Wednesday, May 6

A Classic on the Cutting Edge: The Road Warrior (1981)

(Warner's 1983 VHS clamshell)

"A white line nightmare..."

A.K.A. Mad Max 2
Directed by George Miller
95 Minutes (international version) / Warner Home Video HD DVD / 1080p Anamorphic 2.35:1 Widescreen

This is one of the first films of any genre I ever remember seeing as a kid and simply put it's as fucking awesome now as it was then. At the time, I had no idea it was a sequel (well, more of a continuation) to Mad Max nor did I realize this for many years to follow. Similar to my experience with Army of Darkness' relation to the Evil Dead cannon. The purchase of this HD DVD two years ago marked the first time I had ever seen this post apocalyptic classic in it's original widescreen aspect ratio.

The most impressive aspect of The Road Warrior is the sheer expansion of scope from Mad Max. Miller obviously had big ideas and he brings them to exciting life without fear. Despite being set in a bleak future, the first film doesn't feel like much of a stretch of the viewer's imagination in terms of a realistic time and place. This sequel is radically different and set the cinematic template for after nuke desolation and survival ever since. The gold worth dying for, everyday gasoline, is easily digestible as something that very well could be priceless in such a savage world painted around Max.

Gibson fleshes out arguably his trademark career character to a considerable degree, opening up the severely emotionally scarred and unfeeling Max at the conclusion Mad Max. The man presented here is much more beaten down, weary, and just eking by to get a fresh tank. As the film goes on, Max finds purpose and feeling again in a band of noble scavengers--even though he wouldn't admit it. He's also an ultra badass in his dusty leather, big right shoulder pad, creaky leg brace, and tools for quick jobs dangling from his torn jacket. Gotta mention Bruce Spence's endearing turn as the Gyro Captain as one of the standout comic relief sidekicks in Action history.

The bad guys might be the most ferocious dystopic group of villainy ever filmed. Vernon Wells sports assless chaps with glee in a totally crazed performance as the mohawked Wez. He gets so pissed after his blond slaveboy receives a bloody haircut from the feral boy that The Humongous needs to put him in a sleeper hold to sedate him. Then later you see that he's been chained to his leader's hellish dune buggy. You just have to love that. The Humongous is the stuff of '70's comic book cheese, but absolutely believable as the only one that could lead such an apeshit bunch. Everyone else in the BDSM clan is just as bloodthirsty and it's apparent the actors relished this freedom.

The climatic vehicle chase involving a tanker and numerous ramshackle assemblages with tires is a marvel of amazing stunt work, editing, and guts. It's a sequence that lives up and than some to the old cliché of "you have to see to believe." That's really true of the entirety of this essential action classic. I doubt there will ever be another better within the subgenre.

This 1080p HD DVD transfer, that's identical to the Blu-ray, looks wonderful. You can literally see every track in the desert and dusty blow of sand. There's some scope blurring around the edges of the frame, but that's inherent to the filming process. The Dolby Plus 5.1 audio is pretty much a wash, being basically the original mono track with some flourishes of the score in the surrounds. The supplemental material is limited to only the theatrical trailer.

Film: 9/10
HD DVD Picture: 8.5/10
HD DVD Sound: 7/10

2 comments:

wiec? said...

just about one of the best action movies ever. they don't make them like that anymore and it's a shame. there are so many parts where you wonder how did the stuntaman walk away from that?

it's also one of the best movies about "a future that could be" ever made.

great review.

KFelon said...

The HD-DVD was awesome. A fantastic post apocalyptic film.

Did anyone else catch the crew member sitting on the floor in the cab during the final scene?

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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