At some point in the site's cloudy history, for reasons that remain inscrutable, The Pink Smoke's resident lover of marginalia John Cribbs made the questionable decision to embark on the ambitious and possibly pointless task of seeing all of French-American actor Chirstopher Lambert's films from his breakthrough Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes on.

In addition to writing about various Lambert-instensive obscurities like Music and Words and I Love You, Cribbs has selected a supplementary film to pair with each installment of his Lambertathon. This supplementary film may not necessarily be directly connected to the Lambert opus in question, perhaps Cribbs offers it only as a complementary flavor or is struck by a tenuous, tangled, tangential relationship. Does this make an already baffling project even more confusing? You be the judge. Whatever you decide, just know this: we're not backing down. We're in the Lambert game for the long haul and Cribbs' dedication to the project is unflagging.

This article supplements his piece on Hail, Casear!


stephen king, 1986

"You ever see that much nothing at 10:15
in the morning, hero?"

~ by john cribbs ~

What does Stephen King have to do with the Coen Brothers? Not much, although from the business end it was King's endorsement of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, the first professional project Joel Coen was involved with, that convinced New Line Cinema to distribute the movie. So you could say that Stephen King made the Coen Brothers' career (or not say it, which would probably be a better idea). Creatively, King and the Coens each wrote a story about a creepy hotel that ends up consumed by fire. And a little known fact: Steve actually has a brother, Randy King, who ghostwrites half the books; he did the Dark Towers and the Bachmans and the libretto for that John Cougar Mellencamp musical (note: info per Wikipedia, not my own familiarity with Stephen King's brother Randy). Not to belabor it further: the connection between the makers of A Serious Man and creator(s) of The Running Man? AC/DC.

That's right: while many of you no doubt heard the title of the new Coen Brothers movie and had your mind instantly go to Anthony Michael Hall's identically-named 1994 directorial debut, I immediately thought of the AC/DC song "Hail Caesar" from 1995's Ballbreaker. It's not the best track on the album, which would be "The Furor," but I always appreciated the cynical social commentary of both songs. Not that I don't bask in the unbridled, hedonistic glee of "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Whole Lotta Rosie"; it was just a nice change of pace for the band to break into the serious theme of despotism and mob mentality ("Up comes the thumb of Caesar/To stab you in the back!") Whether because it was the band's first and only collaboration with Rick Rubin, who'd just produced a defining late-career work by Tom Petty, or the collected wisdom of their 20 years rocking across the globe, AC/DC brought a surprising maturity to Ballbreaker that resulted in a record that sounded like nothing they'd done previously.

A decade earlier, in their rowdier and less political years, AC/DC were courted by Stephen King to compose the soundtrack for his bold foray into filmmaking: 1986's Maximum Overdrive. As with the Hail Caesar helmed by the aforementioned Anthony Michael Hall (who'd later star in a series based on King's The Dead Zone), this proved to be its filmmaker's sole stint in the director's chair, was made while said filmmaker was coked out of his mind* and was met with scorn and derision upon release. And both movies starred Breakfast Club detainees: while Hall cast himself along with fellow Brat Packer Judd Nelson, King chose Emilio Estevez, possibly surmising that Estevez's experience with the killer Chevy Malibu possessed by aliens emitting green radiation in Repo Man qualified him to lead the battle against an army of killer trucks possessed by aliens emitting green radiation in Maximum Overdrive.

Opening in space, King's movie is the diffuse tale of the diffuse tail of the Rhea-M rogue comet and its interaction with Earth - specifically Wilmington, North Carolina - over a week in mid-June of 1987. A malignant phantom force is somehow using the streaming dust of the celestial body, represented as a green gas enveloping the planet (sort of like the electromagnetic shield created by Connor and his team to replace the Ozone layer in Highlander II, just to keep things Lambertelevant), to take over machines and attack the human population. At various points, the weaponized appliances include an ATM, a drawbridge, an electric knife, arcade cabinets, a soda dispenser, a steamroller, a hair dryer, a toy car, sprinklers, a lawnmower, a single-engine plane, a Jesus-adorned jukebox and, most effectively, a machine gun mounted on an M274 Mule. We've got neon signs saying "FUCK YOU" and Giancarlo Esposito getting zapped to death by Star Castle in a game room.** Stanley Kubrick may have ignored King's desire to see deadly topiary animals in The Shining, but nobody was going to block his vision of a deadly onslaught of watermelons that serves as Overdrive's big opening set piece (note: the watermelons themselves are not possessed).

