• Maximum Overdrive (Lionsgate/Vestron Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate/Vestron Video
    Released on: October 30th, 2018.
    Director: Stephen King
    Cast: Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Christopher Murrey, Yeardley Smith, John Short
    Year: 1986
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    Maximum Overdrive – Movie Review:

    When Maximum Overdrive hit theaters in 1986, there was a TV spot that ran wherein King, touting the scariness of his only directorial effort, pointed at the camera and declared he was going to ‘scare the Hell out of you.’ I vividly remember this, because my dad decided that wasn’t going to happen and yelled back at the TV saying ‘No you aren’t, mister!’ and he promptly changed the channel. It would be a few years before I’d get a chance to see the movie, it was a rental at a friend’s birthday party, but at the time it seemed like a legitimately great movie.

    Time isn’t always kind to prepubescent memories.

    When the Earth passes through the tail of a mysterious comet and the skies begin to glow green, the Earth’s machinery starts to become sentient and fight back against its human creators. We first see this when a bank machine calls a customer (King himself, in an amusing cameo) an asshole and then later when a soda machine spits full cans at a kid’s softball team, injuring players and killing the coach. It gets worse from there – bridges start going up with people and vehicles on them, sprinklers start going off at random (well, that part isn’t really worse but it happens), chainsaws attacking people and tow trucks committing attempted murder.

    Eventually we land in Wilmington, North Carolina (not Maine!) and meet up with a young man named Bill Robinson (Emilio Estevez) who works at The Dixie Boy truck stop owned by a loudmouth redneck named Hendershot (Pat Hingle). When all of the big rigs that have been parked on the lot, led by a truck with a Green Goblin face on the front, start terrorizing the locals, they barricade themselves in and get right to fight. Joined by newlyweds Connie (Yeardley Smith) and Curtis (John Short), a hitchhiker named Brett (Laura Harrington), another employee named Deke (Holter Graham) and a few others, Bill basically leads the charge against the machines, hoping to keep everyone alive long enough to get this all sorted out.

    King has gone on record stating that he was “coked out of his mind” while making this film and he doesn’t seem to be particularly proud of it. The film isn’t scary and it feels a little long in the tooth by the time it’s over. Still, it has moments that work and there’s a fairly wicked sense of humor shining through in spots. Some of the carnage in the first half of the movie is comical in all the right ways and there are some cool effects set pieces on display. AC/DC did the soundtrack work for it, and while it’s hardly their best work, those guitar riffs are instantly identifiable – you hire AC/DC to sound like AC/DC and that’s just what they do here.

    Logic isn’t the film’s strong point. Some cars some alive and some do not. There’s no rhyme or reason to it and if you think too hard about what you’re seeing on screen, it starts to fall apart pretty quickly. As to the acting, well, not all of it is good and not all of it is bad. Estevez is fine here, playing the fairly generic ex-con/hero part well enough. If he doesn’t deliver the most dynamic performance of his career, he is at least acceptable. Laura Harrington, who fans might recognize from Buckaroo Banzai, is solid enough. We buy her as being tough enough to hold her own here, she works just fine in the part. Pat Hingle is more or less there for comic relief, playing his Boss Hogg-esque stereotype character to the hilt. Yeardley Smith and John Short are supposed to be funny. Sometimes they are, but more often than not they’re annoying. Also, watch out for a small role for a young pre-Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul Giancarlo Esposito as the guy who lucks out and steals all the smokes and quarters from the arcade room at the truck stop. Marla Maples, the ex-wife of one Donald J. Trump, also has a small part in the movie.

    So yeah, it’s goofy and a bit repetitive and it suffers from logic gaps aplenty… but it’s still a fun watch. Not a great film by any stretch but entertaining enough if you’re in the right frame of mind for something goofy.

    Maximum Overdrive – Blu-ray Review:

    Vestron gives Maximum Overdrive an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 on a 50GB disc. This isn’t ‘demo disc’ material but it is a perfectly solid transfer offering good detail, depth and texture. The image is nice and clean, showing the expected amount of film grain but no real print damage to note. Colors are quite nicely reproduced, the green on the front of the truck stands out here, while black levels are pretty strong as well. There are no noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues to discuss. Detail handily surpasses DVD quality but stops short of reference quality. Still, the movie looks very good here.

    The only audio option for the feature is a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track in the film’s native English with optional subtitles available in English only. No complaints here. Some might regret the absence of a surround sound mix (some of the more active scenes would have been fun in 5.1) but this mix is solid through and through. Dialogue sounds nice and clean, the explosions and revving engines have a good low, rumble to them and the AC/DC score sounds pretty great. There aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout the film.

    There are a lot of extras on this disc, starting with an audio commentary with writer Tony Magistrale, Author of Hollywood’s Steven King, moderated by Michael Felsher. It’s a decent track, Magistrale knows his stuff, but it’s definitely a plus that Felsher was here too as he, more often than not, is the one that leads the conversation. Either way, it’s an interesting track that does a nice job of dissecting the author’s one and only directorial feature. A second track gets actor and comedian Jonah Ray together with Blumhouse film executive Ryan Turek that’s much more observational and occasionally rather funny. They both have a good time here, making scene specific comments as the film plays out and noting what they feel works and… doesn’t.

    From there we dig into the host of new featurettes, the first of which is Truck Stop Tales, an interview with Producer Martha De Laurentiis that runs sixteen-minutes. She talks here about how and why she came to work on the project, her thoughts on King’s picture and more. Up next is Rage Against The Machines, which gets actress Laura Harrington in front of the camera for ten- minutes to talk about her work on the film. She talks about how she got the part, her character, and working alongside some of her co-stars. The appropriately titled Honeymoon Horrors segment gets John Short and Yeardley Smith on board for eighteen-minutes to share stories from their work on the film. In this amusing piece they talk about how they wound up being cast in the film, their characters, their co-stars and their thoughts on the finished product. In Maximum Carnage makeup FX man Dean Gates talks about his work behind the scenes on the movie for seventeen-minutes. As you’d guess, the focus here is on the effects work featured in the picture and the obstacles and challenges that arose during the shoot. In A Kid In King’s Court we spend seventeen-minutes with actor Holter Graham. There’s some brief archival footage in here as well as the newly shot material wherein Graham talks about taking the role at a young age and what it was like for him to work on the film.

    From there, The Wilmington Factor provides a retrospective look back at the making of the movie by way of some interviews with the production crew from North Carolina. Over the span of twenty-nine-minutes we learn about the state of the film industry in the state at the time, what the various interviewees did, how regional factors played into things and more. Interesting stuff. The music gets covered next in Who Made Who?, a seven-minute-long interview with Murray Engleheart, co-Author of AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll, who talks about how the band wound up contributing to the film’s soundtrack. Lastly, the Goblin Resurrectus featurette, which clocks in at ten-minutes in length, explains what happened to the Happy Toyz Green Goblin truck by way of an interview with Tim Shockey, the man who found and restored the iconic truck showcased in the picture.

    Vestron has also supplied nine-minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. The quality is less than amazing but it is cool to see this material included here as, if nothing else, is gives us a fleeting but interesting look at what it was like on set during the production.

    Rounding out the extras are an extensive still gallery, a theatrical trailer, two TV Spots (including the one my dad didn’t like), animated menus and chapter selection.

    Maximum Overdrive – The Final Word:

    Maximum Overdrive is not the masterpiece I thought it was when I was thirteen, but it’s amusing enough on a revisit despite its many and obvious flaws. Vestron’s Blu-ray release for the film looks decent, sounds just fine and is absolutely stacked with extras. This might not convert those who don’t enjoy the film, but for those who do, there’s a lot to dig into here.

    Click on the images below for full sized Maximum Overdrive Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Was really looking forward to this disc, but it's retailing for 50+ dollars north of the border, so I'll pass until I find a better option.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      This movie is a masterpiece though...A B-Movie masterpiece. One of my absolute favorites and was shocked to see Wal-Mart selling this disc.