Folks love to whine about how movie people can't get Stephen King right. King even gripes about The Shining -- and THAT'S dang near a masterpiece. But, hey, when you write as many successful books and short stories as he has, Hollywood is bound to come calling, and through all of their adaptations, some will rise to prove themselves worthy. One of my personal favorites is Maximum Overdrive, which happens to be the first and LAST theatrical film Steve ever directed. For most, there's a reason for that. If you ask me, a movie with a driving score by AC/DC and a gleeful scene where a bunch of little leaguers actually get pancaked by a possessed steamroller, well, that's my kind of flick. But like more of y'all, I am also partial to director Rob Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman's interpretation of King's best-selling novel, Misery (1990, 108 minutes).
The movie: Beloved author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) has just put the finishing touch on his latest novel, when his car tumbles down the side of a mountain during a blizzard. He awakes to find himself in the secluded home of his biggest fan Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), though he is badly injured, she's a trained nurse and tends to his broken body. During one of Paul's more lucid moments, he allows Annie to read his latest manuscript -- a novel that departs from his popular "Misery" series. She HATES it! And it's then that her quirky personality begins to show signs that she's actually a first-class wacko. Soon Paul realizes he's Annie's captive, and there's little hope of escape, due to his condition, the remote location of her home and the fact she pumps him full of dope when he misbehaves. Kathy Bates won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her role as the goofily maniacal fan from hell. She is actually BETTER in another King flick, Dolores Claiborne. Great film. Plus, in The Late Shift, she's deliciously bitchy in the unintentionally hilarious telling of Jay Leno and David Letterman's behind-the-scenes battle for "The Tonight Show." Though James Caan deserves much praise for his delivery of a quietly powerful performance. You FEEL the man's pain. Ya cheer for him. Annie? Well, you'll just wish she'd shut her trap. The great Richard Farnsworth is Buster the crusty sheriff trying to figure out where Paul wandered off to. CineSchlockers will remember Richard from a mess of cowboy pictures, including the slightly blasphemous Legend of the Lone Ranger.
Notables: No breasts. Two corpses. Snowball pitching. One pet pig. Gratuitous urination. Book burning. Totaled '65 Mustang. Hypodermic closeup. Gratuitous montage sequence. Sledgehammer attack.
Quotables: Annie excuses herself, "Forgive me for prattling away and making you feel all oogie." Paul snidely relishes a wheelchair ride, "Great, I always wanted to visit the other side of the room." Buster sweet-talks his wife, "You see, it's just that sort of sarcasm that's giving our marriage real spice."
Time codes: Car crash in a blizzard (3:50). Icky legs! (9:42). Annie's rant on profanity (17:20). "Love Connection" on TV (40:00). Liberace photo (50:08). The gruesome hobbling of Paul (1:21:25).
Audio/Video: Both widescreen (1.85:1) and fullframe transfers. Each are clean and showcase the grim feel of the flick. Ample Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
Extras: Animated menus with sound. Theatrical and teaser trailers. Insert card with two pages of production notes -- including accounts of on-set baffonery.
Final thought: Stellar performances. Serious tension. Truly bone-chilling moments. However, Annie Wilkes may drive you insane. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.