But the invading force seems most keen on taking control of imposing 18-wheelers, a convoy of which lays siege to the Dixie Boy Truck Stop and its ragtag group of customers and employees. So instead of langoliers or tommyknockers, we've got malignant Miller Brewing Macks, a bloodthirsty BIC Harvester, a belligerent bulldozer, an overzealous Zeke's Trash Garbage Removal Reo, a tactless My-T Tas-T Ice Cream truck and a Happy Toyz rig with the head of the Green Goblin adorning its grill, with matching Green Goblin jack-in-the-box in the compartment, circling the truck stop like giant diesel-spewing sharks. They plow down stragglers, wage psychological warfare on the besieged by blaring shrill battle cries from their exhaust stacks and even communicate with their hostages by honking in morse code. In other words... they go into maximum overdrive.

To get the best overall understanding of this crazy movie I reached out to Kevin Maher, creator and producer of "Kevin Geeks Out About Stephen King," which he performed with an array of knowledgeable guests in front of a sold-out audience at the Nitehawk Cinema last October. In one section of the show, which Kevin published as a short essay on his blog, he made the brilliant connection to the recurring theme of laundry in Stephen King adaptations. Kevin noticed that the folding of clothes and hanging of sheets are not only prominent in films based on King's books, they all signify misery or portend doom. Whether the pristine sheets conceal a killer clown or zombie dog, or symbolize the drudgery of Dolores Clairborne's years working as a housekeeper, or presage the gruesome fate of workers who get too close to the giant press in Tobe Hooper's The Mangler, Kevin makes it clear that laundry in a King movie is bad news. (There's also the rape of Andy Dufresne, which takes place in a prison laundry room.) And to top it off, Kevin identifies the source of all this wash-based worriment, noting King's pre-fame days as a washer at an industrial laundromat in Maine, a nightmare job from which literary success liberated him. "There's a deep-seated terror behind it," Kevin writes. "Maybe if this writing thing doesn't work out, King will have to go back to working in laundry."

One thing I love about Maher's amazing "Stephen King Hates Laundry" theory is how it ties the various film adaptations of King works together. It's interesting how these films, without the benefit of King's direct involvement, reflect his interests and concerns, even when the movies themselves don't religiously follow the source material. There are no significant laundry scenes in the novels The Stand or It, or the novella "The Body" on which Stand by Me is based, yet they all appear in the movie versions, the filmmakers somehow picking up on this idea of "dirty laundry." And it's definitely a King idea. In "Trucks," the short story Maximum Overdrive is based on, the unnamed narrator describes the various haulers that haunt the rest stop, but the Green Goblin rig doesn't make an appearance. In fact, only one truck is specifically identified by its company label on the side panel, a sneaky bastard lying in wait, "crouched across the gravel... like a hound dog, growling and rasping," to knock one of the survivors out of his boots when he runs out of the building. The name on the panel? "Wong's Cash-and-Carry Laundry."


Maher found a similar flavor of author/filmmaker serendipity pertaining to King and deadly, malevolent vehicles, something fans will recognize as a fixture. Besides "Trucks," King writings that deal with sentient or killer-driven vehicles include Christine, From a Buick 8, Mr. Mercedes and the novellas Mile 81 (in which a car literally eats people) and Throttle (co-written with Joe Hill). Not to mention King characters trapped in a car (Cujo), involved in a debilitating accident (Misery), given a lift by an off-putting ghost (Riding the Bullet), run afoul of a cross-country traveling demon in a haunted painting ("The Road Virus Heads North") or driving through parallel dimensions filled with monster trees to cut down on commute time ("Mrs. Todd's Shortcut").

But overwhelming 12- and 18-wheelers have been King's motorized monster of choice since the publication of "Trucks" in 1973, a full year before his first novel and two years after the release of the killer truck classic Duel, written by Richard Matheson (who, Maher points out, King has often referred to as his greatest influence in horror fiction). And while exhaust-belching beasties haven't made many literary appearances in the King universe in the last 40 years, Maher's come up with a number of movie adaptations where directors reflected King's obsession beyond Overdrive and Trucks (a second adaptation of the same story made for TV in 1997 starring Timothy Busfield - you heard that right!)

