Review: Mad Max – Limited Edition Trilogy / Cert: 18 / Director: George Miller / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Tina Turner / Release Date: Out now
A mere 29 years after the release of Beyond Thunderdome, 2014 promises to bring us Fury Road, the much anticipated return of Mad Max, with Britain's very own Tom Hardy stepping into Mel Gibson's scuffed leather motorcycle boots as the titular road warrior. Exciting, we know; and while we're waiting, here's something to take the edge off the anticipation: the original trilogy in a spanking new Blu-ray box set.
Mad Max (1979) is where the myth and the mayhem begin. Within the first eight minutes, a police car goes crashing through a caravan, and we're off. The movie was shot on the tightest of Ozploitation budgets, but this works in its favour, grounding it in an everyday, recognizable reality, albeit one where lawlessness on the roads is rife and the police go about their business with vigilante gusto. It's a film that strips cinema back to a few key elements and its director, George Miller, brought a whole new dynamism to the depiction of vehicular carnage: he painted with petrol and diesel was his easel.
The sequel, The Road Warrior (1981), is widely regarded as the centrepiece of the trilogy. A dead kangaroo lying stretched across the road in the opening moments seems to hint that we're about to see an Australian movie like none before, and so it proves. War and oil shortages have reduced the world to a new age of barbarism. Desperate for fuel for his beloved V8 Interceptor, Max becomes involved with a tiny oil refinery which is trying to fend off a tribe of motorized hoodlums. The film still retains the grittiness and subversiveness of the original, but a much bigger budget sees the introduction of rusty Heath Robinson contraptions galore and Norma Moriceau's unforgettable fetish costumes, although are leather chaps and harnesses embellished with studs and feathers really the most appropriate garb for the desert? How do you cope with the chafing?
Finally, Max joins the MTV generation for Beyond Thunderdome (1985), which has him becoming Dad Max to a tribe of lost children and running into Tina Turner in a chainmail party frock. Okay, it wasn't perhaps the capstone to the trilogy fans were hoping for, but the sets are epic, Moriceau's costumes continue to startle and once everyone climbs on board that mammoth locomotive-truck hybrid for the final act, it's a lot of gas-guzzling fun.
All three films, even the first, benefit from the step up to HD – a reflection of the stellar Aussie craftsmanship that went into them. And how about that petrol can packaging? Yes, it's more or less the same one they used for Reservoir Dogs, but it's just the kind of thing to make a road fiend gurn with glee.
Extras: Audio commentary by director and introduction by Leonard Maltin (The Road Warrior Only) / Trailers