Stephen King adaptations are now ten-a-penny. Some are classics, some fall short of the mark. We have the writer to thank for some of literature and cinema's most enduring scenes and characters - so much that many are often forgotten to have been his work in the first place. The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, Children of the Corn, IT and The Shining. His imagination knows no bounds - or does it?
Recently IT, The Dark Towers and Gerald’s Game have been released to relatively positive reviews and they’re not the first. The Portland author has had his stories being adapted since 1976 right up until the present day. Yet, for this story, we turn our attention to 1986, when King thought he’d havea go himself. The result? Watch it.
With a pitiful 15% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Maximum Overdrive is far more cult than classic. King’s use of cocaine and alcohol as well as other prescription drugs are well known. His use was so formidable in fact that sometimes the writer would black out for the entire duration of writing a novel. That is serious usage.
His novel Misery, by his own admission is a book about cocaine, the main character Annie Wilkes is a personification of the drug. The whole story is, in essence, the author's attempt to come to terms with the concept and contingencies of addiction.
Around the same time - the year before Misery - came a film that could only have been concoted in such an imagination where coke and booze combatively fought over control of his sense and senses. Maximum Overdrive was released in 1986 to quite spectacularly awful reviews.
Here's the plot, boiled down to an elevator pitch. Machine comes back to life and become homicidal. It all starts when the Earth is passing through a comet's tail and an ATM bad-mouths the director, who also wrote himself into this ephemeral cameo role. Things progressed quite dramatically, to the point where all sorts of machinery and electronics begin attacking the human population.
By way of pets being brutally murdered by killer lawnmowers and huge trucks mercilessly chasing victims down, the earth is saved by both a human-fired rocket launcher and a conspiracy surrounding a Soviet satellite equipped with a laser-cannon that destroyed all evidence of UFO activity. Quite a tale.
The outcome is an almost hallucinatory spectacle, flecked with dark humour and supercharged with an unhinged sense of grandiosity that removes it from any kind of 'sense' that most cinema viewers expected.
It was King’s first and last foray into film direction, a film that he believes to be the worst adaptation of any of his books so far, which really says something. The outright madness of the film, though, is a spectacle. Well worth bearing witness to, despite the unlikelihood of a return viewing.
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