Look no further than Christopher Walken's Johnny Smith, knocked into a coma by a fateful head-on collision with the trailer of an overturned truck in David Cronenberg and Jeffrey Boam's cinematic rendering of The Dead Zone. In the book, it's two drag racers in a Mustang and a Dodge Charger who run into the cab in which Johnny is a passenger. In a scene unique to Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson's The Shining, Dick Hallorann is briefly detoured on his way to rescue Danny from the Overlook Hotel by a fatal-looking accident in which a semi has crushed a Volkswagon beetle, a sign of the cook's own imminent destruction (he survives in the novel). This shot was brought up in Room 237, the suggestion being that Kubrick's change was meant as some kind of insult, but the presence of the truck makes it an intuitive homage, The Shining coming out fairly early in the author's career.

King himself translated to the screen the inciting tragedy of a truck blowing young Gage Creed out of his tiny shoes from Pet Sematary, tracking the rig from the onset of its inevitable route to its meeting with the softly surrendering form of a small boy, for the film directed by Mary Lambert**** (note: no relation to Christopher Lambert). Meanwhile Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon added a scene to Stand by Me in which Kiefer Sutherland's greaser psycho Ace Merrill plays a tense game of chicken with an oncoming truck. The main character's brother, presented in flashbacks as a rule-abiding, all-around good guy who Ace later describes as having "good sense," has already died in a car crash when the film begins. If fate deems the body of such a prodigy worthy to be gnarled under the compression of unforgiving metal, what chance does anyone else have of avoiding such a sinister appointment? And so what better way to position Ace as the King character we know not to mess with than have him unflinchingly drive into the chrome maw of death, mocking the immovable Moirai of doom that giant trucks represent in the King-dom?

And like his laundry theory, Maher has a real-world correlation to King's lorry leitmotif. In the same 2008 interview with Suspense Magazine in which King revealed his history scrubbing linens and tablecloths, he declared the profession he'd choose for himself if he hadn't become a fabulously wealthy writer: "Long-haul trucker." Which makes perfect sense, Maher adds: a man accustomed to long periods of self-imposed isolation in the writer's den would naturally feel sympathetic to one sentenced to miles and hours locked inside the lonely cab of a dwarfing crate, getting just a little bit closer to his goal with each tick of the clock and protracted stretch of pavement.

Maybe mentally it's a comfortable place for King to be, secure in the wagon, making his own tracks, maintaining control of the most powerful, unimpeded behemoth to exist in the real world. His affinity with long-haulers also explains King's cameo in the "Hitch-hiker" segment of Creepshow 2 as a vested truck driver investigating the aftermath of a bloody hit-and-run, another example of a King-related project in which the author had no direct hand (only the basic concept behind the story) that incorporated the brutal union of torque and torso. King would suffer his own tragic roadside encounter years later, and made getting back into writing a vital part of his recovery, to reclaim his place behind the wheel of his own literary drive.

But years before that, King did accept a non-writing job: the directing of his very own motion picture care of compulsive King book-to-screen producer Dino De Laurentiis. "It was a crash course in film school," King reflected in an article on his Razzie-nominated work behind the camera for a 1991 issue of Cinefantastique. Contrary to popular opinion, I think King is better at directing than he is at making puns. The movie suffers from bland locations, but King did what he could with Wilmington. Blue Velvet, another De Laurentiis production, was shooting in the area at the same time; actress Laura Harrington would often lunch with Laura Dern - their note-sharing must have been fascinating. It's funny to think about Stephen King and David Lynch shooting down the street from each other. Road-peril scenes like Jeffrey and Sandy being menaced by the Ford Fairlane 500 Jeffrey mistakes for Frank's Dodge Charger are set in the same kind of seemingly innocuous suburban area where King shot Overdrive's most effectively eerie sequence.

Following a consecutive onslaught of insulting ATMs, melon-based mayhem and soda pop impelling filmed around dull Wilmington exteriors, young Deke rides his bike through an empty neighborhood and suddenly the movie turns into Fires on the Plain. Say what you will about sprinklers that set themselves off: most of this scene is a nightmarish portrait of a decimated community, with King making the best use of the soundtrack, AC/DC's instrumental "D.T." The title probably stands for "Diesel Trucks," but I like to think it's actually something like "Dying Time" (I know what followers of Roland the Gunslinger probably think it stands for).

