this time around is very ochre-tinted. We are burnished, golden and orange. Dust is thick in the air and swirling around the frame almost constantly. In terms of grain, this works well, but there are times, especially down in the lost tribe’s paradise when the grain can bubble-up into something suspiciously like noise. I wasn’t perturbed by this, and the texture does remain mostly very pleasing and rewarding. In fact, grain is very heavy in this print – and mostly adding a terrific sense of course texture. Something I didn’t quite like though was the wobbling within the frame. I noticed this on several occasions, but for example, have a look at Frank Thring, the Collector’s face during the deal-making between Max and Aunty (“You hit him, you go.”) - his face is quivering in a manner that does not look cinematic at all to me.
The more the films go on, the more I miss the red, blue and yellow MFP cars from the first film. Aye, Max’s black V8 is a bruised glory, but these beauties are so damn cool and they really look resplendent onscreen.
What I love about the visual appearance of this film is the use contrast. A large portion of the movie flits between the shadow and colour of Bartertown and the thick, fetid gloom and heat of Underworld. Down here, amidst the oppressive gloom, faces and fires are ignited in corners of the shadowy depths. The icky brown of the pig-crap is disgustingly accurate and those fires deliver a tangible heat. Now, although I love this look, I don’t think the transfer really does this level of contrast the greatest of favours. It doesn’t muck things up at all, but I would have hoped for a cleaner and less muddy delineation. Some elements do seem to fall some way deeper into the murk than I would have liked. And blacks, whilst very satisfying for much of the time, can occasionally lapse in integrity. One area for concern was the silver-grey sheen of Aunty’s high-rise pagoda could have posed significant problems for banding and loss of detail within the gauzy haze. Thankfully, elements like the diffused lighting, the odd eyes of Ton-Ton Tattoo, the oriental sax-player and the detail on Aunty’s chainmail and the feathered shoulder-pads of her guards are not obscured.
Edges can have haloes around them. The dusk and pre-dawn photography and the ferocious glare of the sun can account for the majority of this, though. But group scenes of massed character or machines arranged across high rise hills and ridges do not reveal any such sharpening.
Three transfers enter … all three leave.
Room for improvement? Well, yes, of course there is. But I have to say that, barring only a small number of mostly understandable niggles, I am impressed with how all three films look on Blu. They are film-like, detailed and mostly pretty damn faithful.
I hate scoring these things … but this is all part of the deal.
Mad Max … 8/10
Mad Max 2... 8/10
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome… 8/10
Fairly good grouping, I’d say.
Sound“Two days ago I saw a rig that’d haul that tanker. You want to get outta here? You talk to me.”
Mad Max– well, here’s a kicker. For its standalone release, this classic received a DTS-HD MA 5.1 as well as its original mono mix – both with Australian voices intact. Now we have been fobbed-off with just a DD 5.1 track. Yep – it’s serviceable enough, and at least it has the original Aussie dialogue, and that’s the best I can say for it when we know that there is better out there. So I’m not even going to grace it with any further comment.
Mad Max 2.
Ahhh, now suddenly we can bring that smile back to our faces, because unlike Road Warrior’s previous Blu-release which was still lossy, we now get to hear Max’s battle with Wez and the Humungus in full DTS-HD-MA 5.1.
I wouldn’t say that the difference is huge, however. But the efficiency and the delivery of the roaring roadsters, the rollicking impacts and the bludgeoning vehicles shunted this way and that all sound louder, deeper and more muscular, with more propensity for lower level gut-reaction. Brian May’s famously minimal score is presented with decent fidelity and just the right amount of brazen oomph during its most bombastic and percussive moments. Listen to those little darts whizzing through the air; the spine-crunch as a marauder gets walloped with a wrench over the back of the head; the snap-crack landing of Wez’s bike as he negotiates the crash-chicane during the first chase; the bullets thudding with metallic echo into the plating of the rig’s engine casing.
