The time has come for Turbocharge!

movie posterIt’s finally here, people: Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars is available on Amazon Prime! Regular followers of the podcast will know just how much my co-host Dave Curry and I have longed for this day! The journey goes back over a decade…

Dave remembers when this film was completed in 2008, and there were posts popping up on social media about some screenings in New York. For many Cars lovers, the thrust of the movie was perplexing and unclear. A website to promote the film was also launched, featuring some bizarre clips and puzzling images that could only serve to mystify fans even more. Dave’s curiosity was piqued and never quite subsided, even as chatter about the movie eventually cooled. In time, it seemed the reality of this little film was sinking into the depths of Fanorama folklore, with only odd blips of its existence evidenced on its equally fading website.

But like Gage coming back to life in Pet Sematary, awareness resurfaced when the writer of the film, David Juskow, brought up Turbocharge on his personal podcast in December of 2017.  Its revival spurred Dave into action, and he began a little Twitter campaign prodding Juskow to dust off the film and share it with us for review on our NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast. His efforts were successful and Dave and I were allowed a private online screening. We were electrified by the movie, recognizing it as a hilarious and wonderful tribute to The Cars, and we strongly encouraged (begged?) Juskow to reconsider releasing it to the rest of the world. And so here we are!

**Before I get into my review/history of Turbocharge I am going to issue a DISCLAIMER: I know there’s been lots of recent discussion about who we would cast in a serious movie about The Cars. Let me state unequivocally that this movie is NOT a serious movie about The Cars! While much of the band’s true history is represented, this is a parody, an exaggeration, and at times a downright fabrication of events for comedic purposes. As Dave Curry said on our podcast, “In order to enjoy this film, you have to set aside what you know about Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson, and you have to accept them as these characters in this film.” If you can do that, you will love this movie!**

badassbenjamin

Created more as an act of rebellion, New York comedian, writer, and filmmaker David Juskow was fed up with the stereotypical ‘serious’ rock biopic. One night in 2005, after nearly gagging on the cheesy dialog and overbearing drama in Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story, he had had enough. It was the final push he needed to pursue his own project.

“I made Turbocharge out of spite, let’s just say that. It is completely spoofing the genre of any biopic that’s been made of a music band. That is exactly what it is,” Juskow told me with finality.

It’s no secret that The Cars were crazy-popular throughout the late 70s and on into the 80s, but intuitive fans recognize that they were never ones to really push themselves into the spotlight. No exhaustive merchandising, far-reaching world tours, or relentless appearances on the late night television circuit. As a whole, they were a low-key and private band, holding the media at arms’ length and creating an air of mystery about their deeper identity. Did they have a story to tell?

Juskow believed they did.

Exaggerated personalities, terrible wigs, and an unorthodox plot make this hilarious film the breath of fresh air the genre needs. Narrated by a snowman a la Rankin/Bass, the story revolves around The Cars’ reputation for being robotic and boring during live shows, and their supposed determination to correct that perception with the fans. Running alongside that thread is the assertion that bassist Ben Orr was secretly plotting to wrest the control of the group from co-founder and songwriter Ric Ocasek. In an unexpected twist, Phil Collins is delightfully in the middle of it all.

Sure, Juskow pokes fun at the band, but he’s not vicious. He respects all five members very much.  “Nothing about the movie is mean-spirited,” he assured me. “I can’t make a movie like that. It’s always got to have goodness in it.” And it’s not like he had to make a bunch of stuff up; Juskow would soon discover that The Cars’ own history easily leant itself to comedic treatment.

79423416_1228562430677576_83295135449743360_nOn the whole, David Juskow is a man of strong, immediate emotions paired with a very thin verbal filter, pretty standard on the streets of Brooklyn (“People either love me, or they really, really dislike me,” he laughs). Fortunately he grew up in the riotous era of late 1970s television and he generally sees the world through sitcom lenses. Juskow takes timeless gags and bits from those classic shows and weaves them into his standup act. His penchant for spotting the ridiculous moment, his ironic delivery, and his spot-on celebrity impressions soften his edges with his friends and fans. Those talents also lead him to create great comedy.

The idea for Turbocharge actually materialized in the mid-80s during Juskow’s college days. The Heartbeat City album took his ears by storm. He remembered, “I thought it was the greatest album I had ever heard in my life, and ‘You Might Think’ – the song itself – just completely spoke to me. I went backwards from there and started worshipping all of their stuff. The videos made no difference to me, it really was the music, and I just really got into that Heartbeat City album. Greg Hawkes’ influence in that stuff really worked for me and that’s why I really liked them. They just had such interesting melodies and electronic keyboards. And then I was just obsessed with everything they did.”