As Angus Young's jarring guitar offsets the steady drumbeat, we're given shots of abandoned hammocks, empty beer bottles and bloodied corpses just barely concealed behind lovingly-shaved shrubbery (and a crashed Volkswagon beetle - King's Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque response to Kubrick?) For King readers, it should recall the savage massacre of the cul de sac in The Regulators, although it's the kid on the bike who dies first in that book (had the script which inspired it, The Shotgunners, been filmed by Sam Peckinpah as originally planned, it would have been King's first foray into le cinema). The music fades out to the Roger Miller-inspired jingle of an ice cream truck, creepily filmed from the empty driver's seat, establishing itself in this lifeless suburban wasteland as its "King of the Road." King himself was happy with the scene, as related to Cinefantastique:

"Here's this little kid riding his bike down this deserted street. He's looking, and whatever happened has already happened. He sees legs sticking out of bushes, he sees a dog with a radio-controlled car in his mouth, a lady who has been strangled by her own hair-dryer. That particular sequence is alive for me the way a lot of the movies are just sort of static."

There are other nice directorial touches. The newly-cognizant truck's rearview mirror turning to follow the path of the unsuspecting young lovers. The empty highway introduction of the gun-toting M274 Mule. Personally I love the shot where newlyweds Curtis and Connie drive away from the camera to shoot the gap in the trucks, and we see written on the trunk of their car: "Good Luck Curt & Connie!" I'm fascinated by the scene between Joe and Bill in the bathroom, where their conversation is punctuated by Joe's steady turds. This is a sequence that most likely baffles most viewers, but think about it: what are humans required to do that trucks aren't? The people who go up against the mechanized threat are hindered by various biological weaknesses, and having to poop is just one of them.

What killer trucks do need is gas, a narrative challenge King met in 1973 when he wrote the short story and again in 1986 when he shot the movie. Therefore we get the great gas-pumping scene, in which the cast is bullied into feeding a ceaseless succession of their greasy subjugators. King concluded "Trucks" on this disparaging moment with mankind devolved into the servants of sentient vehicles, and its cinematic counterpart is stretched almost to the end of the film. But it's the kind of boring sequence I love, a thematic montage that belabors the action to accentuate the drudgery of a menial task, in this case the draining monotony of fueling one truck after another. Its tone matches the earlier bike ride through the neighborhood, with "Hells Bells" thundering home the point that "Nobody's putting up a fight" - this apocalypse is one of pathetic abdication.

The acting in Maximum Overdrive has a bad reputation, not entirely unearned, but everyone does a good job looking forlorn and miserable in this scene, especially Estevez weakly hefting around the massive gas hose. King didn't want to work with actors, evident in his camera's obsession with mechanics and machinery that almost puts him in a mindset akin to Eisenstein or Dovzhenko. For the lead role, he apparently wanted Bruce Springsteen(!) but was shot down by De Laurentiis (with all the music acts King wanted to involve, I'm surprised the movie wasn't edited by The Bangles). I'd say King was inspired to cast The Boss based on him singing about an "ice cream truck on a deserted street" from the song "Waitin' On A Sunny Day," but that one's off The Rising from 2002.*** **

He still manages to have at least one memorable human character: Pat Hingle's Hendershot, the shady truck stop manager who doesn't give a lady bug about taking advantage of Estevez and his fellow ex-con employees, essentially running a dusty slave ship before the trucks come along to make slaves of them all. A notable cast member is Marla Maples, a victim of the instigating watermelon massacre. Maher points out: "If Trump becomes president, he'll be the first Commander-in-Chief to have an ex-wife who was in a Stephen King movie." While that is interesting (Ronald Reagan is the only US president in history who ever got a divorce, and that was from another actress, Jane Wyman), what I find especially impressive about Maples is that she is apparently the only actor to star in a Stephen King movie, a Steven Seagal movie and a Todd Solondz movie.*** *** She also appeared on Wrestlemania as a guest timekeeper in a match between Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter. Now that's a goddamn career.

But King gives the most attention to M.O.'s best character, the black Western Star 4800 with the face of the Green Goblin. Why the Green Goblin? King has a limited relationship with Marvel Comics: in 1981, Marvel Magazine Group did an adaptation of The Lawnmower Man (the original, fucked-up story) with art by Walt Simonson and text provided by King, his first comic work. King's connection to Spider-Man (besides the fact that both were involved in unfortunate musical projects with high-profile rockers) is that, in his introduction to the Dark Tower line of comics, the author stated that ol' Webhead is the Marvel superhero he'd most like to write.

In the context of the movie, Connie goes off at one point saying she hates spiders and Estevez is weirdly referred to as "hero" a number of times by his lady friend. The nickname is always used mockingly ("Ain't never seen a hero with his ass in the air like that"), almost like a taunt to get Estevez to man-up against these diabolical machines led by the mocking visage of the Green Goblin that force him to swing his hefty gas hose in front of everyone until he nearly collapses from the effort. That's what makes its ultimate destruction so vital: Estevez won't be a dishwasher under the heel of the Hendershots of the world, toiling at a place designed to serve the steel masters that bring inevitable destruction. Hendershot (whose office has a prominently green theme) is a flesh-and-blood villain, the Goblin truck is what he's unleashed upon the planet.

It's too bad the actual reason the Goblin and its friends are driving around sans drivers isn't really satisfying, considering King's decision to gamble his future in Hollywood on a story focused on evil trucks. I think Maximum Overdrive is a case of Stephen King the storyteller failing Stephen King the director, mainly because the viewer will find himself preoccupied with the rules of King's fantasy scenario. Unlike the short story, which opens in medias res, Overdrive sets up an alien incursion to explain its murderous machines that makes you wonder why certain items get taken over while others don't. The involvement of AC/DC suggests electricity, although that obviously has nothing to do with the vehicles themselves. If the alien force can possess trucks and utility vehicles, why not cars? The pizza guy's VW bug apparently crashed itself, but Curtis and Connie's car never wrests control from them and they're driving around for ages.

The victims of the first scene on the bridge are mostly cars (along with the AC/DC van) and the bible salesman's car gets totalled, suggesting a class system where the bigger vehicles either plan to destroy the smaller ones or simply chalk them up to collateral damage (like the phone booth)? But a toy car is rammed up a dog's mouth. And one fleeing little leaguer is thrown over the handles of his bike, as if it were abruptly bedeviled by the aliens. Unless...did the bike just stop working? If the invading power can take over a mounted machine gun and fire cans out of a soda machine, why can't it control Hendershot's bazooka? And how can the trucks even see? If they use some kind of radar, how come Deke can hide from the ice cream truck behind a bush?

We probably shouldn't dwell on the plot discrepancies of this killer truck movie - leave that to the YouTubers. I'm more interested in King's larger theme, beautifully encapsulated by the ballad "Who Made Who," the best AC/DC single of the Simon Wright era.**** *** King's all about the cautionary tales. In Pet Sematary he said, "Don't play god." In Carrie, "Don't try to fit in with the popular kids if you're an awkward weirdo with a religious freak mother." The Shining: "Plan out your murder spree of your family well in advance to avoid getting locked up in a pantry." I may be confusing the message on some of these, but that's understandable when the best I can make from Maximum Overdrive is, "Don't build giant trucks if you don't want them to crush you."

The rules of possession seem to apply to any object a paranoid technophobe might not trust: video games that could literally fry your brain, dangerous toys, cash machines that steal your money. King detects a flaw in the maker, not the machine - fury from renegade trucks that are "suppos'd to be depoted" comes down hardest on those who expect fidelity from the dangerous tools they've taken for granted in everyday life, like Wanda Jean the waitress: "We made them! We made you! Where's your sense of loyalty, you pukey thing? WE! MADE! YOU!"

It's a great question: did we make them? Is man god of the machine? Who turn the screw? And who made us? While the narrator gives an uncertain explanation for the truck uprising in the story ("Maybe they're mad"), Estevez theorizes the aliens possessing the instruments of humanity's destruction are "interstellar housecleaners" there to sweep the population right off the face of the planet (really, sweep not vacuum? c'mon, King), literally a cleansing from above. At its heart, the mechanical slave revolt at the Dixie Boy Truck Stop is your classic battle in heaven, with the creator losing hold over his creations.

Again we return to the idea of King needing control, to be the invisible pilot of his universe - he made you, Emilio Estevez! He positions himself as such in his appearance in Maximum Overdrive's preview and on its poster, apeing Hitchcock's "puppetmaster" pose, complete with strings manipulating the actors and the trucks, diminished under the towering director breaking through the hard steel shell of a semi. In the Cinefantastique article, King said he modeled his direction after Hitchcock but that all his meticulous preparation to make the movie the way he wanted it ended up being counter-intuitive to the way he's used to creating. By the end of his filmmaking odyssey he'd learn that the machine didn't work for him, that after enjoying years of bestselling books that basically allowed him to print his own money, this time he was going to be called an asshole. The data bank know his number.

