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Kytherian Cinema Review

Mad Max 2. Chapter 1. Novelisation of the Film.

Feral Child (Emile Minty) and Max (Mel Gibson), in George Miller's Mad Max 2, (1981).


Written by Terry Hayes George Miller
and Brian Hannant
Novelisation by Carl Ruhen

A Q.B Book

Distributed by Progress Publications
506 Miller Street, Cammeray 2062, and Gordon & Gotch Limited
114 William Street, Melbourne 3000, Australia

Copyright: Film Script © 1981 by Warner Bros. Inc.

Reprinted 1982

National Library of Australia Card No. and ISBN 0 7255 1183 4

Novelisation: All rights reserved.

Printed in Australia by New Century Press Pty Limited
5 Cumberland Street, Sydney 2000


Max roves, Max ranges. It is all he can do now, this gaunt, hollow-eyed man, he and the machine and the dog, which is all he has left in the world that is crumbling all around him, burning up the highways, through the dust and the stinging flurries of sand that is whipped by the hot wind against the wind­screen of his black-on-black pursuit car, which bears the scars of the many times he has had to beat back the bands of marauders attracted by the fuel he is carrying in his tanks.
The machine and the dog — and his memories. The sun’s fierce heat pounds relentlessly down on the baking earth. Beneath the shimmering heat, the clusters of rocks seem as if they are in constant motion. Mirages seem to float upwards out of the beating heat. Images form, a face, faces, people and planes, parachutes dropping from the sky which then becomes a ‘deep, thundering black, black and purple, and shot through with searing flames.
The wasteland is tinged with red. It is strangely beautiful. Like the end of the earth, the sun large in the sky, and all life having shrivelled away to nothing. Max drives fast, but the thoughts keep crowding in, glimpses, flashes, there’s no way to escape them, no matter how much you put on the speed — like there’s no way to escape the marauders, the vultures, bloodsuckers, and all along the highways, into the fields where they have been chased, littering creek beds, there they are, the smashed, rusting, burnt out hulks of the vehicles that have fallen prey to them.
The heat plays tricks on the eyes, which are heavy and gritty through lack of sleep and the effort of concentration, the necessity not to let the guard drop for a single moment. But one thrives on this energy, borrowed and stored away in the system —one just goes, and goes, and goes.
A woman’s face, sleepy, smiling, flushed with the lovemaking that has just ended, a voice murmuring in his ear, a baby crying.. . Jesus, no! Foot down on the pedal, the engine roaring, and the countryside spinning past, a monotonous sameness about it, hills and gulches, all red, so barren. Yes, one just keeps on going, one couldn’t stay still, no place to settle, the search was going on all the time. No end to it. It’s funny when you think about it, the way — the manner — in which the world is ending. Cataclysmic, the way everyone expected it would, somehow —but still funny. It had to happen, and it is happening, the population has scattered everywhere, and the cities — see the cities now — are crumbling and slowly falling apart. The decay has set in, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it, even if the will were there. The cities are nothing more than shells now — towering monuments to futility. Perhaps it is funny, this thing that is happening now, while Max forages, because people had actually believed in the permanence of things, that it go on and on the way it was, and they could put up buildings — glitter­ing spires — that reached higher and higher, that they could reach for and conquer the universe. Perhaps it was the smugness of those days that made it funny. Maybe there was bitter humor to be found in panic, in looting, death and wholesale destruction.
Even when all the signs were there, and the satellites beamed the flickering images into every household — those images of confrontation and conflagration, the screaming hordes that swept all before them, the blazing buildings, the execution squads, the assassinations, and all other forms of violence that had taken on a comfortable domestic aspect — there was still no reason to believe that a stand-off wouldn’t be reached just this side of the brink, a brief defusing hiatus, a withdrawal within a continued state of hostility, a problem never, never to be solved, because there just was no solution. It was like the surf, rolling in, drawing back, the one motion complementing the other, a law of nature. It was inconceivable that the tide wouldn’t ebb, that the moon wouldn’t continue to wield its timeless influence. But no, not this time...
It was the fuel that mattered. Banknotes fluttered in the streets of those silent cities. They were caught in drifts, piled up in gutters, against walls and in doorways. The wind caught them and sent them in flurries across the open ground, across squares and plazas, and the parks which had become veritable jungles by now. And gold — stockpiled, forgotten, useless. Only the fuel. The institutions had gone —the banks, stock exchanges, those great corpora­tions that had spread their tentacles across the globe, those great palaces of glass and marble, deserted now, dank and crumbling mausoleums.
‘Max, there’s something bothering you. You’ve hardly said a word all night.”
A distant voice, a smile, flickering candlelight. What was it? A celebration?
“Just tired, I guess, honey. Nothing wrong. I’m all right.”
The way the light caught Jessie’s hair, a gentle rippling of soft light every time she moved her head. Pure gold. A smile hovering, a stirring of desire.
