Sunday, November 2, 2008

Film Review: MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986, Stephen King)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 97 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Emilio Estevez, Yeardley Smith, AC/DC, Giancarlo Esposito.
Tag-line: "Who made who?" AND "Evil's wheels!"
Best one-liner(s): "Jesus is coming and he is pissed!" AND "If you don't get your hand off my leg, you're going to be wiping your ass with a hook next time you take a dump!"

Before I begin, I'd like you to take a gander at the poster pictured to the left. It's not often you get to see Stephen King emerging from a gash in the side of a giant bus and literally pulling the strings on the puppet that is Emilio Estevez. I think the last time a movie's director played such an absurd, puppet-master-type role in a film's marketing was when Cecil B. DeMille gave his little diatribe before THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Or at least since Alfred Hitchcock's colorful commentaries during his trailers for his post-NORTH BY NORTHWEST output. Anyway. A scene from the MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE trailer: Stephen King stands before the camera, eyes bulging, beard neatly trimmed. Behind him is the Green Goblin big rig and main bad guy of the film. For some reason, music from HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH is playing. He turns to the camera. Turns to YOU. He outstretches his arm and points into your SOUL. The eyes on the Green Goblin turn BLOOD RED. King is bathed in crimson light.

He ferociously intones: "I'M GONNA SCARE THE HELL...OUTTA YOU!!!" So that, in a nutshell, IS "Maximum Overdrive." You'll note that the tagline, in eerie, watery script, proclaims... "Who made who?" Exactly. Man versus machine. Man versus soda machine, to be more specific.

That scene is brutal. This whole movie is brutal. Humans getting lawnmowered, pop-machined, tractored, steamrollered, run over, shot, zapped by Pac Man and Q-Bert, meat-sawed, tossed off bridges, burned, electrocuted, you name it. And then as if to pour salt into the wound of humanity's last gasp, the machines are totally rockin' out to AC/DC as they do it. Which is appropriate, because AC/DC means "Alternating Current, Direct Current," which is probably something machines would listen to.

-Sean Gill


Mike B. said...

I don't really have anything to add about MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, except that it's, of course, incredible, and also how did that one kid manage to get killed by his Walkman? Mainly, I'm using this space to post another ridiculously long comment, so that it won't clutter up one of the new posts on the main page.

I just wanted to again say thanks for all the great reviews and filmic insights that have made for great late-nite reading material for me these past several months; they've offered some great moments of unwinding from the tedium of writing papers and other such grad school nonsense, and for that I am truly grateful! And now, just for fun and because making rambling comments and overly involved lists is a compulsion of mine, I will now list the top ten movies that I one day hope to see receive the Junta Juleil review treatment, along with some of my admittedly suspect reasoning (although even if you never get around to any of them, I'll still be a huge fan!):

10. DEATH RACE 2000 (1976) - Stallone's (and maybe Carradine's?) best work? Worth it for the "hand grenade" line alone.
9. WARGAMES (1983) - A bit heavy-handed on the message of course, but otherwise it's a genuine masterpiece in my eyes, I especially love the Broderick/Dabney Coleman dynamic. And dig the character actors that pop up (Michael Madsen, Eddie Deezen, Maury Chaykin).
8. RAGE OF HONOR (1987) - Insane Sho Kosugi vehicle, I believe I rambled about this in a comment somewhere around here.
7. CODE OF SILENCE (1985) - Norris' police robot, the two cops from THE FUGITIVE apparently playing younger versions of the exact same roles, the girl from the HERMAN'S HEAD, you know what, maybe never mind on this one, perhaps it's a bit of a reach.
6. CAPRICORN ONE (1977) - Perhaps the most ludicrous plot ever? And it's got Sam Waterston, and Hal Holbrook! And Elliot Gould flying in a cropduster with Telly Savalas!
5. KICKBOXER (1989) and CYBORG (1989) - Along with BLOODSPORT, the holy trinity of Van Damme flicks. I'd love to see your take on Van Damme's drunken dance-fighting scene in KICKBOXER, and find out if you've ever scene a more low-budget post-apocalyptic film than CYBORG, and also if there's some deep meaning going on in that one, or if I'm just an overly nostalgic fool.
4. BLOOD DINER (1987) - Make no mistake, it's painfully, hard-to-watch bad, but good lord is it bizarre! It may be the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. From "Don't do it Stan, you'll get in trouble" to "My friends call me vitamin, see?", I just need to know that somebody else saw the damn thing so that I know it existed and I didn't just imagine it.
3. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988) - Sure, there's no real need for anything beyond part 3, but I've always felt that 4 was a bit underrated. Renny Harlin actually appeared to take great care to set up the film's new direction, and the abrupt shift midway through it is quite something. And of course, the "Freddy as boogeyman jokester" continues to be perfected here. One other weird note: whereas most horror films of the early 90's continue to look and feel liek 80's relics, this late 80's film almost feels ahead of its time, like it should have come out in 90 or 91 (although oddly, part 5 goes right back to 80's-ville).
2. NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986) - A wonderful homage and perhaps Tom Atkins' best role (the film could almost be an homage to Atkins himself!).
1. PHANTASM (1979) - I just irrationally love this film, it seems to reveal more layers upon every viewing. It's almost like an American version of the best elements of a Fulci film. I just can't get enough of it. And just try to get Reggie and Jody's front porch jamming song out of your head!

That is all, and as always, thanks for humoring my rambles!

Sean Gill said...


Thanks, man- if I've succeeded in providing slight respite from the tedium or inspired the viewing of a late-nite movie, then dammit, I'm happy.

I've seen many of these, and they all are certainly Junta Juleil material; I suppose it's the matter of when I finally get around to 'em!

Love DEATH RACE 2000; I'm big on Bartel and Woronov, not to mention a crazed Stallone and a faux-scarred Carradine.
WARGAMES is a good time; love the opening scene, and all those character actors.
RAGE OF HONOR I recently obtained, but haven't checked out yet.
CODE OF SILENCE has been in the Netflix queue for a while. I haven't had a Norris movie nite in months, and that is unfortunate.
CAPRICORN ONE I have never seen, but it's reputation precedes it.
It's been ages since I saw KICKBOXER and CYBORG, been planning on revisiting soon. Naturally, they'd deserve extensive reviews.
I've heard of BLOOD DINER, but never saw it. Now I have a reason.
I do enjoy NIGHTMARE 4. I did a big Freddy rewatch about 2 years ago, I'm sure I'll hit it up again, one of these days.
Saw NIGHT OF THE CREEPS in the VHS days and loved it. Bought the DVD when it came out the other year, but haven't watched it yet. It's overdue. Atkins demands it!
I love PHANTASM. I threatened to do a PHANTASM retrospective about a year ago, but dick that I am, I never did. Hopefully, one of these days I will.

Mike B. said...

Wow, thanks for responding to that! The blog truly is awesome. I'll keep reading 'em as long as you keep writing 'em!