Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bad Movie Month shifts into gear with Maximum Overdrive

Welcome back to Bad Movie Month, folks, where we continue with our Worst of Stephen King theme by hitting the horrible highway heading for Bad Adaptation Road with 1986's Maximum Overdrive.

Like our previous entry,Children of the Corn, this  cinematic dumpster on fire with wheels is based upon a short story(entitled Trucks) from King's Night Shift collection. One of the main differences between those two hot movie messes,however, is that Stephen King was in the driver's seat as director/writer for this particular car wreck.

We start things off with an opening title card that explains what's about to happen as the earth is the tail of a strange comet whose effects are supposed to last for about a week or so. I'm sure this was meant to be helpful but it leaves so many questions unanwered.

For example, this celestial event is the reason given for all of the mechanical devices in the world to suddenly turn violent against humanity. Yet, not every machine seems to be on board with the new lethal program as while such things as trucks, soda can machines and even an electric carving knife come to life and draw first blood, regular cars don't attack people at all.

 If trucks can use their new found free will for evil, why not cars?  Surely, cars would be able to do plenty of damage to the human population,  right along side their eighteen-wheeler brethren, and we all know King is no stranger to evil cars there! I guess that King didn't want to go too far beyond the borders of his original short story here but there are hints of what else he had in mind as one poor guy is zapped by a video game machine with the added indignity of dying with snack cakes sticking out of his hat:

As in the short story, most of the action here is centered around the Dixie Boy truck stop run by the sleazy owner Hendershot(Pat Hingle) and all too soon, the hapless staff and civilians are held captive by a band of trucks relentlessly circling the place.

The leader of the trucks appears to be a toy delivery vehicle,which has the gruesome grinning face of Spiderman's arch nemesis, The Green Goblin, mounted on the front grille. How Marvel let them have that in this movie, I don't know, but then again, it gives that big rig more of a personality than most of the human actors here:

Speaking of lack of personality, Emilio Estavez is intended to be our hero, playing diner cook Bill whose biggest grip until the trucks take over is being cheated out of his overtime pay due to his ex-con status by Hendershot.

It's a legitimate complaint but really doesn't add much to either him or the situation at hand, not even when Hendershot gleefully tells Bill's new found girl friend(more on that in a moment) about his short lived life of crime. Estavez maintains the same level of annoyance at that as he does toward the killer trucks outside, which registers as moody with a side of grumpy and a dash of belated teen angst:

Estavez's laconic performance(which earned him a Golden Raspberry nomination) is more than made up for by Pat Hingle's glee at chewing the scenery in the same manner that his character chomps his cheap cigars.

Both of them, however, are out done by the ladies in this film, two out of the three being world class hysterical. Sure, killer machines are something worthy to be upset about yet the screech levels that these gals reach could break the sound barrier at times.

From Yeardley Smith's newly wed whiner with her brilliant questions such as "Curtis, are you dead?" to Dixie Boy waitress Wanda June(Ellen McElduff) who takes the revolt of the trucks way too personally, the only feminine strength on display here is lung power.

 Sure, we do have the feisty hitchhiker(Laura Harrington) who fights off the advances of a sleazy salesman only to fall into bed with moody cook Bill*pause for serious eye-roll* but even she doesn't get to do much of anything to fight back against the murder machines. The only woman who does that in the entire film(and not by much other than her "We Made YOU!" stance) pays for that greatly well before the end credits:

I know, I know, this wasn't intended to be anything other than a grade Z drive-in type of movie but still, at least one female character could've been more than a helpless maiden in distress or a sexy sidekick.

To be fair, most of the characters were pretty dumb, especially in taking their sweet time to load up with the stash of weapons under the diner(how convenient!) to fight their way out of the truck stop. Instead, they let the trucks blackmail them into refueling them for hours on end, a sequence that is laughable sad to say the least.

King has said that making this movie was a "learning experience" and the lesson he got from it was to never do something like this again. At least the man is smart enough to learn from his mistakes, unlike some I could mention. A made-for-TV film was made from Trucks several years later but the reviews for that were only slightly better than the critical thrashing that Maximum Overdrive received.

Stop by next week, folks, to see Firestarter blow things up real good! Yeah, Drew Barrymore and Stephen King movies tend not to mix together very well indeed, kind of like popcorn and motor oil:

No comments: