Maximum Overdrive is a 1986 American action-horror-science fiction film written and directed by novelist Stephen King. The screenplay was inspired by and loosely based on King's short story, Trucks, which was included in King's first collection of short stories, Night Shift.
Maximum Overdrive is Stephen King's first and only directorial effort, though dozens of films have been based on King's novels. The film contained black humor elements and a generally camp tone, which contrasts with King's sombre subject matter in books. The neophyte director was nominated for the title of "Worst Director" by the Golden Raspberry Awards in 1987, but lost against Prince for Under the Cherry Moon. King himself described the film as a "moron movie" and stated his intention to never direct again soon after.
In a 2002 interview with Tony Magistrale for the novel Hollywood's Stephen King, King stated that he was "coked out of [his] mind all through its production, and [he] really didn't know what [he] was doing." In spite of this, King stated in the same interview that he "learned a lot from the experience," and would "like to try directing again sometime."
However, for the same reasons the film is viewed by some as a form of comedy horror and the film has retained a cult following. In 1988, Maximum Overdrive was nominated for "Best Film" at The International Fantasy Film Awards.
The film is seen as more of a straight action movie, rather than a straight horror film.
The film has a mid-1980s rock and roll/hard rock soundtrack composed entirely by the group AC/DC, Stephen King's favorite band. AC/DC's album, Who Made Who, was released as the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack. It includes the best-selling singles Who Made Who, You Shook Me All Night Long, and Hells Bells.
In 1987, as the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, previously inanimate machines suddenly spring to life and turn homicidal. In a pre-title scene, a man (King in a cameo) tries to withdraw money from an ATM, but it instead calls him an "asshole", and he complains to his wife (King's real life wife Tabitha). A bascule bridge inexplicably raises during heavy traffic, resulting in all vehicles upon the bridge at the point of elevation either falling into the river, or gradually colliding together as they rapidly collect towards the bridge base, resulting in multiple injuries and fatalities. Soon chaos begins as machines of all kinds come to life and begin assaulting humans. At a roadside truck stop just outside Wilmington, North Carolina, an employee, Duncan Keller, is blinded after a gas dispenser sprays diesel in his eyes. A waitress is injured by an electric knife, and arcade machines in the back room electrocute another victim. Employee and ex-convict Bill Robinson begins to suspect something is wrong. Meanwhile, at a Little League game, a vending machine kills the coach by firing canned soda point-blank into his groin then to his skull. A driverless steamroller flattens one of the fleeing children, but one named Deke Keller (Duncan's son) manages to escape on his bike.
A newly-wed couple, Connie (Yeardley Smith) and Curtis (John Short), stop at a gas station, where a brown tow truck tries to kill Curtis, but he and Connie escape in their car. Deke rides through his town as humans and even pets are brutally killed by lawnmowers, chainsaws, electric hair dryers, pocket radios, and RC cars. A driverless ice cream truck begins to stalk Deke, but he hides from the truck in the bushes until a lawn mower is after him as he gets back on his bicycle. Back at the truck stop, a red trash truck runs over Duncan and hits the car that belongs to the Bible salesmanwho gets run down by a black Western Star 4800 sporting a giant Green Goblin mask on its grille. Later, all the big rig trucks roar to life, led by the Happy Toyz (Green Goblin) truck, and surround the truck stop, trapping the rest of the humans inside the diner.
Meanwhile on the main highway, Connie and Curtis are chased by a truck, but they make it crash off the side of the road. Curtis suggests that they should call the police from the truck stop, only to find it surrounded by trucks. The two try to drive into the parking lot through a gap between the trucks, but the car is hit and flips over. Bill and Brett, a hitchhiker who came in with the Bible salesman, rush out to help them, but the trucks attempt to attack them. Bill's boss Hendershot uses M72 LAW rockets he had stored in a bunker hidden under the diner to destroy many of the trucks. Deke makes it to the truck stop later that evening and tries to get in via the sewers, but can't due to the wire mesh covering the opening. That night, the survivors hear screaming from the Bible salesman in a ditch, and Bill and Curtis sneak out to help him by climbing through the sewers. Deke finds the Bible salesman and thinks he's dead, but he suddenly jumps up and attacks Deke. Bill and Curtis rescue Deke, and a truck chases them back into the pipe.
The next morning, a Caterpillar D7G bulldozer and a M274 Mule drive through the diner. Hendershot uses the rocket launcher to blow the bulldozer away. The Mule fires its post-mounted M60 machine gun into the building, killing several including Hendershot and the waitress when she drunkenly rants at them. The Mule then demands, via sending morse code signals through its horn that Deke deciphers, that the humans pump the trucks' diesel for them in exchange for keeping them alive. The survivors soon realize they have become enslaved by their own machines. Robinson suggests they escape to a local island just off the coast, on which no vehicles or machines are permitted.
