Human Highway (1982)

HumanHighwayBy: 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…

A Toast

-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.

Family resemblance?

-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.  

Beer Two

-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-apocalyptic future wasteland... and then Devo’s mascot Booji Boy shows up, and is voiced with on-point shrill irritation by future acclaimed film score composer Mark Mothersbaugh. He composed this film’s score as well, but we swear he got better (honestly).

-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).

“Neil knows where the bodies are buried”

Beer Three

-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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.32.25 PM
“I’ll Swallow Your Soul”

Beer Four

-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 hallucinate into a horrendously edited concert sequence of Devo with a studio recording mixed over it. Everything was shot like a TV sitcom before this and now they’re using footage they had lying around. Meanwhile, Neil Young and some random guy have a conversation backstage which is badly dubbed over, in order to insinuate that this is a scene which is relevant to the story.

-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.

This movie is literally radiating suck, get away!

Beer Five

-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.

McCartney didn't get it, why should you?
McCartney didn’t get it, why should you?

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/guitar group that dabbled in fast-paced, mildly aggressive New Wave. They had a very anarchic mind-set... at first. Cut to 1980 and with their song “Whip It,” Devo created a music video that would become embedded permanently in pop culture history.

After “Whip It,’ Devo ruled the early 80s and slowly tumbled into obscurity as the decade moved on.  “Worried Man” is a mediocre Devo song at best. It’s certainly not good. The Devo/Neil Young performance of “Hey Hey, My My” is sloppy and pathetic. All the other songs in the film seem like stuff they had lying around.
-Oberst: That’s because it was just lying around…

Beer Six

-Bill L: When they cut back to reality from the excuse-to-have-concert-footage hallucination sequence they reference Wizard of Oz. That was dumb, lets move on: “Worried Man” is reprised as an Oklahoma-style musical finale. It is a Tank Girl-level random musical number decision but even worse.

-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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 1.13.35 PM
Cheers can be heard as audiences in their seats watching this movie prayed that the end was nigh


Six Pack

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 occasionally good technical and visual effects, this was an unpleasant experience that makes me question the motives of everyone involved…

Except of course for Neil Young, who may or may not have known where he was.

Drinking Game

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…

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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