One machine King certainly couldn't control was the radio-directed lawnmower that struck a block of wood and maimed DP Armando Nannuzzi. Nannuzzi, an Italian cinematographer who shot Mafioso (co-written by Marco Ferreri, writer-director of I Love You starring Christopher Lambert), Porcile (with Tonino Delli Colli and Giuseppe Ruzzolini), La Cage aux Folles and the previous King adaptation Silver Bullet, subsequently lost the use of his right eye and sued the production. I hate to bring up this horrible incident, the memory of which I'm sure contributes to King's continued dislike of the film, but it's such an ironic tragedy to have occurred on this particular movie. You can't help but hear the clunky electronic variation of Bernard Herrmann's Psycho theme that accompanies each machine attack when you think about it, or be reminded of another movie King hates: The Lawnmower Man. In another case of filmmakers completely changing King's stories while also furthering his favorite ideas, the killer grass cutter is controlled by a telepath and attacks a victim seemingly under its own power. More bad associations - no wonder King wanted his name off that one.

Maximum Overdrive was originally slated for release in March 1986, when it would have shared screens with Highlander. But King convinced MGM to push the date back to late July, same month as Big Trouble in Little China and Aliens, and just a week before a little movie called Howard the Duck. In fact, it was released the same week as Out of Bounds, a now-forgotten thriller starring... Hail Caesar's Anthony Michael Hall.**** **** The coincidences continue! And speaking of dates, how about this:

In Maximum Overdrive's opening crawl, the day the trucks go homicidal is given as June 19, 1987.

Exactly 22 years later, Stephen King was struck by a minivan while walking on the shoulder of Maine State Route 5 in Lovell: June 19, 1999.

That same day, Joe Bob Briggs hosted Maximum Overdrive on TNT's Monstervision.***** ****

This is an unnerving coincidence, one that I can't recall ever hearing brought up before. It gets even crazier when you consider that the number 19 is given extreme significance in the Dark Tower series. Now I wouldn't put it past King to have taken the number "19" from that crucial date in '99: the last three books in the Dark Tower series, and his revision of the first one that added the recurrence of "19", were all written post-accident. However, in the first chapter of The Dead Zone, Johnny Smith is betting on the Wheel of Fortune at a county fair and successfully predicts a series of numbers. He ends by putting "the whole wad" on number 19. Right after that, he's involved in a horrific car accident that changes his life. The Dead Zone was published in 1979.

Bryan Edwin Smith, the man who hit Stephen King with his van, died a few years ago on September 21. Stephen King's birthday. Also Armando Nannuzzi's birthday.

King, who spent months recovering from the near-fatal accident, has gone on to much late career success with bestsellers such as Under the Dome and 11/22/63 - and, like his sentient ice cream truck, once more becoming "King" of the road. Hopefully he'll try his hand at directing one more time, because he obviously learned from his own movie that it's better to be inside the truck than in its path. Maybe tomorrow it'll be his world again.


Huge amount of thanks to Kevin Maher for his invaluable input towards this article. If you're in New York at the end of the month, make it your business to attend his next show at the Nitehawk, "Kevin Geeks Out About Batman & Superman" on March 31st.

Thanks also to King enthusiast Bryant Burnette of The Truth Inside the Lie for sharing the article in the 1991 issue of Cinefantastique with me. Check out what he has to say about Maximum Overdrive over at The King Cast, where he and Bob LeDrew discuss the "worst" Stephen King movie adaptations. He compares Max O.D. to Wes Anderson's Rushmore - no shit!

Also recommended: Schlock Treatment's episode on Maximum Overdrive, in which Marc McDonald, Matt Ringler and Doug Frye also question the rules of the machine "uprising" (turns out the timers were rebelling, not the sprinklers - of course!)

And if your Stephen King kicks still aren't quenched, try this article about Firestarter written by Eric Pfriender for this very site.

Finally, here's a transcript of Monstervision's Maximum Overdrive episode that aired the same day as King's accident. The following week, Joe Bob hosted Highlander. Next Lambertathon, we'll be doing the same thing.


Couldn't fit this into the article in a way that was coherent, but a notable connection between Maximum Overdrive and the Coen Brothers is that they rarely make a movie without involving some form of automobile accident. Some are small (Big Lebowski), others major (No Country for Old Men), but all of them come at a pivotal plot moment or signal an unexpected turn in the action.