“I don’t believe you, Max. You can’t fool me. You never have been able to fool me. I can see you’re worried.”
Her eyes shining. Everything about Jessie shone. “Why should I be worried?” How unconvincing it sounded, a hollow voice. “I’ve got you and Sprog —the three of us — that’s all I care about. As long as I have you. And the kid.”
Jessie frowning, her voice low and serious as she abstractedly stirs her coffee, the spoon going round and round, making small chinking sounds against the side of the cup. ‘There’s been talk.”
“What sort of talk?”
“Disturbing talk. About you. About your life expec­tancy. You know, there’s a book being run. It’s odds on that you won’t last a week.”
But he had, and the week after that, and the weeks, and months and years, so many years after that — he was the one who had lasted. He was the only one left, and frankly, there were times when he wished he wasn’t.
The contented roar of the powerful engine, hands loose on the steering wheel, and a cloud of dust rising behind him as he sped through the weird, arid country, with its isolated outcrops of rock, the dried riverbeds, the clumps of saltbush and spinifex.
Proclamations, declarations, the lines of cars that stretched and stretched, the queues that grew longer each day to soak up what remained of the fast-evaporating fuel supplies, the cost of which rocketed and rocketed until it seemed that no amount of money was enough to purchase a single gallon of that very limited stock that had not already been commandeered for the essential services, which were fast breaking down in any case. The out­breaks of fighting in the streets had become steadily less sporadic. The mobs had surged this way and that, a devouring monster that destroyed everything in its path turned loose. Factories had ground to a standstill, useless now, the starved machinery choking in rust.
And back further, to the time of the Nightrider, the Toecutter — names now, nothing more — the screech of tires, and the Toecutter’s bike hurling itself between the front wheels of the huge road rig that had come lumbering up over a rise in the road, and the Toecutter still conscious under the grille until the second the sump guard ripped his head and shoulders off at the chest. The Toecutter had paid for what he had done — done to Jessie and Sprog — he and the others, but even so, Max had felt he had been cheated in some way. The Toecutter hadn’t deserved to die as quickly as he had, no way, and even that split-second of awareness that remained to him after his bike slewed in beneath those gigantic wheels wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
The past rolled into the present, and the present rolled into the future. Sometimes it was difficult to disentangle them. Movement. Ceaseless move­ment, on and on. . . and shit, there wasn’t a future. Why think about a future? All the lights had long been turned off.
Max is not alone on this stretch of road. At what precise point he realised he was not alone on this stretch of road, he can’t be sure. His instincts, being what they are, so highly tuned, must have registered the movement, a new element in the composition of the red landscape, maybe even before his eyes had picked it up. Something different, an alarm bell triggered. But now he can see them, clearly now, burning up the road behind him, steadily gaining on him, specks at first, tiny black specks materialising through the shimmering heat behind him, growing larger, looming, gradually taking on form and sub­stance. Three of them. They have picked up his scent — the scent of fuel, another tank to be drained, another metal carcase to be systematically dismembered. The supercharger roars, brute power unrestrained. Ah...
He can see them now in the mirror, make out what they look like. There are three vehicles behind him, closing up the distance. One of them, a big powerful bike, has a passenger riding pillion. The rider is all black leather and metal — metal shoulder pads, a breastplate — and his head, bare except for a pair of goggles, is shaven except for a bright red swatch on top. A Mohawk, this one who veers his bike in an attempt to cut Max off from the inside, but Max is ahead of him, blocking him, forcing him to swing back and lose ground. Almost naked, the pillion passenger is tightly hugging the rider, leaning with the movement of the bike, his long golden hair being whipped back by the airstream.
There is the bike, then the chrome and brown street racer, and then the dune buggy covered with animal skins. The noise of the engines hammers through the rippling heat. Max swings the black-on-black — the old pursuit car from his police days —from side to side, forestalling the efforts of his pursuers to creep up inside of him. The heat, and the noise, and beside him, the dog whimpers a little. The tiredness has gone now; the adrenalin shoots through him like quicksilver, the shrieking in his ears, his head full of the sound that seems to be punched into it through dozens of holes, and a curtain of red dust at times partially obscuring the three vehicles close behind him.’
A bend, and taking it close on the inner side, the dune buggy coming around it in a wide sweep, and the street racer, cutting in between it and Max. The bike has fallen behind.
The road rises. His foot hard down, Max takes the rise, and for an instant, the briefest fraction of time, it seems as if his wheels have left the ground, and he is airborne. Then there is a thud, a bump, and the car is slewing to one side of the road. A wrench on the wheel to correct the drift, and at the bottom of the rise, blocking the road, a tangle of wrecked vehicles, one of them a trailer down on one crumpled wheel, cars that had been torn apart, wreckage everywhere, scattered and strewn across the road.
