The Lawnmower Man (film)
|The Lawnmower Man|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brett Leonard|
|Produced by||Gimel Everett|
|Screenplay by||Brett Leonard|
|Based on||The Lawnmower Man|
by Stephen King (uncredited; after lawsuit)
|Music by||Dan Wyman|
|Edited by||Alan Baumgarten|
Lisa Bromwell (director's cut)
Fuji Eight Company Ltd.
Lane Pringle Productions
Angel Studios (animated sequences)
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
141 minutes (director's cut)
|Box office||$32.1 million (United States)|
The Lawnmower Man is a 1992 science-fiction action-horror film directed by Brett Leonard and written by Leonard and Gimel Everett. The film shares its title with the 1975 Stephen King short story of the same name, but aside from a single scene, the two works share no similarities whatsoever. The film stars Jeff Fahey as Jobe Smith, a simple-minded gardener, and Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Lawrence Angelo, the scientist who decides to experiment on him.
The film was originally titled Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man, but King successfully sued the producers for attaching his name to the film.
Dr. Lawrence Angelo works for Virtual Space Industries and runs experiments in using psychoactive drugs and virtual reality to enhance the cognitive performance of chimpanzees. Angelo wishes to enhance intelligence for benevolent aims, but VSI are funded by a clandestine group calling themselves "The Shop" to develop chimps and turn them into disposable soldiers. One of the chimps escapes using the warfare tactics for which he was being trained. Although Angelo is tempted to abandon his work in frustration, he decides to recruit a human subject, and persuades the intellectually disabled greenskeeper Jobe Smith to participate in his experiments, letting him know it will make him smarter. Angelo redesigns all the intelligence-boosting treatments without the "aggression factors" used in the chimpanzee experiments. The program is so successful that Jobe 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 discreetly swaps Angelo's new medications with the old Project 5 supply, reintroducing the "aggression factors" into the treatment. When Jobe invites his new lover Marnie to the lab to engage in cybersex, he accidentally erases her mind within the simulation. Jobe continues the treatments on his own and soon begins killing the people who had mistreated him in the past, as well as the abusive father of his teenage friend Peter. When Angelo learns that the medications have been swapped, Angelo confronts Jobe, who captures him and declares his plan to reach the final stage of evolution by becoming "pure energy" in the VSI computer mainframe, and from there reach into all the systems of the world. He promises his "birth" will be signaled by every telephone on the planet ringing simultaneously.
The Shop sends a team to capture Jobe, but they are ineffective against his abilities, and he scatters their molecules. Jobe uses the lab equipment to enter the mainframe computer to become a completely virtual being, leaving his body behind like a husk. Angelo remotely infects the VSI computer, encrypting all of the links to the outside world and trapping Jobe in the mainframe. As Jobe searches for an unencrypted network connection, Angelo primes bombs to destroy the building. Feeling responsible for what has happened to Jobe, Angelo joins him in virtual reality to try to reason with him, but Jobe overpowers and crucifies him. Peter runs into the building; Jobe still cares for him and allows Angelo to go free to rescue Peter. Angelo and Peter escape after Jobe forces a computer-connected security door to open; Jobe finally escapes through a maintenance line before the building is destroyed in multiple explosions. Back at home with Peter, Angelo and Peter's mother Carla are about to leave when their telephone rings, followed by the noise of a second, and then hundreds of telephones ring, 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. The serviceman who arrives to do the job has a lawnmower that mows the lawn by itself while he crawls, naked, behind the mower, eating the grass. The serviceman himself 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 included minor elements of King's story.
References to the short story include 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 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.
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The film was released in Japan under the title Virtual Wars.
As of January 2020[update], the film held a 34% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews with the consensus: "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.
On King's official website, the film is not listed among the films based on his work.
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 on double LaserDisc, featuring various special features on the C-side.
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.
In Australia, the only version of the film to be released was the theatrical cut - the director's cut was only available as an 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 he was contacted by the owners of the Lawnmower Man in 1995 and asked to write treatments for Lawnmower Man 2. Morrison claims he was 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 his involvement.
Some of the CGI footage of The Lawnmower Man was featured in Beyond the Mind's Eye.
Jaunt VR, a virtual reality studio, is adapting the feature into a virtual reality experience with the original rights holders.
An earlier short film, also titled The Lawnmower Man, was directed by Jim Gonis in 1987. That film was a direct adaption of the short story.
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