West of Broken Hill, Kerry van der Jagt finds a man's love for a classic film under a pile of wrecks and relics.
IT BEGAN, as it so often does, in the back row of the movies. In the summer of 1982, when Mel Gibson was just mad, not crazy, a young English lad went with a group of friends to see a double feature,
Mad Max and Mad Max 2.
He was smitten from the opening credits. Amid the swirling dust and burning cars, he was gripped by lust. By the final car chase, it was true love. In the ensuing 28 years, his love for Mad Max blossomed into a full-blown obsession.
In the final pursuit of his road-warrior dream, Adrian Bennett moved his family, his custom-built replica black Interceptor and his collection of bad-boy bits and pieces from chilly Yorkshire to Silverton, near Broken Hill. "It got to the stage where I just had to live where Mad Max 2 was filmed," he says, with a casual shrug, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.
Bennett isn't bonkers. He's charming and funny and just happens to like Mad Max - a lot. As a monument to his eternal love he's just opened a museum, smack in the middle of his driveway, to honour his beloved collection. It's less Taj Mahal and more tin shed but the sentiments are the same.
"I was supposed to renovate the house first," he says, with a boyish grin at his wife, Linda. "But I needed the museum so I could store everything." By everything he means an assortment of original and replica dune buggies, a collection of leather costumes and full-face helmets and enough feral bits and pieces to create his own Mad Max 2 movie set.
The museum is divided into two parts; the neat-as-a-pin front section displays the valuables and family photographs, while out the back skulk the nasties - a beastly collection of battered cars and animal skins, a sign that says "The vermin have inherited the earth" and an original contraption used to transport the film's paraplegic mechanic around the compound.
Bennett knows the exact location of every film scene and is happy to point them out to visitors. He tells us where all the big things were blown up - the opening car chase, the humongous machine crash and the classic tanker roll, all filmed along the nearby Mundi Mundi Plains. It's car porn for those with a fetish for crashes.
I'm more Love Bug than V8 Interceptor but my husband is making marks on a map faster than you can say supercharger.
Bennett spies me paying close attention to a silver fork in a glass cabinet. "That's a replica of the 19th-century fork Max used in the film to eat the dog food," he says. "Remember?" Actually, I'd forgotten that little gem, when Max delicately devours the Dinky-Di Dog Food straight from the can. At least now I understand the can of dog food on Bennett's business card.
To be honest, I'd forgotten much about Mad Max 2 but looking at the display of rare photographs, it comes screeching back: the Feral Kid with the chrome boomerang; the Gyro Captain with the bad teeth and the marauding bikers with their mighty mohawks.
"Most of the extras were Silverton locals," Bennett says. "They just had the right look about them." And Bennett would know, he's watched Mad Max 2 more than 200 times.
Shortly after buying his Silverton house, Bennett's passion was further fuelled by the announcement that Mad Max 4 - Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, was to be filmed in the area.
After I extract my husband from beneath the bonnet of one of the demon cars, we slosh through the mud to the Silverton Hotel. Months of good rain has turned the famous "wasteland" into a quagmire and the locals aren't happy. Their faces are turned down and the sign pinned behind the bar say it all: "Mad Max 4; Fury Road has been delayed until February 2012 due to the green countryside."
The blooming desert has forced director George Miller to put the brakes on filming. "But the movie will definitely go ahead," Bennett says. "I've waited almost 30 years for this, what's one more year." Real love, as they say, lasts forever.
The writer travelled with the assistance of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Rex Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Broken Hill with prices starting from $235 (rex.com.au). Hire a car from Broken Hill for the 25-kilometre drive to Silverton.
The Astra is a delightful heritage hotel in the centre of Broken Hill, with executive suites starting from $175 (08 8087 5428, theastra.com.au).
See + do
The Mad Max Museum at 9 Stirling Street, Silverton, costs $10 an adult and $5 a child and is open seven days, 9am-5pm. Contact Adrian on 0458 588 621 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.