Maximum Overdrive (1986)
By: CJ on January 29, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 2:35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0 98 minutes
The Movie
Director: Stephen King
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Yeardley Smith, John Short
Screenplay: Stephen King
Music: AC/DC
Tagline: Who made who?
Country: USA
Stephen King directs his own adaptation of his short story 'Trucks' which initially appeared within the pages of his anthology book 'Night Shift'. Unfortunately, King is nowhere near as adept at making movies as he is at writing. Nevertheless, there is plenty here to enjoy.

The story is pretty straightforward and tells of a period of time when the earth is within the tail of a comet. This phenomenon apparently causes all the electrical devices to take on a murderous life of their own. A sports coach is battered to death by Coke cans which start popping out of the vending machine at high velocity; a woman is cut by an electric carving knife; a drawbridge is raised whilst people are still driving across it causing untold death and destruction as the vehicles, and passengers, start sliding ever downwards. Then there are the vehicles themselves, the real stars of this film, that become autonomous; taking on a diabolical life of their own.

Once the scene has been set, the central story focuses on a service station where there is a motley assortment of characters who find themselves under siege from the driverless trucks. The fight is on for survival and it becomes a battle of wits between the trucks and the humans. This group, led by a steely-faced Billy Robinson (Emilio Estevez), an ex-con, try to figure out what is going on and how to escape to safety. You can pretty much predict that they do manage to outwit their mechanical opponents and they are able to make their getaway on a boat.

To be honest, this is not really a great film by any means and King's rather unimaginative direction does nothing to enhance the film. King seems strangely uninspired in making this film, which is odd considering the vast imagination that he pours onto the written page. Nonetheless, this is fairly enjoyable and entertaining – full of clichés and bad dialogue (another weird thing considering that King is a virtuoso with the written word) and some reasonably impressive FX work.

Sadly, King is unable to conjure up any real suspense or tension, which this film is sorely in need of. Steve, don't give up your day job.
Anchor Bay have done a superb job with this transfer. The image is pin-sharp, the colours consistent and solid with deep blacks and good contrast. There are no noticeable blemishes on the print and it has to be said that this looks fantastic. Certainly no fan of this film will be disappointed with the image quality here.
Although there are few audio fireworks, this is a fine rendering from the source materials. The storming AC/DC soundtrack is reproduced perfectly with the dialogue crisp and clear. The ominous rumbling of the trucks comes across as sinister and menacing and adds considerable atmosphere to the proceedings. Chace have done a decent job with remixing and remastering the soundtrack on this one.
Extra Features
Sadly, the disc is a little short on extras. There is a particularly cheesy trailer featuring Stephen King leering at the camera telling us how he's going to scare the shit out of us. Mildly amusing. There is also a text bio on King himself. But that's your lot!
The Verdict
A stunning transfer of a somewhat mediocre film unfortunately. The film just seems to lack tension and pace. It also misses the in-depth characterisation that is such a trademark with King's writings, which Rob Reiner captured flawlessly with his screen adaptation of Misery - so it can be done!

A bit of a hit and miss affair unfortunately, but it's quite enjoyable and worth putting on if you just want something mind-numbingly entertaining.
Though, and it must be said, it is a mystery why AB went with the R rated print which lost several seconds of violence which were cut to reduce the rating from X to R.
Movie Score
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