Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bad to the Bone?

Yup, that's her. Christine; a 1958 Plymouth Fury that came off the assembly line EVIL!!!!! Her original owner and his family all died inside her. She has a hunger for blood, can repair herself and, most magically of all, she can turn a dork into a cool kid. Well, a demonically possessed cool kid, but hey, you can't everything. Where would you put it? And no, lest you think this King-aphile is going on about the Master again, this paragraph is the only time she will be mentioned in this particular post. See, I understood the intention in using "Bad to the Bone" as the movie's theme song (Director John Carpenter composed the actual score, as he does with most of his films), but it in the scary playpen that is my mind, I couldn't help but think how fragile a car made of bone would be. See? Told you it was scary in there. Anyway, enough about Christine. This post is about her steel kith and kin. That's right, folks. Welcome to the Killer Machine Post.

I suppose the earliest killer machine would be the evil robot Futura in Fritz Lang's masterpiece, Metropolis:

For a long time after that, killer machines remained purely Science Fiction - machines that malfunctioned or developed amazing artificial intelligence all on their own (see "V-ger" in Star Trek or Proteus in Demon Seed).

Somewhere along the way, a Horror writer came up with the idea for an actually evil machine. Something either possessed or under the control of an evil force or entity. The first such movie I can remember is Killdozer, a 1974 made-for-TV movie about construction workers who awaken an ancient ET which promptly possesses their bulldozer, killing them one by one. It starred Clint Walker and Robert Urich and it was ridiculous.

Man, that Clint Walker could act! And that scintillating dialog! I posted the shortest clip I could find, in order to spare you its true awfulness.

1977 brought us an even more ridiculous Killer Machine: The Car. It starred the future Mr. Streisand, James Brolin as the Sheriff of a small southwestern town being terrorized by a demonically-powered black sedan. There's some jaw-droppingly bad acting from lots of folks you'll recognize, even if you don't know their names, though many of them must be dead by now (or wish they were).

I love how that car explodes as it rolls onto its roof! And that Honey-glazed acting! That was was actually in theaters, folks.

And I'm sorry, but I have to. The book about that particular car is hardly King's only contribution to the Killer Machine oeuvre. First, there's a silly short story about a possessed industrial laundry press, The Mangler, which was made into an exceptionally awful movie starring Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund and Jamie Gumm himself, Ted Levine. Directed by the genius that once was Tobe Hooper, The Mangler is just pure crap.

And of course, there's the insane short story so badly made the first time (as Maximum Overdrive) that they remade it for TV under its original title, Trucks. Chris Thomson's version is only slightly better than the one King directed.

Hooper is scheduled to make the next Stephen King Killer Machine Movie: From a Buick 8. The novel concerns a car impounded at rural Pennsylvania State Police Barracks that isn't from this world. It's one of the many novels and stories connected to King's alternate universe, The Territories (read The Dark Tower series; The Talisman*; Hearts in Atlantis; Insomnia and Black House*). IMDb lists its release date as 2009, but it's also still listed as "In Production," which means it may never see the light of day. having read the novel, I'm not sure I can see it as a movie, and I've sadly lost all faith in Hooper.

I know there must be more Killer Machine Horror movies out there, and I wish there more better ones. But it's late and I've had a long day. I am finally seeing Paranormal Activity tomorrow night, so my review will be forthwith.

More terrors, anon.

*Co-written with Peter Straub

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