Car crashes in Coen Brothers movies include:

- Money packet explosion causes Gale and Evelle to lose control of their car and skid down the road in Raising Arizona.

- Would-be hitman's car hits a telephone pole after the driver is capped by tommy gun-wielding Leo O'Bannon and is set on fire in Miller's Crossing.

- Car being involved in chase runs off the road and flips over into the snow in Fargo.

- The Dude has a minor accident after dropping a cigarette into his lap and, in the aftermath, discovers Larry's homework in The Big Lebowski. Later, the nihilists set his car on fire.

- Ed loses control of the car and goes off the road when Birdy tries to go down on him, sending a hubcab spinning endlessly, his last act of freedom prior to his downfall in The Man Who Wasn't There.

- Anton Chigurh gets t-boned in the most brutal-looking accident ever shot on film in No Country for Old Men.

- The Tuchman Marsh man gets t-boned Burn After Reading.

- Rooster gets caught under his horse, sort of a 19th century version of a car accident, in True Grit.

- Larry has a fender bender at the same time an off-screen accident kills Sy Abelman in A Serious Man. (Interesting note: kids on a bike distract both Chigurh in No Country and Larry in Serious Man just before their respective accidents. Reminds me of Deke riding his bike around the neighborhood in Maximum Overdrive.)

- Llewlyn Davis runs over a cat.


It's too bad King didn't care about casting, because Christopher Lambert would have been great in this movie. He ended up dealing with a sentient truck himself five years later in a little film called Fortress. Like Estevez, his character is a convict who confronts his own maximum-overdriven nemesis with a powerful projectile (in his case, a flame-thrower). There's a better explanation for the truck coming to life: its internal controls are overriden by Zed-10, the evil computer that runs the inescapable prison he's just busted out of. And it gets Clifton Collins, Jr., the bastard.

A minor Lambert connection: the "Who Made Who" music video was directed by David Mallet, who also directed the video for Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever" from the Highlander soundtrack (and Highlander helmer/fellow Aussie Russell Mulcahy directed videos for some early Bon Scott AC/DC songs like "Problem Child," "Touch Too Much" and "Let There Be Rock"). The "WMW" video has Angus replicated into an audience who raise their hands and chant along with the song, making for an interesting double meaning of the lyrics: do the fans make the band, or does the band make the fans?

And a few Lambert/Stephen King casting connections: his Highlander rival and Hail, Caesar! co-star Clancy Brown also played the villain in Pet Sematary Two, his Sicilian co-star John Turturro was the bad guy in Secret Garden, To Kill a Priest's Ed Harris was in Creepshow, Why Me's Christopher Lloyd hosted the terrible Quicksilver Highway, Tom Skerritt of Knight Moves was in both The Dead Zone and Desperation... and that's just covering the next four years of Lambert's career. Seems odd that the man hasn't done a King adaptation himself, although I guess there aren't many vaguely European-sounding leading men found in King's work. (Although Thomas Jane's got an 'Americanized Lambert' thing going and he starred in The Mist, so who knows?) Finally, future Mrs. Lambert Diane Lane reportedly had a fling with Overdrive star Emilio Estavez while they were co-starring in The Outsiders.

~ MARCH 14, 2016 ~
* King has admitted as much; Hail Caesar was a 1994 movie co-starring Robert Downey, Jr., is there any doubt the sets were lined with white powder? I submit the following clip as Exhibit A.

This is actually a subject that warrants further discussion: I've always found King's claims of how drunk and high he was during the 80's a little dubious. Not that I doubt he was into the stuff and may very well have suffered from an addiction problem with alcohol, it's just hard to believe someone as consummately professional and prolific as King (also a responsible family man) could have gotten half as much done if he was in such a constant state of shit-facedness. I think claiming to be "coked up" (as related in an interview with Tony Magistrale in Hollywood's Stephen King) plays into his 80's rock star writer persona. But check out SlashFilm's Oral History of Maximum Overdrive: the participants all seem incredulous at the idea of King snorting on set. Plus he's such a big nerd; the assertion that he harbored a coke habit seems like a dork in high school boasting that he's got a hot girlfriend up in Canada.

However, if actor Ellen McElduff claimed to have been coked up while shooting her "WE-MADE-YOU!" scenes, I would have no problem believing her.

