Mad Max (1979)

Mad Max (1979), directed by George Miller.

In the near Australian future, society is breaking down and sliding into a weird evil comic-book space. Degenerate gangs roam the highways and terrorize towns, while a decrepit bureaucracy does nothing. The only heroes are an oddball group of highway police, the coolest being Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson).

At first the terrorizing motorcycle gang seems too eccentric to be really scary, but as their brutalities mount we cringe more than laugh. When Max takes his family away the tension becomes excruciating as the gang tracks them down. After wrenching personal loss, Max, Destry-like, picks up his leathers and hits the highway again for vengeance. The violence tends toward the sadistic on both sides.

I had not seen this since the cheap videotape and cable days and the Blu-ray is a revelation, making it seem like a larger, more ambitious film. I didn't even know it was a scope ratio movie, and I'd never seen those colors before. The "American" dub is offered as an audio option, a lesson on how much dubbing can change the atmosphere of a movie, for the worse in this case.

Spectacular car crash stunts. I like the continuity of music with The Road Warrior (1981).

It was a small budget film, and according to the wikipedia article it held the record for highest profit-to-cost ratio until The Blair Witch Project.

Available on Blu-ray. The image is quite a bit better than I recall for The Road Warrior (1981) disc. It's rather fine in some scenes.

Some of the crew provide a light commentary track, mostly about the locations and filming. They make the photography sound dangerous, although there were no serious injuries.