Like a diesel-powered armored vehicle barreling out of the Australian outback, the Mad Max Trilogy (1979--85, 4 hrs., 56 mins., R) was a creation of pure forward momentum, its parts scavenged from the chassis of other movies and welded together with great action filmmaking. Now the postapocalyptic series that introduced us to Mel Gibson back when he still had the Aussie accent is available in a Blu-ray set (although with no new EXTRAS).
George Miller's 1979 Mad Max is a blistered Western about a man (Gibson's Max) out for revenge. It's as hard and fast as a kidney punch, but Miller's 1981 follow-up, The Road Warrior, is the real masterpiece. A taut, imaginative sci-fi adventure that finds Max defending an oil refinery from gangs of psychopathic bandits, it is equal parts John Ford and George Lucas. The three films trace the same arc as other out-of-the-blue series like Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead and Robert Rodriguez's Mariachi trilogy, in which the sequel acts as a bigger-budget reboot of the original, followed by an overstuffed threequel that tries too hard. The heavily '80s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome focuses too much on the series' weirdnesses (like Tina Turner's bespangled Aunty Entity) and not enough on its fuel-injected action sequences, looking like a big, showy caravan compared with the previous films' sleek roadsters. Hopefully the upcoming fourth film, with Tom Hardy as Max, will shift back into the right gear. Until then, it's worth taking the first three out for another drive. A-