Horror hits high gear: Maximum Overdrive

max1Stephen King adaptations have been part and parcel of the horror movie-going experience for more than 30 years and the results have been somewhat patchy, with The Shining and The Dead Zone at one end of the spectrum and the likes of Cujo at the other.

Also sitting pretty at this end of the line is Maximum Overdrive, a film based on a King short story (as so many are) featuring Emilio Estevez. But what sets this apart from other King fodder is that this was the first, and to date, only time that the bespeckled Maine writer has stepped from behind his typewriter to behind the lens to direct.

It’s a mess of a movie sure, but as always with ‘the King of horror’ there are intriguing ideas and interesting images to be had along the way, and to be honest it’s a gloriously fun B-movie in the same vein as Night of the Comet, Cat’s Eye and Creepshow, the latter two of which King was also involved in.

In many ways this is Transformers without the machines transforming into robots but what it does share with its Cybertron cousins is that is has plenty of explosions as pretty much everything you see on screen is blown to smithereens.  Unlike those robots in disguise there are also several rather cool and memorable death scenes including death by lawn mower, a cold drink machine that fires its cans of drink with deadly accuracy and a steam roller that makes a squidgy mess of a baseball team.

With a premise such as this, the emphasis is purely on the fun factor rather than the fear factor, which no doubt disappointed many, but when it’s someone like King running the show there is always some fun to be had. Sure, Emilio Estevez is the only character we give two hoots about (also look out for an appearance by Yeardley Smith AKA Lisa Simpson).

The ‘story’, as little of it there is, unfolds as thus: After a comet passes over earth it leaves a haze surrounding the planet which takes control of machines, making them deadly killers (no reason for this is given but we don’t really need or want one as it would only get in the way), it’s almost a homage to the likes of Day of the Triffids with machines running amuck instead of those pesky plants. A group of people try to stay alive hold up at the Dixie Boy truck stop, think of it as The Alamo with articulated lorries, including the particularly memorable ‘leader’ which has a face not too dissimilar to The Green Goblin.

Released in 1986, this was also the year that Halley’s Comet passed by close to Earth, so it could be seen as a reaction of that as being a supposed harbinger of doom, as it was allegedly sighted before The Battle of Hastings. It could also be seen as a pre-curser to the worry, even though it never materialised, over the likes of Y2K. For all of its comedy and its big bangs it certainly takes a tiny leaf out of the James Cameron book of doom mongering in posing questions about our over reliance on new technology and how we would cope if it bit back.

Before the days of mobile phones and our devotion to all things technology you can’t help but wonder whether it wouldn’t be the right time for a remake of sorts, like all geniuses perhaps King was just ahead of his time with this particular tale?

The mindless mayhem and death and destruction are worth a peek on its own and surely a film with little leaguers getting neatly pressed by a steamroller can’t all be bad!! A bonafide cult classic.

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Roger Moore: Baby, you’re the best

Today would have been Sir Roger Moore’s 90th birthday, my birthday is the day before and when I was younger I always used to say that his birthday was on the 13th, wanting so desperately to share the birthday of my James Bond.

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He was my James Bond growing up, he’s still my James Bond and he always will be. Thankfully my mum and dad were cinematically savvy; in the summer of 1983 it was Octopussy that became my first ever Bond film at the cinema (the old ABC cinema in Mansfield, Notts) and not Never Say Never Again.

Fittingly I was aged 007 at the time and that was the thing about the older Bond films, they were a family affair full to the brim of gadgets, girls, stunts and laughs. It was something that simply had to be seen as a collective and Moore’s Bond was perfect for the family audience.

I was bought the glossy film programme from that viewing, I must have memorised every picture and fact as I read it until it practically fell apart and became more sellotape than brochure.

Although Sir Roger is no longer with us, his cinematic and television legacy certainly is. The great thing about the latest release of Bond films (how many times and how many formats have I bought them on now?) is that all the Moore ones feature a Sir Roger Moore commentary, which are a great and informative listen. It also means you can have Sir Roger visit your house at any time.

The name Roger Moore continues to make me smile, not because of his puns or raised eyebrows, but because he always – in film, in interviews or in person – came across as a genuinely lovely man who would be top of anyone’s dinner party guest list.

And I was lucky enough to meet the man twice, once at the reading of some Rudyard Kipling poetry and for a second time at the book signing of his first autobiography, My Word Is My Bond. It all seems a bit Alan Partridge but I met him at Norwich Waterstones, outside in the queue I was also fortunate enough to be interviewed by ITV Anglia News about why I was there.

I’ve since read Last Man Standing and received Á bientôt just yesterday, on my birthday. Naturally I had to start reading it today, with a suitable cuppa of course!

man-who-haunted-himself5Don’t let him fool you that he can’t act either, not everyone can pull off the right mix of suave, funny and deadly as Bond and you genuinely believe his vulnerability when he stumbles from the simulator in Moonraker. He would have admitted though that his greatest acting role was in the fantastic The Man Who Haunted Himself, catch my review here.

My favourite Moore Bond film? It’s a constant flux, but my faves for various reasons are Live And Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and yes, even A View To A Kill. The latter isn’t the best Bond film ever, I know, but the impression it made on me as a nine year old has stuck and it is my Bond guilty pleasure. I loved it so much it was the very first original Bond quad poster that I bought.

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And Moore was so much more than Bond, so wherever his acting roles took him, I followed. He was a delight as Sherlock Holmes against Patrick Macnee’s Doctor Watson in Sherlock Holmes in New York, great playing a Bond/Moore pastiche in The Cannonball Run, kind hearted German commander in Escape To Athena (not the poster shop) and real hard ass merc in The Wild Geese, check out his opening scene with a drug dealer that is still surprising and shocking. Eat it, all of it!

Sir Roger, you’ll always be the man with the golden puns, the spy who I loved, you’ll always be my James Bond. And he’s also the reason – for the next couple of year at least – keeping the scant hope alive that I could be the next James Bond as he wasn’t announced as picking up his Walther PPK until he was 45. And that record of seven official Bond films isn’t set to be toppled anytime soon.

I’d also like to see Moore appear in the Bond main titles one final time as the last credit with a dedication. He probably wouldn’t have been bothered, but I think it is what we and his legacy deserve.

live and let die