The Lawnmower Man (film)
|The Lawnmower Man|
|Directed by||Brett Leonard|
|Screenplay by||Brett Leonard|
|Based on||"The Lawnmower Man"|
by Stephen King (uncredited after lawsuit)
|Produced by||Gimel Everett|
|Edited by||Alan Baumgarten|
Lisa Bromwell (director's cut)
|Music by||Dan Wyman|
Fuji Eight Company Ltd.
Lane Pringle Productions
Angel Studios (animated sequences)
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
142 minutes (director's cut)
|Box office||$32.1 million (United States)|
The Lawnmower Man is a 1992 science-fiction thriller-horror film directed by Brett Leonard, written by Leonard and Gimel Everett, and starring Jeff Fahey as Jobe Smith, an intellectually disabled gardener, and Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Lawrence "Larry" Angelo, a scientist who decides to experiment on him in an effort to give him greater intelligence. The experiments give Jobe superhuman abilities, but enhance his aggression, turning him into a man obsessed with evolving into a digital being.
This film was adapted from an original screenplay entitled "CyberGod". The title comes from a 1975 short story by Stephen King. Both stories involved a gardener who operates a lawnmower, but the film has little similarity to King's story, which involves a satyr who makes human sacrifices to Pan. Originally titled Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man, King successfully sued to have his name removed from the credits. He won further damages when his name was included in the title of the home video release.
Dr. Lawrence "Larry" Angelo works for Virtual Space Industries and runs experiments using psychoactive drugs and virtual reality to enhance cognitive performance, using chimpanzees as test subjects. Angelo has benevolent aims, but VSI is funded by "The Shop," a clandestine group hoping to turn chimps into expendable soldiers. One of the chimps, gifted with new intelligence, warfare training, and increased aggression, successfully escapes. Although tempted to abandon his work in frustration, Angelo later decides to recruit intellectually disabled greenskeeper Jobe Smith as a human test subject, telling the man he will become smarter. Angelo redesigns the intelligence-boosting treatments to remove the "aggression factors" used in the chimpanzee experiments. Jobe's intelligence is successfully enhanced, and he also develops psychokinesis and telepathy. He continues training at the lab until an accident forces Angelo to abort the experiment.
The project director, Sebastian Timms, keeps tabs on the progress of the experiment and secretly swaps Angelo's new medications with the old Project 5 supply, reintroducing an increase in aggression. When Jobe invites his new lover Marnie to the lab to engage in virtual reality cybersex, he accidentally erases her mind in the process. Jobe continues the treatments on his own and soon begins killing the people who mistreated him in the past, as well as the abusive father of his teenage friend Peter. Angelo learns the medications have been swapped and confronts Jobe. The lawnmower man captures him and declares his plan to reach an ultimate stage of evolution by becoming a being of "pure energy" existing in the VSI computer mainframe, connecting to all computer systems of the world afterward. He promises his "birth" will be signaled by every telephone on the planet ringing simultaneously.
The Shop sends a team to capture Jobe, but with his new abilities he scatters their molecules. Jobe uses the lab equipment to enter the VSI mainframe and become a digital being, leaving his body behind like a husk. Angelo remotely accesses the VSI computer, encrypting connections to the outside world and trapping Jobe in the mainframe. As Jobe searches for an unencrypted network connection, Angelo sets bombs to destroy the building. Feeling responsible for what happened to Jobe, Angelo enters virtual reality to attempt reasoning with him one last time. Jobe overpowers Angelo and crucifies his digital body. Peter runs into the building and Jobe realizes he is in danger from the bombs. Still caring for the boy, he allows Angelo to leave the mainframe so he can rescue Peter. After Jobe forces a security door to open, Angelo and Peter escape the building. Jobe finally escapes through a maintenance line just before the building is destroyed by multiple explosions.
Angelo is later at home with Peter and the boy's mother Carla. The telephone rings, followed by the noise of a second telephone ringing elsewhere, followed by hundreds of telephones ringing all around the globe.
- Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Lawrence Angelo
- Jeff Fahey as Jobe Smith
- Jenny Wright as Marnie Burke
- Geoffrey Lewis as Terry McKeen
- Jeremy Slate as Father Francis McKeen
- Dean Norris as The Director
- Austin O'Brien as Peter Parkette
- Troy Evans as Lt. Goodwin
- Rosalee Mayeux as Carla Parkette
- Mark Bringelson as Sebastian Timms
- Ray Lykins as Harold Parkette
- Colleen Coffey as Caroline Angelo
The plot of Stephen King's 1975 short story "The Lawnmower Man" concerns Harold Parkette, who hires "Pastoral Greenery and Outdoor Services Inc." to cut his lawn. Parkette later spies on the serviceman, discovering his lawnmower mows the lawn by itself while he crawls after it, naked, eating the grass. The serviceman is actually a satyr who worships the Greek god Pan. When Parkette tries to call the police, the mower and its owner ritually kill him as a sacrifice to Pan.