No time to decide, or even to slacken speed, just take it as it comes, trust to luck — always trust to luck, and luck had always brought him through in the past, maybe it would again... No time to think even, with the heart feeling large and tight in the chest, the marauders only a matter of a few yards behind him. To slow down now.. .no chance. The supercharger drums and throbs, there is the reek of petrol. His reflexes as finely tuned as the great engine over which he has taken such loving care, tinkering, adjusting, polishing, treating it like a baby, and now.., now...
The landscape lifts and turns half a degree or more, seems to be vibrating, breaking up.. .the trailer looms, fills the windscreen, and then, once again, a matter of only feet away, a wrench on the wheel, and he is locked into a sweeping curve to the right, past the trailer, and through the wrecks that are scattered around it, cannoning off them, plough­ing through them with a tortured scream of rending metal.
Still going, pushing the wrecks out of the way, dis­lodging them and pushing them deeper into the dust, which shears up from beneath the spinning wheels, and behind him, as he comes around in the curve, slamming broadside into another rusted hulk, bouncing off it, forcing a way through, the no-name dog barking furiously, jumping up and down in agitation in the kiddies’ seat — behind him, then to one side as he pulls the car out of the curve, he sees the bike with the Mohawk and golden passenger flying through the air with a sort of effortless grace, swooping through the air like some great bird clear over the trailer, and in that quivering instant before it hits the ground, lurches a little, then righting itself, begins to weave its way through the wrecks, it seems as if it is stuck there, suspended against the sky from which the heat has drained all color.
The road racer doesn’t quite make it over the trailer. It knocks against the trailer, then spinning, clips one of the wrecks, swerves, bumps another wreck, the engine racing furiously, dust swirling. Max has straightened out of the curve, and is heading across the open country, aware now that the third vehicle, the dune buggy, has managed to avoid the wreckage, and has veered off to the right in an attempt to head him off.
Then Max is swinging back to the highway again, ducking in between it and the buggy, which cuts sharply in after him. The bike and the racer have already left the wreckage behind them, and are heading up the highway towards the point where Max rejoins it, with the buggy bouncing across the rough terrain behind him.
“You’re a good kid, Max. One day you’ll make a good cop.”
One day. Maybe it was something then to be a good cop. Maybe it meant something to be a good cop. One thought about cops in those days, bad people and cops, the division not always so clear cut, but they existed, and people talked about law and order, the need to keep order, but that was at a time when there were laws to be kept, although they were fast disappearing even then, those laws to which people — those good people, law-abiding people — still paid some sort of lip service, because old habits died hard. A good cop. One day, Max you’ll make a good cop.
The light had been reflected from the Chief’s high shaven skull. It had gleamed on black leather. Super­imposed on the harsh, dry landscape that is rushing up at him, the same monotonous landscape, and with his pursuers, the marauders, gaining on him again on this long, flat stretch of road, the Chief’s face, the thick neck, the broad shoulders and powerful forearms, that ugly, lined face, and the nose that had been battered so many times in the years he had been in the forêe that it was now a squat, shapeless blob spread across his face, which made his flinty eyes appear far too close together, and the mouth too small to balance it. The Chief, worn out, disillusioned, no longer even making a token attempt to keep up the morale in his disintegrating force.
“I don’t know any more, Max. I don’t know any more about one goddam thing.”
Thoughts and speed, and everything falling apart, tires gripping the road surface, and then, suddenly, the loud whooping sound that rises up from some­where beneath the dashboard of this racing charger, and which seems to drop around him in waves, like hoops that are being thrown over him — hoops that become tighter and tighter as they drop over him. Christ, it’s the fuel, running low — the alarm letting him know the fuel is running low — and, shit, there’s nothing for it but to cut out the supercharger, and once that has been cut out... No choice. Take it as it comes. Good cop, Max.
Slowing down now. The alarm has faded away, but the echoes remain, flying around inside the head. As the speed falls away, it seems now that Max is crawling along. With speed there is life, but without speed, just going along, 100 or more, it is as if an essential part of Max has fallen away, choked away by the whoops from the alarm. So. . .So the dog has crawled under the seat. The dog knows there will be trouble. Max’s relaxed posture is -deceptive; every nerve end is keyed up. It has
happened before, many times before, more times than he can remember, even if he wants to remem­ber — and it will happen again. Expectant, waiting, the marauders fast closing the distance, the bike coming up on the passenger’s side, looming up in the corner of Max’s vision — another nomad biker with his golden lover clinging tightly to him as they draw abreast. Brief impressions, disjointed and flick­15
