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On the lengthy, desolate highways of post-apocalypse Australia, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is an icy-cool cop. But he's tired of cleaning up the scums and outlaws for whom senseless murder, rape, and looting is a way of life. Max just wants to retire in peace with his wife (Joanne Samuel) and son. He takes a vacation instead, but it's his last peaceful moment, for Max's wife and child are mowed down by a gang of revenge-seeking bikers led by the insane Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne). When Max's partner Goose (Steve Bisley) meets a similarly gruesome fate, Max hits the highway on a rampage of revenge.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Undoubtedly one of the best Australian films ever made, Mad Max is legend in the Australian film industry. Made on a budget of $300,000 by a movie-loving doctor and an amateur filmmaker, and edited in the director's kitchen and lounge room, it pushed the boundaries of sensibility upon its release in 1979, when audiences were shocked by its gruesome violence, its lawlessness, its themes of bloodthirsty revenge. It also marked the amazing debut of then-unknown Mel Gibson, who was paid $15,000 of the budget, and whose entrance on screen is still unrivalled. Gibson's star quality was immediate. He coupled a quiet intelligence with a ruthless ruggedness that carried the film's emotional weight. Watch his expression as Max is slowly dehumanised, so when he finally steps behind the wheel of the last of the V8 Interceptors, you know there's gonna be hell to pay.

Debuting director George Miller captures it with starkly real cinematography, putting cameras in cockpits and on car bonnets. And even though a few scenes give away the sped-up frames, the action is relentless. Tires screech in pain, rubber burns, gasoline explodes, cars roll end over end, and bodies are treated like rag dolls. It's a raw, violent, and utterly original film, and puts to shame the clean, computer-aided claptrap of most action movies today.

It's such a shame, therefore, that Australian distributors Roadshow have failed to add the extras to the Australian DVD afforded to the US DVD, which has two documentaries, a crew audio commentary, and trivia subtitles. Their disc even restores the original Australian dialogue track (a comic dubbed version was produced for an accent-unfriendly US audience). I cannot understand why Roadshow have denied this legend of our cinematic landscape the backstory it deserves on DVD. What they give us are written details about the film's genesis, director, producer and star.

The info is interesting, but it can hardly make up for behind the scenes docos, early interviews with Gibson, or expositions on the film's vision of the future. However, we get thunderous DTS sound and a fresh transfer, and The Words About Max are a cool collection of review samples from critics who wrote about the film in 1979. "I saw a preview of Mad Max and was still shaken with feelings of revulsion 12 hours later," growled Phillip Adams in the Sydney Bulletin (his review is ebulliently titled "The Dangerous Pornography of Death"). There're even a few words from Urban Cinefile's own Richard Kuipers, Louise Keller and Andrew Urban. Richard writes, "The most impressive feature film debut by any Australian director is also one of the best action-exploitation films ever committed to celluloid." Bravo!

Published September 26, 2002

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(AUS - 1979)

CAST: Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Roger Ward

DIRECTOR: George Miller

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical trailers to Mad Max 2 and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome; Genesis; Director; Producer; Star; Awards; Words about Max

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 11, 2002

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