Sunday, April 08, 2007

AC/DC: Heavy Metal's John Williams


Well, what can one say about Stephen King's solo directorial effort, Maximum Overdrive? Well, he himself refers to his writing as the writing equivalent of a Big Mac and fries. Unfortunately, the film feels like even less than that. Call it, King's melding of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Duel. Well, Convoy maybe. Perhaps King's little jab at the truck period of Hal Needham. But more importantly, King got that directing bug out of his system. And even more importantly, there's the contribution of AC/DC to the soundtrack.

Yessir, 1986 was a pretty good year for AC/DC. Even though their website may not want to admit it. Their videos were just starting to take off on MTV, and 'You Shook Me All Night Long' was finally getting the recognition it deserved after premiering on their 1980 album, 'Back in Black'. Six years of singing like Sammy Hagar had taken its toll on Brian Johnson, however, as is evidenced in the song 'Who made Who' that opens the movie. They do, however, really do act as composers on the movie, coming up with incidental music to underscore the action: their tribute to Jaws is why they are the heavy metal John Williams.

They also worked on Last Action Hero, but we'll get to that later. And of course, note the black VW van at the beginning with the AC/DC logo on it, and the fake stoner who says "Far out!"

The action in Close Encounters eventually centers on Devil's Tower, but even though Maximum Overdrive is about a worldwide revolt of machines and mechanical devices, it is perfectly content to stay focused in Wilmington, North Carolina. Not that King has any particular connection with the place, but probably because producer Dino de Laurentiis had a studio there. Cat's Eye was mostly shot there, too, but we'll get into that later. And I guess that's the fundamental problem with the movie: we want a bigger glimpse of the outside world and the chaos that's supposedly taking place, because of a rogue comet, as the movie says. This'll give the nerds a chance to chortle. On the other hand, if you dig how the bank at the beginning filters the interstellar Luddite-ism, this is definitely the movie for you.

An interesting cast is assembled here, and there's definitely room for meditation on the universal concept of hero. Is this not the central preoccupation of all feature films? What is a hero? What makes a hero? Definitely not a machine, that's all too certain here. Unfortunately, not all heroes are destined to have fruitful careers. For instance, one would hardly call Lisa Simpson here a hero; more like shrill, right? And yet, just as Weird Al takes credit for 'discovering' Kramer; well, maybe not as loudly anymore. Check her out in The Legend of Billie Jean, too. She also has a pretty big role in As Good As It Gets; too bad she didn't get a Supporting Actress nod for that. Seems like everyone else got one; they were handing out Oscars for that like candy! Holter Graham seems to have survived the normal ravages of child stardom pretty well, even doing two movies with John Waters a couple years later! And I was pleasantly surprised by Chris Murney. For a second I confused him with Chris Mulkey, but I remember Murney best as one of the wise-ass detectives from Barton Fink.

Where was I? Oh yeah. The point being, okay, so it's not a great movie, but as life goes on I find that people, including myself, often have affection for the movies they have seen, even the bad ones. And every once in a while something comes up, like my new found appreciation for AC/DC, that makes me think "Hey, what about that one movie where... didn't they do the whole soundtrack?" That whole thing. Ultimately, it wasn't worth the look back, but I'm still a sucker for just about anything in letterboxed Panavision.


**1/2

so sayeth the Movie Review Hooligan

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