** Esposito has a great moment where he stuffs his pockets with all the cigarettes and other goodies coughed up by the vending machines - he even steals an empty coffee cup - but it's a missed opportunity that after he's electrocuted and the others find him, all the cigarettes in his pockets aren't producing a giant cloud of smoke emitting from his charred corpse like a cartoon. Also, the killer arcade game should have been Polybius.

After reading this here article, Kevin Maher added: "I'd argue that the killer video game should be The Bishop of Battle, the fictional killer video game that destroys Emilio Estevez in Nightmares. Y'know the 1983 anthology horror movie which also has a chapter where Lance Henriksen is chased by a killer truck? The truck chapter, directed by Joe Sargent, is a blatant rip-off of Duel. Just four years later Sargent would direct Jaws: The Revenge, so he went from making a Duel rip-off to the third sequel to Jaws, which was very much a follow-up to Duel."

*** The narrator describes staring into its grill: "It was like looking in the face of an idiot."
**** The filmmakers enlisted King favorites The Ramones to perform Pet Sematary's eponymous theme song, which was not as successfully utilized as AC/DC and "Who Made Who?" in Maximum Overdrive. It was nominated for a Razzie Award but "lost" to the Iron Maiden song from Nightmare on Elm Street 5.
*** ** I'd like to think Springsteen's album was inspired by Max O.D. based on song titles like "Further On (Up the Road)" and "My City of Ruins." The title track could be a reference to the rising of the machines. It would be much cooler than just being about 9/11.
*** *** Many have come close. Christopher Walken is one villanious role in a Seagal movie away from an SK-SS-TS trifecta. Jennifer Jason Leigh was in a Stephen King movie and a Todd Solondz movie, Michael Kenneth Williams did a Seagal and a Solondz. Dozens of actors including Michael Rooker (Above the Law, The Dark Half), Dean Norris (Hard to Kill, Under the Dome), Gary Busey (Under Siege, Silver Bullet), Bob Gunton (The Glimmer Man, The Shawshank Redemption), J.T. Walsh (Executive Decision, Needful Things), Lance Henriksen (Pistol Whipped, The Mangler 2) and Tom Sizemore (Ticker, Dreamcatcher) have appeared in King and Seagal projects but never a Solondz (and I could totally see any of those actors inhabiting the world of Solondz). Estevez's fellow Breakfast Clubber Ally Sheedy, who was in Life During Wartime, guested on an episode of "The Dead Zone" and starred in the Cujo rip-off Man's Best Friend, but I don't think we should let her slide on those: she's gotta start fresh and get a proper King credit before even thinking about lucking her way into a Seagal feature. Happiness' Jon Lovitz once played Stephen King on SNL...not sure that counts (and he hasn't come close to co-starring with Seagal, although I think he would have been better than Tom Arnold as the portly comic sidekick in Exit Wounds).

HOLY SHIT ladies and gentlemen we have a winner. Mr. Richard Masur was in It, Fire Down Below and Palindromes. I apologize for egregiously bestowing Ms. Maples with the sole King-Seagal-Solondz badge - she shares it with Corey Haim's dad from License to Drive.

Kevin Maher: "Who was ALSO in Nightmares! The giant-rat section of the movie?"

**** *** Better than "Sink the Pink?" You heard me. And don't try to throw Razor's Edge at me: Chris Slade played on that album and Phil Rudd rejoined the group on tour, so songs like "Thunderstruck" and "Moneytalks" are set firmly at the beginning of the Comeback Era which ran through the 90's and included their other movie song "Big Gun" from the Last Action Hero soundtrack (and, of course, "Hail Caesar").

On a side note, it's a sad coincidence to be publishing this article the same week news of Brian Johnson's hearing trouble that will sideline him indefinitely from touring. Coming so soon after Malcom Young's departure due to health concerns, it seems like the AC/DC we've known and loved for 35 years may be coming to an end, which is awful. By all rights they should rock forever.

**** **** Out of Bounds also commissioned a rock band to write a song for the soundtrack, but Motley Crue's "Nona" (also the title of a Stephen King short story) was ultimately not used.
***** **** Kevin speculates that a programmer may have intentionally set the date of the broadcast to coincide with the day the movie is set. Makes sense, although Joe Bob doesn't mention it in his commentary. And of course, they couldn't have known what would happen to King that day...just friggin' weird, man.