The film's original script, written by director Brett Leonard and producer Gimel Everett, was written between May and August 1990 under the title The Lawnmower Man, and carried minor elements of King's original story, including the scene where Jobe kills Peter's father with the lawnmower "Big Red", and the aftermath in which the police state that they found some of his remains in the birdbath. The addition of a government agency known as "The Shop" was drawn from separate works of King's, such as Firestarter and The Tommyknockers.
The film has several elements in common with the 1959 Daniel Keyes novel Flowers for Algernon, which also deals with a mentally disabled man whose intelligence is technologically boosted to genius levels. A similar parallel can be drawn with the Star Trek television series (second pilot) episode of 1966 titled Where No Man Has Gone Before.
The computer-generated imagery (CGI) was created for the film by Angel Studios. The supervising sound editor was Frank Serafine, who was hired as a result of his sound creation work in the 1982 film Tron. Fuji Creative's Masao Takiyama is also credited as a co-producer.
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The film was released in Japan under the title Virtual Wars.
As of June 2021[update], the film held a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews. The site's consensus states: "The Lawnmower Man suffers from a predictable, melodramatic script, and its once-groundbreaking visual effects look dated today". Metacritic gives the film a rating of 42 out of 100 based on 14 reviews.
The movie debuted at number two at the box office with $7.7 million in its opening weekend behind Wayne's World. It went on to gross $32.1 million domestically, making it a moderate financial success against its $10 million budget and the biggest independent film for the calendar year and the second biggest released in 1992 after Miramax's The Crying Game.
Stephen King lawsuit
The film, originally titled Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man, differed so much from the source material that King sued the filmmakers in May 1992 to remove his name from the title. King stated in court documents that the film "bore no meaningful resemblance" to his story.
A federal judge ruled in King's favour in July 1992, the first successful such ruling since James Oliver Curwood had his name removed from 1922's I Am the Law. On appeal, it was ruled in October 1992 that the on-screen credit could remain but that King's name should be removed from advertising. King received $2.5 million in settlement.
The theatrical version of the film was initially released on VHS and Laserdisc on August 26, 1992. Alongside the 108-minute theatrical version, New Line Home Video also released an unrated director's cut running 141 minutes on VHS and Laserdisc. The success of the unrated version alerted King to New Line's continued defiance of the order that his name be stricken from the film's credits and all marketing as the back covers stated "Based on a Story by Stephen King". A third court order was needed to force the studio's compliance. As before, the court upheld the two prior judgments, but it took the extra step of imposing a penalty of $10,000 directly payable to King for every day New Line remained in contempt by defying the order. Additionally, the studio would have to forfeit all profits earned on the film during that same period.
In February 1997, the director's cut was released in widescreen for the first time on double LaserDisc, featuring various special features on the C-side. The transfer used for the LaserDisc left King's name in the opening credits, but removed it from the title screen.
The director's cut was released on DVD with the inclusion of the sequel Lawnmower Man 2 on October 25, 2010, in the United Kingdom, however this release suffered from poor NTSC quality transfer with the aspect ratio of 4:3 pan and scan, the extended scenes spliced-in but in the aspect ratio of 16:9.
Prior to the US Shout! Factory release, Blu-ray versions of the film were only available in Italy through Minerva Pictures and in Germany under the Alive brand. The Italian release contains edited Italian credits at the beginning, which are taken from the DVD version as the difference in quality from the rest of the movie can be seen (interlaced framing notably).
Shout! Factory released The Lawnmower Man on Blu-ray for the first time in the United States in June 2017. The two-disc set includes new 4k digital restorations of the theatrical and director's cuts, audio commentary with director Brett Leonard and producer Gimel Everett, an all-new retrospective documentary featuring Leonard and star Jeff Fahey, and all of the bonus features from the original New Line DVD. For unknown reasons, a line of dialogue from the theatrical release related to the killing of a chimp (which makes no sense in the context of the plot of the director's cut - in that version, the chimp escaped from the VSI lab) was re-introduced to the director's cut.
In Australia, the only version of the film to be released was the theatrical cut - the director's cut was only available as a UK import. It was never released on DVD until 2008, when Force Entertainment released a budget DVD, containing the theatrical cut and the special features from the US DVD, on its own or as a two-pack with its sequel.
Sequel and other media
A sequel Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace was released in 1996 with Austin O'Brien as the only returning actor from the original film. It was retitled Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War for its video release. The film received negative reviews from critics and fans of the first movie.
Comic book writer Grant Morrison said in an interview that they were contacted by the owners of the Lawnmower Man in 1995 and asked to write treatments for Lawnmower Man 2. Morrison claims they were asked to "bend the Lawnmower Man series in an X-Men superhero-type direction." Neither of Morrison's script treatments was used and Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace was produced without their involvement.
Some of the CGI footage of The Lawnmower Man was featured in Beyond the Mind's Eye.
Jaunt VR, a virtual reality studio, attempted to adapt the feature into a virtual reality experience with the original rights holders but ultimately went out of business before realizing its efforts.
An earlier short film, also titled The Lawnmower Man, was directed by Jim Gonis in 1987. That film was a direct adaptation of the short story.
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