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Rated R
Copyright 1986 De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 31 August 2010

The Characters:  

  • Billy - Emilio Estevez! He is the hero because he isn't scared of killer trucks, knows how to tell a pushy boss to take a hike, and loves the taste of female sweat. I don't know why the last one is required, but he's the one licking it.
  • Brett - She has a long neck, like a turtle or brontosaurus.
  • Deke - Your dad and everyone else who you knew is dead, but at least you won the last baseball game of the season. Your summer hasn't been all bad.
  • Connie & Curtis - Newlyweds whose honeymoon is interrupted by the destruction of civilization as we know it. Connie screams whenever she is surprised, which means that she spends most of this film screeching. Curtis, are you sure that you want to spend fifty years married to the caterwauling banshee of Catawba County?
  • Mr. Hendershot - He set out to paint the world his own shade of Bubba, but didn't make it.
  • Wanda - Look, you are a waitress at a grungy truck stop. The only thing you made today is a pot of coffee, and even that wasn't very good.
  • Any Machine, but especially any Truck, Aircraft, or Lawn Mower - Bloodthirsty devices that are better at killing humans than whatever they were originally designed to do.
  • The Green Goblin Truck - That is a scary-looking shipment of joy for boys and girls! I'm betting that children fled screaming from it even before every machine on the planet turned into a human-mangling horror.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

A movie with a comet in always spells trouble for humanity. Usually the giant ball of ice and rock is on a collision course with the Earth; however, sometimes the threat is something more exotic. "Maximum Overdrive" is one of those unusual dangers associated with rogue comets, because nearly every machine on the planet starts to revolt against Mankind. Things like ATMs can only display insulting messages, but steamrollers are capable of doing a lot more than calling surprised bank customers bad names.

I would much rather run into a murderous can opener than a psychopathic self-propelled lawnmower, while any variety of mobile woodchipper means that my butt would be heading for the closest vertical rock formation. Granted, once I climbed to the top of that, my next problem might well be a swarm of RC helicopters. I'd still rather my last moments recreate the epic finale of "King Kong," vice a random scene from "Woodchipper Massacre."

Another machine that you really don't want to misbehave is a drawbridge. It happens in the first moments of the movie, and watching the drawbridge rise as dozens of surprised drivers try to avoid becoming objects of gravity's omnipotent fury is awfully entertaining. Especially due to the fact that one of the trucks caught on the bridge is filled with watermelons, resulting in a twist on the fruit cart scene that happens in so many movies (here the fruit chases the cars). There is also a black van with the logo for AC/DC, who provided the soundtrack. Man, I love this soundtrack, even though I cannot count how many times "You Shook Me All Night Long" played on the juke box during lunch period when I was in high school.

Which machines become homicidal instruments does seem to follow some sort of logical rules. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure them out. Trucks with diesel engines appear to be universally deranged and out for human blood, as does any gadget that runs on electricity. Cars however, seem oblivious to the machina uprising. So, if this scenario ever actually happens, don't worry about the family station wagon. Do keep a close eye on the toaster and the F350 turbo diesel, and remember that any big rig is just as likely to run you over as look at you.

By the way, if all of the machines go on a rampage, it's no use looking for me. I can't help you this time. I'll be reenacting "King Kong," remember? The best times to ask for my help are in the event of zombie outbreak, alien brain-eating leech invasion, or flying piranha attack. I really shine when the menace is flying piranhas; just look for the guy with the titanium tennis racquet. That'll be me.

I don't play tennis. I just have a titanium-strung racquet, for obvious reasons.

The assortment of people who congregate at the safe haven of the Dixie Boy truck stop is nearly as random as the machines that are trying to kill them, but also follows a skewed version of logic. Obviously there are truckers, mechanics, a waitress, and an owner who needs to eat more vegetables and less hash browns that have been smothered, covered, and chunked. There is also a parolee, a girl hitchhiker who could easily become a member of the female prison system, a bible salesman, two newlyweds with enough love in their eyes to make sweet Southern tea from swamp water, and Deke. Deke fits in because his dad is a mechanic at the Dixie Boy.

Well, I should say that Deke's old man was a mechanic at the truck stop. A big rig turns poor old Duncan (that's Deke's dad, they should have started a HVAC business together: Deke and Duncan's Heating and Air) into bloody mush. The bible salesman doesn't stay for long, either. The Green Goblin truck hits the scripture-peddling vagrant so hard that he is nearly knocked out of the film. Mr. "Oh Jesus, That Hurts" spends the rest of his short time on Earth screaming from a ditch on the other side of the road.

Have you noticed that I'm having a hard time describing everything that is going on, and who has been doing what (or avoiding what machines are trying to do to them)? That is because the first half hour of the film is little more than a montage on steroids. A lot happens in that thirty minutes. You already know about the watermelons, but there is also the killer Coke machine at Deke's baseball game, a vicious electric knife, and the eighteen-wheelers effectively blockading the Dixie Boy truck stop by endlessly circling the structure.

My favorite part in here is Deke's slow bicycle trip through a suburban neighborhood. First off, he is stalked by the endless water sprinklers, but then he runs into far more dangerous enemies: a self-propelled lawn mower and an ice cream truck. Either of those are more than capable of killing a young man, though the lawn mower is fairly easy to avoid due to its speed. To be really dangerous, the self-propelled lawn mowers need to hunt in packs so that they could box in their prey.

Again, that's the sort of self-created nightmare that makes me want to climb to the top of a rock. The only thing worse than a pack of self-propelled lawn mowers would be a swarm of belt sanders. Can you imagine being killed by forty belt sanders?

