Maximum Overdrive

Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Stephen King Bio

I’ll bet that it looked good on paper.

Come to think of it, it did look good on paper. Stephen King’s short story ’Trucks’ from his ’Night Shift’ collection, was a creepy and nihilistic little tale concerning machines revolting against their human oppressors. Specifically, the story focused on a group of 18-wheelers enslaving the denizens of a truck-stop. When King adapted his own story for the big screen and wound up directing the film himself, this downbeat story ended being a campy mess of a film.

At the outset of ’Maximum Overdrive’, we are told that the Earth is passing through the tail of a comet. The majority of the film takes place at the Dixie Boy Truck Stop. Here, we meet Bill (Emilio Estevez), a parolee who has been forced to take a job working for Pat Hingle, who should’ve gotten some kind of award for playing the Greasiest Redneck Ever. In short order (cook), the Dixie Boy is overrun by angry and belligerent semi-trucks, who demand fuel and run over unlucky pedestrians. The image of menacing trucks was effective in the short story, but in the movie, it’s simply a group of trucks driving in circles. (It’s like a larger scale version of NASCAR.) The acting isn’t very good, and while Yeardley Smith may be great as Lisa Simpson, she’s unbelievably annoying here. ’Maximum Overdrive’ walks a fine line between horror (with very gruesome deaths, which were actually cut for an R-rating) and camp (with the aforementioned circling trucks) and never seems to make up its mind about where it’s going. ’Maximum Overdrive’ isn’t the worst movie ever, but audiences expected much more from the Master of Horror.

While many consider ’Maximum Overdrive’ to be a turkey, Anchor Bay isn’t treating it as such. The film’s digital transfer is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, and is letterboxed at 2:35:1. The picture is very clear, showing only the most subtle grain and hardly any defects from the source print. The colors are very deep and rich, making the ever-present blood appear very red, and giving us natural looking flesh-tones. The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. This gives the film a chance to show off its constant sound effects and thundering soundtrack by AC/DC. The surround sound action is plentiful and there is a nice deal of bass response as well.

There are two interesting extras on the DVD. The first is the theatrical trailer for the film, and it is actually the main reason to check out this DVD. The trailer has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and in case you don’t remember it, it features Stephen King standing in front of the Green Goblin truck. At the end of the trailer, he points at the camera and says, ’I’m going to scare the hell out of you!’ Classic. The other extra is an extensive bio of King. While most of it will be familiar to King’s fans, it does give some insight into what the working conditions on ’Maximum Overdrive’ were like and why King has never gotten into the director’s chair again.