Stephen King embarked on a new project recently--The Green Mile, a serialized novel that he's publishing in short monthly paperback installments. Luckily for King, he's having much better luck with this new venture than with an earlier "first,'' his directorial debut, which I reviewed a while back.
Maximum Overdrive is Big Steve King's directing debut, and I already know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Oh, sure, Joe Bob, you're gonna say it's not Steve's fault when the movie starts peterin' out after about an hour, 'cause he's just a writer.''
That's just so wrong it makes me want to puke. There's a good reason Maximum Overdrive drops its transmission after the first hour, and that's because Steve tried to direct a love scene.
Think about it. Everything was fine up to that point, right?
I mean, we got the machines slowly trying to take over the world.
We got the bank sign flashin' the f-word.
We got the great scene where the drawbridge goes up by its own self and destroys eight, 10 motor vehicles.
We got the maniac cigarette machine, the attack diesel pump, the leapin' electric carving knife, video-game electrocutions, a little kid on his bike gettin' Aunt Jemima-ed by a steamroller, Coke-can brain surgery, various forms of deranged lawn-care equipment, exploding 18-wheeler aliens, and, of course, Pat Hingle running around shooting off a bazooka he happens to keep in the basement of his truck stop.
Great stuff. Great flick. Then what happens?
Emilio Estevez and Laura Harrington do this pathetic little kissing scene, and a couple of scenes later they start makin' the sign of the four-legged spouting walrus, and you know what that adds up to? A Perry Como music video.
The flick sorta hunkers down after that, while we wait on the 18-wheelers to stop trying to take over the world and let some special-effects man blow 'em all up, but it takes forever 'cause we got about 20 minutes too much plot in here.
It's OK, though. Steve gets three stars first time out of the box and a 93 on the Twisted Metal Meter.
* One breast (I think).
* Twenty dead bodies. One dead dog.
* Twenty-eight dead motor vehicles. Six quarts of blood.
* Decent AC/DC tunes.
* Twelve exploding trucks. One exploding ice-cream truck. Two motor-vehicle chases.
* Wrist-carving. Random video-game electrocutions.
* Little Leaguers massacred for no reason. Steamrollin' of small children.
* Ventilated Pat Hingle. Filthy rest rooms.
* Gratuitous version of "King of the Road.''
* Vending fu. Diesel fu. Garbage-truck fu. Bazooka fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for...
* Yeardley Smith, as Connie the whining newlywed, for saying, "Curtis, are you dead?'' and, "Oh, honey, you're bleeding like a stuck pig.''
* Ellen McElduff, as Wanda June the waitress, for gettin' drunk and screaming, "They can't! We made them!''
* And Big Steve, for landing a part in his own movie. Three stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
Joe Bob's Find That Flick
This week's noggin-knocker comes from...Quentin B. LaFond of Tarrytown, New York:
"Maybe you or one of your readers can name this movie I am trying to find. It's a military comedy, and I remember seeing it back in the mid-'60s when I was a little kid.
"The only scene that I can remember is when a row of women who just got out of the shower with their towels on had to salute a superior officer passing by in a Jeep. All their towels fell.
"Of course, you didn't see anything on screen, but the fact that a row of women had to get naked for a man really thrilled me. Please help!''
A video will be awarded for the correct answer. (The winner chooses from our library of titles.) In the event of a tie, a drawing will be held.
We have a winner!
Pauletta Ridout of Quincy, Massachusetts, wrote:
"Spring is here, bringing an urgent need to find a classic from my youth.
"It featured Edward Woodward, a.k.a. television's 'The Equalizer,' and a very randy Britt Ekland, who does a bump 'n' grind that'd make Madonna blush.
"Poor Ed, a police officer, tries to hold onto his celibacy while investigating the disappearance of a young girl.
"Meanwhile, the inhabitants of this little Scottish isle are teaching their kids about ancient fornication rites and setting up Ed as a seasonal sacrifice.
"The movie also features Christopher Lee, who, at one point, is in drag. He plays the island's lordship.
"In the end, the island folk have themselves a big ol' barbecue with several farm animals and Ed as the featured weenie roast.
"By the way, the movie takes place in May. (They dance the Maypole.)''
There were 63 correct answers, so the winner was selected by drawing. And he is...Eric Conrad of Columbus, Ohio:
"The movie Pauletta is trying to find is The Wicker Man, a docudrama dealing with the health hazards associated with sexual abstinence.
"Ed gets barbecued at the end because he's a virgin. Don't let this happen to you!''
Additional information came from our 62 runners-up, including...
* Mike Furl of Kankakee, Illinois: "A masterpiece. Edward Woodward plays a superreligious policeman and prude who thinks himself impervious to the opposite sex (played by Britt Ekland) and other temptations of the flesh.
"He is lured to a small, isolated island off the British coast to investigate a crime.
"Turns out the entire island is populated by pagans who need to sacrifice a virgin to save their failing crops. Woodward is it.
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"In the last scene, he is burned to death inside an enormous humanoid figure made of wicker--hence the title.
"Highlights are the nude dance by Britt to torment Woodward and the last scene of the sacrifice.''
To discuss the meaning of life with Joe Bob, write Joe Bob Briggs, P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221 or fax him at (213) 462-5982. Joe Bob even hangs out on the Internet: email@example.com.
1996 Joe Bob Briggs (Distributed by NYT Special Features)