Dialogue was never this film’s strong point. Some of it is quite muted and subdued. Mike Preston may as well not bother opening his mouth for all the power and integrity his voice possesses. Though, if I’m pushed, I will say that even his naff and thoroughly unrousing speeches to the troops sound clearer than ever before, when they have tended to become lost in the background.
The Feral Kid’s whizzing boomerang is still a great effect. It scythes through the air with a really tangible metallic swish, although a little bit more actual directionality would have been nice. The crunch of the signpost during the first chase, the one that makes Dog suddenly sit up and look around is neatly positioned and hasn’t been needlessly enhanced. Engines do roar from behind you and vehicles definitely move past you, and even from side to side, so there is certainly some prioritizing and steerage going on that probably wasn’t as noticeable last time around.
The big boom as Max’s booby-trapped car goes supernova is a glorious event – sad, of course, to see it go up like that, but is an audio glory, all the same. The warped vocals of the Gyro-Captain and the slowed-down blurring of his rotors sound majestically woozy as the brain-bashed Max struggles to regain consciousness. Crazy stingers, such as when a trapped and dying baddie screams his last from the wreckage, Wez screams his rage down the road at Max with brassy accompaniment and then a decomposing body tumbles out at Max are give good prominence. Subtleties like the misfiring shotgun-shell fizzing, and the creaking of Max’s leg-brace, and the crushing of Wez’s ribs in the grip of Humungus sound decent too. The mix doesn’t lose track of the smaller details. Individual bits of metal and glass scattering across the road when Max ploughs the truck through the red corvette can be agreeably discerned in the mix. The blast that blows the driver's head apart is also quite satisfyingly emphatic.
This was an adventurous sound design created within some strict limitations. Although it has some flaws, I still get a real kick out of it.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Another DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. And it’s a reasonably good one, as well. It won’t win any awards, the original sound design, which was, to be quite honest, pretty inventive and audacious at the time, is still fairly dated and lacklustre when you compare it to more recent material. Of course – you expected that though, didn’t you? So, let’s just get on with the good stuff.
Jarre’s score – all those anvils, the sax that can be either mournful or raucous, the didgeridoo and that battalion of percussion and brass – is rip-snortingly enjoyable, but it definitely lacks the power and bass foundation that would have gone down such a treat. The opening titles, with the desert winds striking up and the beat of One of the Living kicking in, are great, although I wish the metal lightning-bolt that signifies the actual title card made more of an actual impact. It sounds quite hollow to me.
The weird little plane certainly makes a successful overhead flyby, and there are many more moments when the rears will lend such aid. Those clanging anvils and the hubbub of Bartertown provide some life and energy. Again, nothing that is going to blow your socks off by modern standards, but at least some attention has been afforded the extra channels.
The odd explosion is suitably weighty, and the chugging of the train along the tracks, as is the bouncing up and down on Max that Blaster does in the arena, but this isn’t a track that is going to wow or amaze with its sub action. You keep expecting something really sub-heavy and weighty to happen during the Thunderdome fight, especially as Max is continually clanged into the metal walls, but nothing really exciting ever does. Oh, it’s never boring … and let’s face it, the mix is now quite vintage, but you can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed that you aren’t wincing a bit more with the body blows. The car-alarm and the whistle that Max uses to drive Blaster barmy earlier on do come over with a realistically annoying timbre.
When Jedediah Jnr, the pilot’s bolshie son, swings shut the bonnet of the half-submerged car that is the entrance to a hidden subterranean lair, the clang resounds all around us, which was quite pleasing. The circus-like swirling around the arena as everyone screams and chants and Jarre’s wild and discordant music gets out of control is also nicely panned around the speakers but, as I said earlier, the arena set-piece doesn’t then exploit its potential anywhere near enough. When Ironbar is swinging his legs up and over all those track-side obstacles, there is an enjoyable sense of motion and of close-shave whooshing … but the impact of his off-camera landing a short while later is not as strongly represented as I always remembered in its DVD incarnation. Well, I haven’t gone back and checked, to be honest, but I did think that this would register with a little bit more force than it does.
