By: Oberst Von Berauscht & Bill Leon (Six Pack) –
Try to imagine a film shot on cheap TV cameras and a shitty soundstage and boasting a script written in lines of cocaine. Songwriter Neil Young, New Wave band Devo, and their actor friends got together to make a movie! And it’s about slapstick comedy, and nuclear holocaust, and random concert footage, and I don’t even know what I’m thinking anymore…
And there was more Cocaine…
Which is a hell of a drug…
-Oberst: Kudos to Neil Young for his unending and enthusiastic commitment to doing something different. In the early 80s Young was determined to not follow the same roads which he’d followed in his music career, and this film is a testament to that originality.
-Bill L: Although I disagree in a lot of regards, its undeniable that this movie is trying to do something different. The model sets are unique and sometimes cool looking. Devo’s version of the song “Worried Man” makes a decent music video from the era. As far as what Neil Young brought to this film: He mugs more than Jim Varney, plays guitar very badly and wore a leisure suit which I got a laugh at.
-Oberst: Neil Young plays Lionel, a man-child auto mechanic who has dreams of rock glory (at least that assumes this film sets up its premises, which it doesn’t). Neil Young himself directed Human Highway under the guise of “Bernard Shakey”, which shockingly was not a name created to mask his embarrassment (E.G. Alan Smithee) as he had already used the name as director for the Concert Film Rust Never Sleeps.
-Bill L: The film begins like something you’d see on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Shots of the planet, followed by shots of what appears to be a dystopian post-apoca
-Oberst: Without a doubt the film uses some of the cheapest looking model shots since the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Mini-Series, the main difference being that film had a sharp and witty script, whereas Human Highway is unintelligible to the point of absurdity. Had Neil Young placed the film’s production in the hands of a capable director perhaps it might have stood a chance, at least as a midnight movie (Dennis Hopper was on set, after all).
-Oberst: Booji Boy, the creepy baby-faced Mascot of Devo, is just a terrible idea. His high-pitched voice is frustrating and obnoxious, especially when the band performs a song with Mark Mothersbaugh in character as this abomination (ostensibly prounounced Boogie-boy, according to people who know way more about Devo than I).
-Bill L: I couldn’t agree more. Including Booji Boy in this film was a mistake. Maybe they were trying to make a cheesy future cult film and tie the Devo mythology into it… it’s not a bad idea really but the character is obnoxious and creepy. Whenever he was on screen, I felt like I had stumbled upon the most depraved children’s show of all time.
-Bill L: Neil Young’s Lionel character is a mechanic. He goes under a car to fix it and oil leaks onto his face… which apparently makes him hallucinat
-Oberst: The movie’s opening title sequence reminds me of a kind of mid-80s made for television travesty, but yet this was apparently created for theatrical release. Even now, on a calm and clear night, the mocking laughter of film audiences can be heard reverberating through the cosmic ether.
-Oberst: Both the members of Devo and Neil Young are accomplished musicians and songwriters. So the fact that the first (and only) collaboration between these credible and artistically gifted acts is so terrible speaks volumes to the horror that is the celebrity vanity project. But alas, as with other early-80s projects like Can’t Stop the Music, Give my Regards to Broad Street, and Xanadu, Human Highway was destined not for greatness, but utter obscurity.
The songs contained within Human Highway are a mix of Neil Young and Devo standards from the time period, which marks Young’s sad early 80s decline, and Devo’s… Would you call it meteoric rise Bill?
-Bill L: When Devo first came out, they were this fun, crazy synth/guit
-Bill L: When they cut back to reality from the excuse-to-
-Oberst: And then, shortly after this sequence concludes *spoiler alert*, nuclear missiles fire off into the background, as everyone sings their way to the grave and earth is enveloped in a burning haze.
Oberst: Release this on DVD you cowards!
Bill: Human Highway had the potential to be at least a tolerable bad movie, but instead it feels awkward as hell, and moves at a snail’s pace, going off the rails completely in its third act. Despite some occasional
Take a Drink: for Booji Boy
Drink a Shot: when you realize Lionel is Neil Young
Drink a Shot: when you realize: “Yes… that IS Dennis Hopper”
Drink Heavily: when concert footage is clumsily inserted, and yes this will be most of the rest of the film…