ering, the biker raising something and aiming it at him, a bow it looks like, a crossbow, but there’s hardly time for Max to notice this, to really register what it is the fiery Mohawk is aiming at him, as the road racer is drawing up on his side, the passenger in the road racer also raising a weapon, and glancing at it, Max can see that it is a gas-powered porta-pak gun from the large rounded barrel of which protrude six metal arrows. The finger tightens on the trigger. Bracing himself, Max hits the brakes.
The locked tires screech their protest as the car skids until it is almost at right-angles to the road. Caught unawares, both the bike and the road racer surge past him, just as the porta-pak looses its deadly arrows. The car is still shuddering as Max lines it up with the road again, as two of the arrows smack use­lessly against its side, and as one of them thuds into the fleshy upper part of the biker’s arm. The bike swerves, and leaves the road, weaving erratically across the dry, rutted ground, and that’s one of them out of the picture for the moment, and maybe not for very long at that, once the rider has picked up his balance again and brought his bike back onto the road. The dune buggy is still coming in across country to try and head Max off and the road racer just in front of him, so now that he has a slight advantage, it’s time for Max to take the initiative. He can do something now, with that racer just in front of him; he needn’t feel so useless, so much the victim.
Changing down, hitting the supercharger again, and that low rumble rising to a high scream, that great surge of power that lifts him and carries him forward, fast closing the distance between him and the racer, ramming into the rear of the racer, a bump, a jolt, the metallic clash of metal on metal, wheels screaming, again, and again, drawing back slightly, then hurling the raging machine against the racer — and now there is another intersection ahead of them, and a long road rig abandoned at the side of the road. The dune buggy is cutting right in now; it has almost reached the intersection, where besides the road rig, there is a mass of debris scattered about, junk, bits of furniture, broken things. Max eases back again, nerves tingling now, a delicious feeling, in action, judgment cool, calculating his chances, then foot down again, the pedal pressed right down to the floorboards, flush with the floor­boards, the engine howling as the car springs forward again, ramming the road racer, hurling it away just as the speeding dune buggy bumps back onto the road.
Beautiful. What could be more beautiful, or satisfy­ing to see the road racer smash into the rear of the dune buggy, catching it, lifting it and flinging it away like a broken toy? What music there is in the echo of that scream that has come from the racer just as it hit the buggy, and sent it spinning like a top into the side of the road rig. There is poetry, surely, of a rough and savage kind — and it seems that the action has slowed down enough to give emphasis_ to those curves and parabolas that are so intricately described — in the sight of the road racer sliding around in a half-circle and ramming hard into a power pole, which splinters and snaps with the force of the impact, and slowly, slowly topples onto the road. There is no sign of movement from the road racer, and the dune buggy is nothing more than a pile of twisted, crumpled metal beneath the implacable bulk of the road rig. A wheel spins, dust settles along with the silence.
Throwing on the handbrake, Max — the valiant, the victor — swings the black on black around in a tight turn, and pulls up in the middle of the intersection. Winners and losers, victors and vanquished. Fuel is streaming from the ruptured tank of the dune buggy. Swinging himself out of the car, Max reaches into the back and pulls out a jerry can. A soft moan­ing sound is coming from the crumpled buggy. The spilt fuel is forming a widening rainbow pool on the bitumen. Bending over the broken fuel tank, Max wedges the jerry can beneath the gushing fuel, he whips the bandana he is wearing from around his neck, and begins to mop up the gasolene from the bitumen with it.
“For without fuel, they were nothing. They had built for themselves a house of straw...”
The gushing fuel rattles the can. Max squeezes the soaking bandana out into the can. The moaning from inside the dune buggy is barely audible now. That, and the gasolene drumming into the can are the only sounds.
But, suddenly, there is another sound, a shrill whistle that slices keenly through the silence and desolation. Max looks up, and sees, on the crest of a low hill overlooking the intersection, the scarlet Mohawk straddling his bike and grinning down at him, a figure in black leather and metal that glints in the harsh light. Still with his arms around him, the golden boy’s face is expressionless; it might have been chiselled from stone, yet how sensual are its lines. They stare at each for a long, vibrant moment, these two, wandering Max and the grinning Mohawk, and then, slowly, deliberately, his eyes never leaving Max, the figure on the hill raises one hand, and closing it around the haft of the arrow that is embedded in his arm, gives it a sharp tug, and the arrow comes free. A trickle of blood runs down his arm from the wound. Triumphantly, the biker nomad holds up the arrow, brandishing it at Max as he screams his defiance and hatred of the man who has, for the time being, outwitted him.
Then, slipping the arrow into the quiver at his hip, the biker guns the motor, and swinging the bike away, disappears from the crest of the hill. The sound of the engine fades into the distance, and Max is alone.

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