Dialogue is good. Unlike the previous two movies, the mix is far more consistent in this regard, and speech is always intelligible and has some degree of positioning within the design. Overall, this is a more old fashioned picture despite its visual invention, and this is revealed with its emphasis on Jarre's music, which covers virtually inch of the story, and really takes pole position within the design.
Scoring the post-apocalyptic hullabaloo …
Mad Max… 6/10 We know they’ve done better than this.
Mad Max 2 … 8/10
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome… 8/10
Extras“We’re gonna count to three. One …
“What happened to two …?”
This is where it hurts us just as much it hurt Pig Killer during the above-quoted scene.
There’s virtually nothing here for this collection, which pretty much informs you that once Fury Road comes blasting out of the simmering heat haze, we will probably be in for a full-on, revved-up, warts ‘n’ all, true Mad Max spectacular release with all the trimmings.
For the first Mad Max, we get a trailer. You kiddin’ me, right? What happened to giving us back our heroes?
For Mad Max 2, we get Leonard Maltin’s introduction and the single commentary from George Miller and Dean Semler that we’ve heard before. And a trailer. Whoopee-doo.
For Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome … we get a trailer. That we’ve seen before. Nowt else. The biggest, bravest, most audacious of the trio and this is all they can muster? I’d have given them a commentary track for nothing!!!!!!!
Pitiful, folks. Just pitiful. A very huge wasted opportunity. Gone are the docs and featurettes that graced the original film’s standalone release. There’s no excuse for this other than to have us fork out all over again next year. Which, no doubt, we will.
Collectively, this set get 3 out of 10. And one of those point is for the petrol can!
Verdict“And the Road Warrior? That was the last I ever saw of him. He lives now … only in my memories.”
Well, perhaps. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to see him again sometime soon. And he might just look a bit like Tom Hardy this time around.
Well, if it wasn’t for the lack of extras and the omission of Mad Max’s lossless audio, I would have no hesitation in saying that this set was absolutely essential. As it stands, it is merely a collection of great films that any self-respecting movie-fan should have on their shelves.
We may lack extras for all the episodes which, by now, you would really think they would have rectified, and is especially maddening because we know that the first film had some good stuff made available, but the new transfer for Road Warrior and its addition of lossless audio already make this set pretty much a thing to cherish. Kudos goes to the Petrol Can style of the packaging. Yep, it is tacky and simply a gimmick … but, hey, it’s a good one. I’d have loved a sharpened boomerang and a couple of shotgun shells, obviously, but this is still a very neat idea.
Like Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, these are three epic movies connected in style, exuberance and originality. And, just as with Eastwood’s Man With No Name saga, they tell a strange, hybridized tale of rage, revenge and redemption. The first film is pure Ozploitation, and as gritty as they come. The second is an out and out classic that will never be bettered. It wrote the guidebook for action and stunts and then drove it into the dust, and even if it catapulted a poor Mohawk biker 65 feet through the air, it also catapulted Mel Gibson to superstardom. The third film is unfairly maligned and misunderstood. It is a mythical adventure that combines Tolkien, Kurosawa and Lucas with something altogether unique and distinctive – a post apocalyptic last gasp for hope amid the chaos of a world gone mad.
Miller, Kennedy, Hayes, Ogilvie and, of course, Gibson, created a bonafide phenomenon with Mad Max, and one that captured not only the Grindhouse crowd, the SF and Fantasy devotees, but the MTV mob as well. That takes some doing.
And, best of all, the saga isn’t over yet.
Apparently we DO need another hero. So roll on Fury Road. But, for now, buckle-up, oil your leg-brace and hold on tight, because the original Mad Max is back in town.
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