Maximum Overdrive (1986)

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Released 23-Sep-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Train
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Crew-Stephen King
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 93:26 (Case: 97)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Stephen King
Studio
Distributor
Dino De Laurentiis
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Emilio Estevez
Laura Harrington
Pat Hingle
Yeardley Smith
Case Alpha
RPI $19.95 Music AC/DC


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"Who Made Who"
"Get Ready for Maximum Carnage"

    The Earth is passing through the tail of a comet. And while this may not be completely unknown, the effect that this particular comet's tail has is. Slowly at first, machines begin to act on their own, and not in some random order, but in a quite hostile manner.

    While on probation, Bill Robinson (Emilio Estevez) works as a cook at a truck stop, a job that he hates but is forced to do under threat of re-imprisonment as the owner of the truck stop exploits Bill into working longer hours for no pay. If Bill objects, Hendershot, the truck stop owner, will report Bill for parole violation and it's back to the slammer. So, when strange things begin to happen around the truck stop, Bill is concerned. When the first person is killed by a machine (a video game), Bill and the rest of the occupants of the truck stop are worried. When every machine imaginable starts to try to kill them (especially the trucks), the group, now trapped in the diner, are terrified. Trapped in the diner at the truck stop and encircled by dozens of driverless semis, the group will have to think fast as every hour brings more mayhem and madness...and more machines!

    I'll put myself forward as an unabashed Stephen King fan and have been so ever since I bought a used book at a garage sale for 50 cents. That book was Night Shift, a collection of short stories by Stephen King, whom I had not heard of at the time (this was in about 1981). From that first book onwards I was hooked by King's ability to instil terror with such short tales about what would seem to be fairly simple subjects, such as a commercial laundry cleaning machine that becomes possessed, or the tale of an astronaut whose hands begin to itch, or the man exploring a rat problem at a mill, where the rats seem a bit different. King can make a shiver run down your spine with stories that, if told by anyone else, would perhaps lead to fits of laughter. Think about it - a commercial laundry machine that on coming into contact with virgin blood begins to maim and kill. The story ends with the main characters hearing the machine coming down the road towards them. It sounds silly, but it scared the hell out of me when I read it.

    Perhaps it's the visual medium that can sometimes work against Stephen King's material, but while the short story (Trucks) which this film is based on did have some of the creepiness that I spoke of before, the film completely lacks any of the terror that we've come to expect (and love) from King. This could perhaps be due to the fact that the mind has the uncanny knack of visualizing the worst horrors if it is only given the chance, and reading Stephen King gives the mind an excellent chance to run wild. The problem occurs when someone tries to visualize it for you. This is usually the director and in the case of this film, the director is in fact the writer, Stephen King. It is a sad fact that in the end, despite the fact that the film was directed by the writer, nothing can really save this film. It is really that bad.

    There are several factors that contribute the poor quality of this film. First up are the characterizations. The main group of characters that are trapped in the diner at the truck stop are so formulaic as to be laughable. We have Bill, the strong and independent soul with a dodgy past, the attractive hitchhiker and love interest (of course) for Bill, the overbearing truck stop owner, the newlyweds who just make it into the diner before being killed by the trucks, the young boy who makes it through all the carnage while bodies surround him, the smarmy Bible salesman and so on. We don't get any character development, just the outlines (2 dimensional) so we know who's supposed to be whom. The whole love interest thing between Bill and Brett (Laura Harrington) just follows the usual formula and the fact that there is little on-screen chemistry doesn't help.

    Despite what Stephen says in the film's trailer about if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself, Stephen doesn't do it right. The film lacks any real terror and Stephen's promise to scare the hell out of us (as claimed in the trailer) never comes to pass. There is only one real scare in the film and it's a predictable one. The gore factor, which is another King staple, is also largely missing. Sure, there is heaps of blood, but in the context of the film, it's just there and any shock value we might have expected is missing. Granted, some of this isn't all King's fault as he was forced to make several cuts to the film to avoid an X rating, but even the gore shots that were excised from the final cut wouldn't have saved the film or completely changed the overall tone. In the end, we have a horror movie without any horror and a scary tale from the master of scare that fails to strike any sort of fear at any level. We've seen King's work done so much better before this with John Carpenter's version of Christine doing a good job in the fright and creepiness department and The Dead Zone with Christopher Walken being another decent book-to-film translation, as is The Shawshank Redemption, which came from the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption which was published in the book Different Seasons. Of the 4 stories in that book, 3 have been made into films including Shawshank as well as The Body (which became Stand by Me) and Apt Pupil. Only the story Breathing Exercises remains unfilmed. There is quite a bit of filmed King material out there with some of it good and some of it bad. It's unfortunate that the one that King himself directed should be in the bad pile, but there it is. A real shame and a really bad film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We have, for the most part, an acceptable transfer here with some predictable problems.

