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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 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.
As the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, previously inanimate objects (ranging from vehicles to lawnmowers to an electric knife) start to show a murderous life of their own. Marauding big rig trucks trap a small group of people in a roadside truck stop called "The Dixie Boy" just outside Wilmington, North Carolina. When the trucks begin demanding more than blood (they order the humans to pump diesel), the Dixie Boy survivors realize they will become enslaved by their own machines, and they must escape to Haven Island just off the coast of North Carolina, on which no vehicles or machines were permitted.
Bill Robinson (Emilio Estevez) rallies the survivors; they use a cache of guns found hidden under the diner. The trucks fight back themselves, at one point human fatalities result from an M274 "Mule" firing its mounted M60 machine gun into the building.
Eventually the survivors escape to the docks where the featured Green Goblin semi kills one more trucker. The semi is destroyed and the humans sail off to safety.
At film's end, a perfunctory title card strongly implies extraterrestrials were behind the homicidal machines as part of a preliminary invasion. The machines are stopped and the invasion ends with the destruction of a UFO by a Soviet "weather satellite" equipped with nuclear missiles and laser cannons.
- 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 stop
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 set
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 Allmovie.com.
- Maximum Overdrive at Box Office Mojo.
- Maximum Overdrive at Rotten Tomatoes.
- 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