Remember a Stephen King gut bomb by the hyperactive title “Maximum Overdrive” in which the villain and only relatable character was a haunted Western Star 4800 gussied up like an irritable Jiminy Cricket?
Yeah, me neither. Or at least I try not to.
Like all traumatized moviegoers, I should have sought hypnotherapy to blot that 98 minutes from memory, except I kinda sorta knew a cast member: one Marla Maples. Yep, that Miss Maples: a former Mrs. Trump.
We endured the same high school. And though I was a middle schooler at the time, I recall when she became homecoming queen and when she returned years later with The Donald. If my hippocampus isn’t betraying me, her family attended our church in Cohutta, Georgia, as well.
Certain would-be biographers ascribe Maples’ origins to nearby Dalton, Georgia, I suppose on the theory that the “Carpet Capital of the World” strikes a tonier tone than “Ain’t no place like Cohutta” bumper stickers can manage. Whatever. If you’ve visited both, you know two things:
— Cohutta’s erstwhile bumper decor is true on more levels than its designers intended.
— And for better or worse, “Dalton” and “toney” rarely coexist in a sentence. (Other than when somebody explains why “Dalton” and “toney” rarely coexist in a sentence.)
So take your pick.
Anyway, I use the term “cast member” loosely in regard to Maples’ role in the aforementioned truck-centric gut bomb. I doubt she’d mind. She’s had 35 years to think it over, and I expect she is perfectly fine with “2nd Woman,”* her modest credit in this Emilio Estevez-infested “thriller.”
The pride and lemon-fresh joy of Cohutta, 2nd Woman sports a terry cloth headband that would make Olivia Newton-John proud. She meets her doom when a bridge telepathically controlled by either space aardvarks or the DMV raises at the wrong time. A backflipping truck dumps its cargo of succulent yet lethal watermelons on Maples’ unsuspecting station wagon, with her inside emoting from beneath the headband.
The interplanetary visitors/earthbound bureaucrats take control of lots of other bloodthirsty mechanical contraptions as well: Cuisinarts, Rotatos, spray-on hair applicators — the workaday bric-a-brac of horror films. And of course the lovable but misunderstood goblin truck. But 2nd Woman makes a wise, fruit-bludgeoned early exit before this heave-inducing alliance of trucks and small appliances gone wild can drag down her acting career any further. (A chastened King would never again direct his own schlock, but the “Bad truck! No diesel for you!” theme resurfaced in the slightly less flea-bitten “Pet Sematary.”)
As for Estevez, he ultimately settles the goblin semi’s never-explained hash with something resembling a snub-nosed bazooka. As one does. Alas, the weapon was too large to turn it on himself before the movie escaped containment and T-boned perfectly innocent silver screens everywhere like so many runaway melon trucks.
On the plus side, this caterwaul into the celluloid void remains a blood-curdling reminder that blending epic misdirection with an indecipherable plot, seasoning liberally with demonic autonomous trucks and half-baking at 350 does not make “Citizen Kane” casserole.
It also highlights the wisdom of checking with mom before exercising iffy judgment. Belatedly horrified and almost certainly consumed by remorse for his role in this relentless acid bath of a flick, Estevez reportedly told his mother he had plunged in only because he wanted to work with King. Which prompted her sensible query: “Couldn’t you have helped him paint his house?”
*I find no account of the fate nor even the identity of “1st Woman,” and I’m not about to sit through the hot mess that is “Maximum Overdrive” once again to find out. It isn’t like filmmakers that far gone would suddenly insist on plausible plot points and competent casting, though, so I leave open the possibility that this mercifully anonymous extra also met the Dim Reaper behind a truck hauling weaponized produce — and that she did not answer to the name “Hepburn” or “Redgrave.” (OK, Lynn maybe but not Vanessa.) Then again, if Clint Eastwood toughed it out in “Revenge of the Creature,” was Jessica Lange really too good to play 1st Woman?
The light load: Confessions of a transportation tenderfoot