There is a reason that the trucks don't rush the Dixie Boy and turn the place into a heap of kindling. The reason is that would be the end of the movie, and it's not over yet. Two alternate reasons are also given. One is that the trucks know that the truck stop has a basement, and any attempt to drive through the building would end badly (for the truck). A second reason is Hendershot owns a massive cache of illegal weapons that he stores in that same basement. The most effective of these armaments is an M-72 LAW rocket launcher. It puts a hurting on any trucks that get too aggressive. It also does ugly things to toilet paper, although the toilet paper is just collateral damage.

What I am saying is that, regardless of you being (or not being) a truck, the last thing you want to get in the grill is a 66 mm anti-tank rocket.

What I should also be saying is that I am not certain Hendershot's rocket launcher is a LAW, because M-72s are single-shot, and Hendershot's weapon can be reloaded. However, I don't know of any other weapon that looks like that and can be reloaded. Not even some of the later generation Soviet RPGs. We might have to chalk this conundrum up to "it's a movie."

The arrival of two new machines changes the status quo. One of the newcomers is a bulldozer, and a piece of heavy equipment pushing wrecked cars through the front of your truck stop is a problem, but one that is not impossible to solve (especially when you have a Mark II M-72 movie prop at your disposal). It's the other vehicle that is the problem. It's nothing more than a small platform with four tires, a steering wheel, and a pintle-mounted M-60 machinegun. The machinegun is the important part. The little bastard kills a lot of people before beeping out a message in Morse code. The gist of the message is that every living human, if they want to stay living, had best man a fuel pump and gas up the trucks.

Hmmm, collaborate with the genocidal machines or die by Rambo's skateboard. The occupants of the Dixie Boy opt to turn on the pumps and get to work. None of them realized how many trucks live in North Carolina. Before long, the humans are completely exhausted by an endless line of thirsty eighteen-wheelers. Billy uses a grenade to destroy the M274 (the thing with the machinegun), then the remaining survivors flee the truck depot as the angry big rigs collectively decide "To Hell with the basement, I'm going in!"

So endeth the truck stop.

Eventually, the survivors reach the nearby marina and locate a docile-tempered sailboat they can use to hide out on a Carolina island where there aren't any trucks. That is providing they do not encounter a kamikazee Cesna, prowling Los Angeles class SSN, or hurricane (they do get hurricanes in the South, you know). The glorious '80s rock soundtrack winds down, and the only thing that carries on the wind is Connie's continued critical yammering.

I like "Maximum Overdrive" quite a lot. While it might not be the horror masterpiece that Mr. King intended, it works quite well as a cult action comedy. Come on! A soda machine kills somebody! Even for those with the most refined of cinematic tastes, that has to be entertaining on some level. When was the last time you saw a bloodthirsty Coke machine or rogue lawn mower in a Kurosawa film? Great movie, "Seven Samurai," but just imagine if the samurai were fighting a swarm of self-propelled lawn mowers. Oooooo! Or flying piranha! I would pay to see seven heroic samurai defending a village from a flock of flying piranha.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Watermelon has a lower frictional coefficient than a banana peel.
  • Being electrocuted to death will give you the hiccups.
  • Suburbia is filled with more instruments of human suffering than the Spanish Inquisition ever thought possible.
  • Sticks and stones may break your bones, but a Mack Truck will crush your ribcage.
  • Whoever said that the pen was mightier than the sword was never on the wrong end of a machinegun.
  • Military vehicles know Morse code.
  • Ice cream is extremely flammable.
  • Big rigs can operate in stealth mode.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 9 mins - Kids: this is the wrong way to clear the clogged nozzle on a diesel pump.
  • 20 mins - No, he's just sleeping in a pool of his own blood.
  • 37 mins - $1.08 a gallon? Son-of-a-b***h!
  • 48 mins - Would you please go away and let the man enjoy his painfully wet flatulent crap in peace?
  • 63 mins - You pair are crawling through the shower runoff from thousands of truckers with hairy backs and sweaty buttocks. Godspeed, gentlemen.
  • 80 mins - "Rubber Duck, this is Green Goblin, what's your twenty?"
  • Ending Credits - Somebody get that man some shoes!

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note maximumover1.wav ATM: **Beep**
Stephen King: "Honey, come on over here, sugarbuns. This machine just called me an a**hole!"
ATM: **Beep** **Beep** **Beep**
Green Music Note maximumover2.wav Connie: "Look oooouuuutttt!"
Truck Wheels: **SCREEECCCHHH***
Connie: **SCREEECCCHHH!***
Curtis: "I think I just loaded my pants."
Connie: "Curt? Curtis! It's coming after us!"
Green Music Note maximumover3.wav Billy: "No reason why we can't just scoot right across. Pick up your feet and try not to shuffle."
Curtis: "I can handle it."
Hendershot: "You boys are just as crazy as a couple of rats in a plugged up s**thouse!"
Billy: "And you sir are, without a doubt, one of the biggest f**kheads I've ever met in my life."
Green Music Note maximumover4.wav Billy: "Now, when I say run. You run, okay?"
Concerned Citizen: "What you gonna do?"
Billy: "Don't worry about it. You just run, okay."
Concerned Citizen: "What you gonna do, huh?"
Grenade: **Tink**
Billy: "Run!"
M274 Machinegun: **Chatter** **BOOM**
Brett: "I ain't never seen a hero with his a** in the air like that."
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipmaximumover1.mpg - 6.5m
Soda machine of death!

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