During a fueling operation, Robinson sneaks a grenade onto the Mule vehicle, destroying it, then leads the party out of the diner via a sewer hatch to the main road just as the trucks demolish the entire truck stop. The survivors are pursued to the docks by the Green Goblin truck. The survivors try to hide behind a diner, but an electronic menu blares "Humans Here" until Deke uses a machine gun to destroy the sign. The same ice cream truck that stalked Deke barrels toward them, but Curtis and Brett destroy it with machine guns. The team makes it the docks, and the Green Goblin truck follows them, managing to kill Brad the trucker after he steals a large diamond ring from a female corpse in a car. Robinson destroys the truck once and for all with a direct hit from an M72 LAW rocket shot. The survivors then sail off to safety. A title card epilogue explains that two days later, a UFO was destroyed by a Soviet "weather satellite" conveniently equipped with class IV nuclear missiles and a laser cannon. Six days later, the Earth passes out of the comet's tail, and the survivors are still survivors.
- Emilio Estevez as William "Billy" Robinson
- Pat Hingle as Bubba Hendershot
- Laura Harrington as Brett
- Christopher Murney as Camp Loman
- Yeardley Smith as Connie
- J.C. Quinn as Duncan 'Dunc' Keller
- John Short as Curtis 'Curt'
- Holter Graham as Deke Keller
- Pat Miller as Joe 'Joey'
- Barry Bell as Steve Gayton
- Frankie Faison as Handy
- J. Don Ferguson as Andy
- Jack Canon as Max
- Leon Rippy as Brad
- Bob Gooden as Barry
- John Brasington as Frank
- R. Pickett Bugg as Rolf
- Richard Chapman, Jr. as Ajirjint the Helper/Dead Gas Station Attendant
- Bernie Pock as Loman Face Stealer
- Bob Gunter as Coach
- Bill Huggins as Umpire
- Ned Austin as The Drawbridgemaster
- Giancarlo Esposito as Ill-Fated Videoplayer
- Stephen King as Man At Bank ATM
- Marla Maples as 2nd Woman
- Martin Tucker as 2nd Man
- Denver Mattson as Dead Man Killed by Chainsaw
- Barry Nolan as Male Newscaster Voice
- Hal Fishman as Anchorman Voice
- Greg Sheldon as AC/DC van driver
- Evan A. Lotman as Grey Van Driver
- Connie Smith as Dead Lady In Car
A large array of various vehicles and electronic devices are featured in the film as antagonist characters, brought to life from the comet passing by Earth. A large number of semi-trailer trucks appear as a gang who invade the truck stop. They are led by a "Happy Toyz Co." Western Star truck which has the face of the Green Goblin from the Spider-Man franchise mounted on its front grill. Most of these trucks are destroyed by the end of the film.
Various other vehicles appear in brief or in supporting villainous roles. A military Willys Jeep armed with an M60 machine gun, and a Caterpillar D7G Bulldozer appear in the truck stop to aide the trucks, the Jeep gunning down several of the characters and later acting as a gunman towards the humans. A vending machine and a 1979 Rex 700 road roller attack a group of young baseball players, running one over and killing their coach with projectile canned drinks. An arcade game electrocutes a patron at the truck stop, and even a toy police car displays its maniacal side as seen when it has embedded itself in a dog's mouth and killed it. An ice cream truck makes several appearances in the film, but is destroyed at the end.
The Dixie Boy truck stopEdit
The "Dixie Boy" truck stop was a full-scale set constructed ten miles west of Wilmington, North Carolina, on US Highway 74/76. The exact location was just outside of Leland, North Carolina. It was convincing enough that several semi drivers tried to stop in and eat there, and some tried to refuel. Eventually the producers had to put up several signs informing the truckers the set was fake and not a real truck stop. The producers also put announcements in local papers saying that the "Dixie Boy" was just a movie set.
After filming wrapped up (and the set had been partially demolished by explosives), some locals bought the set of the "Dixie Boy" and transformed it into a working truck stop. It was fully functional for three or four years, until it went bankrupt and was torn down sometime in the late 1980s. Some signposts for the Dixie Boy still remain, however.
Accidents on setEdit
When filming the scene where the ice cream truck flips over, the stunt did not go according to plan and almost resulted in an accident. A telephone pole-size beam of wood was placed inside so it would flip end over end, but it only flipped once and slid on its roof, right into the camera. Gene Poole, dolly grip on the film, pulled the cameraman out of the way at the last second.
A second incident, this time leading to serious injury, occurred on July 31, 1985 while filming in a suburb of Wilmington, North Carolina. A radio-controlled lawnmower used in a scene went out of control and struck a block of wood used as a camera support, shooting out wood splinters which injured the director of photography, Armando Nannuzzi. As a result of this incident, Nanuzzi lost an eye. Nannuzzi sued Stephen King on February 18, 1987 for $18 million in damages due to unsafe working practices. The suit was settled out of court.
- Maximum Overdrive at the Internet Movie Database
- Maximum Overdrive at Wikipedia
- Maximum Overdrive at Rotten Tomatoes
- Maximum Overdrive at AllMovie
- Happy Toyz - an extensive fan site, named after the writing on the side of the villainous "Green Goblin truck". Features the script for the film, stills and various trivia.
- Green Goblin Head - Official Home of the Original Maximum Overdrive Green Goblin Head.
- Murder Machines - Home of Maximum Overdrive and other evil machine movies.
- Entry on RetroJunk.Com