    First up, I have the great pleasure of stating the following: This film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is not the first time I've said this, but it is the first time that I've said it in relation to a Force Video title.

    Considering the age of the film and the fact that it isn't a high profile picture, the sharpness of the image we get is quite good with only some very slight fading of the print. It may have been the film stock used, but I got the impression that the print used for this transfer had faded ever-so-slightly over the years. I could be wrong and perhaps what we see is the result of the colour process used, but at the end of the day, this film looks perfectly fine in contrast to the terrible VHS versions that have made the rounds over the years. Some of this feature takes place at night and during the darker scenes shadow detail is reasonable. Low level noise didn't seem to be a problem.

    As stated before, the image of this print has a very slightly washed-out look. This could be as a result of the age of the print or as a result of the colour process used. That said, colour use during the feature (for the most part) is reasonable and fairly natural with the exception of the green sky (50:15) that we see from time to time during this film. It looks dodgy and stands out as an obvious 'special' effect. Other than that, I have no complaints about the colour depiction here and its portrayal on this disc.

    Other than the very fine pixelization that I'm used to seeing in Force Video titles, MPEG artefacts seem to be reasonably absent here. The main problem with the transfer is rampant aliasing. Stand-out examples can be seen at 1:50, 2:29 on the side of the trailer, 6:36 on the truck grille, 44:58 on the guard rail and 66:15 on the grille of the CAT. The horror that is edge enhancement rises with the machines and can be seen at 18:18 along the trees as well as in numerous other places. Chroma noise is visible in the sky at dusk at 55:36. Film artefacts are visible during the film, but not to a distracting extent and the print used for this transfer is quite clean.

    As is usually the case for Force Video titles, there are no subtitles available.

    This disc is formatted as a single layer, and as such, a layer change is not an issue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    We get a reasonable audio mix here with the film sounding better than it ever has.

    There are 2 audio tracks available on this disc; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded track.

    Dialogue quality is good with the spoken word easily understood throughout the film. I also found the audio sync to be good with no real major problems detected.

    I have a real thing about rock soundtracks - I find that, for the most part, they usually suck. Ladyhawke is a prime example of a rock soundtrack that doesn't work, and I'd pick Highlander as another. Having said that, sometimes they do work, such as in Dune with the music by Toto. Stephen King handpicked AC/DC to do the music here, and for the most part the score works reasonably well. Along with a rock score, we also get to hear some of the band's classic hits such as For Those About To Rock, Hell's Bells, You Shook Me All Night Long and several others. An energetic score for a less-than-energetic film.

    While this is a Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded disc, the sound we get is a derived 5.1 mix that sounds for the most part like Dolby ProLogic. We don't get a huge contribution from the rears and what is there is mostly atmospheric.

    The subwoofer has a little bit to do in relation to the soundtrack but this isn't any sort of showcase of LFE and much of the on-screen action is covered well by the front mains and centre.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    We have a basic disc here with a couple of extras, but nothing super-exciting. The real extra that I'd love to have had available on this disc is the Director's Commentary (by Stephen King of course) which is available on the laserdisc version of this film, but not on this DVD.

Menu

    After the distributor's logos and copyright warnings we are taken to a very nifty set of menus that are themed around trucks. The menus are presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Audio for the menus is in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    The Main Menu offers us:

    The Extras option offers us:

Trailer - Theatrical Trailer  2:01

    This trailer is presented by Stephen King himself, telling us about a film that he's doing called Maximum Overdrive which will 'scare the hell out of you'!  Sadly, not true. This looks to be some sort of teaser trailer that features some footage from the film, but also has a lot of King talking about the film. The transfer for this trailer is quite poor with excessive MPEG compression artefacts visible as well as a very washed out, faded and blurry appearance. The trailer is offered at 2.35:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

Biography - Stephen King  20 Pages

    This gives some background on this film's ever-popular writer/director. Also included is a filmography that covers his writing credits as well as his starring credits. This is presented at 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced with no audio.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     We seem to have the exact same disc here as the Anchor Bay disc that is available in Region 1, other than the standard NTSC versus PAL differences. The PAL transfer and local affordability and availability would make the Region 4 disc a minor winner. Otherwise, I'd call this one a draw.

Summary

    Just because it's by Stephen King doesn't mean it's any good. This film is a case in point. I'd have loved for it to have been a classic. Heck, I'd have loved for it to have been in the 'so bad it's good' category. Sadly, this film is just plain bad. If you're a King fan, then you have to see this. But even then, chances are you'll thank God that the man only writes and makes cameo appearances. I wish I could recommend this, but, alas...

    The video is reasonable and one of the best Force Video titles I've seen.

    The audio works acceptably with a derived Dolby Digital 5.1 mix available.

    The extras are fairly thin with a trailer and biography available. Unfortunately, the commentary by Stephen King that appears on the laserdisc version of this film is not included.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Monday, December 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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