Lightning hit in the summer of 1985. Juskow’s voice escalated with emotion as he explained, “I remember exactly where I was during Live Aid. I was at this party in Rochester, New York, and I was waiting and waiting for The Cars to come on.  Everybody was outside but I’m just waiting for them to be on, and then they get cut off by Phil Collins! And I was like, ‘What?! How could you do that to my boys?!’

“Being a huge fan of The Cars at that time I was so angry that they got shafted that it turned to comedy in my mind. I was like, ‘Someday I’m going to depict that!’”

Two decades later, the time had come. The 20th anniversary of Live Aid unearthed Juskow’s earlier grudge over the Phil Collins fiasco, and that, coupled with his disgust over the Def Leppard movie, prompted him to approach his good friend, television industry veteran Memo Salazar. “I said to him, ‘Let’s just do this. It will be stupid, but it will be brilliant… in a way,’” he laughed.

Memo said he might do it if Juskow wrote the script, and so it was on. Juskow spent the next several months researching The Cars’ history, confirming things he already knew and then going deeper. And the further he dug, the funnier it became. The peculiarity of Ric and Ben’s early partnership, The Cars ‘trashing’ a hotel by leaving pictures askew, the perceived disaster of the Panorama album… it was the oddities in the band’s journey that propelled everything forward with the movie.

1984 by Brian Brainerd backstage at McNichols Arena
The Cars by Brian Brainard, 1984

Not only that, but the band members’ public personas were ripe for humorous distortion. David Robinson, the consummate ladies’ man – you just had to have that character brought out. And Ric’s exaggerated awe of anyone who does anything ultra-creative, Elliot’s stony seriousness that was masking his sharp wit, and the sweet-faced Greg, who surely must have been hiding a side of snark behind that smile.

“You couldn’t even make a serious biography about these guys. It would have to be hilarious. They are a true rock and roll band who are a bunch of nerds, and I knew I must tell this story in a nerdy way… and yet we all know they rock.”

Juskow does take an obvious amount of creative license, but many of his conjectural elements are a weighty mix of fact and thoughtful contemplation. He fleshes out underlying fan controversies… questions like why didn’t Ben sing more? Was Ben ambitious? Did Ric and Ben reconcile before Ben passed away? Juskow speculated about what might have been bubbling up in Ben. “It’s weird. He clearly has a better singing voice. He’s clearly more attractive. And in my mind I’m saying, ‘what’s going on behind the scenes? Why don’t I do a movie just saying how angry this guy is? He doesn’t have any songwriting talent so he gets screwed.’”

“Everybody takes liberties for drama purposes,” Juskow went on. “What would you have if you didn’t have a fun antagonist? C’mon, you need someone to get mad about Andy Warhol: ‘You hired this guy? Are you kidding me?’”

And there’s the difference: Juskow’s forays into embellishment are not designed to evoke emotion with the cookie-cutter ‘climb to fame’ struggles of the typical rockumentary… they’re just damn funny.

The cast is largely made up from Juskow’s comedy family and ‘friends of friends,’ including Kevin Kash, Rachel Feinstein, Jonathan Katz, Irene Bremis, H John Benjamin, John Samuel Jordan, David Engel, Tom Shillue, and Dave Attell. Juskow himself plays Ric Ocasek. Out of necessity, the lines were few and far between for his character. “There was no way I could direct and be in the movie; it was too complicated. It was way easier to just be silent and ‘tortured.’”

The soundtrack includes music from Eric Barao, The Cautions, Frank Stallone, and a couple of Cars-flavored tunes written by Juskow himself.

As I mentioned above, the film originally opened in 2008 with a few private screenings in the New York area, but Juskow didn’t pursue much more exposure than that. He felt it was a bit of a niche film and was afraid there wouldn’t be much of an audience out there, but we know there is! The playful humor and witty references will hit home with Cars fans and lovers of 80s culture alike. You can check it out on Amazon Prime by clicking here: Turbocharge! Watch it, and then find me on Facebook or comment below to tell me what you think!

To learn even more, visit the Turbocharge Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/turbochargethemovie/, and check out David Juskow’s comedy podcast on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/davejuskow

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19 thoughts on “The time has come for Turbocharge!

  1. So, sort of a Cars meets Spinal Tap sort of thing? Sounds like fun! I wish it was more widely-available because I’d love to see it, but I don’t have (or want) Amazon Prime. Though I might sign up for it just to see this… the jury’s still out about that decision.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Donna, I have only recently rediscovered Benjamin, and I have been trying to read everything about about him. Ben and Ric’s friendship/partnership especially interests me, but there seems to be so little out there beyond the basic history. So I am intrigued that you wrote ‘the peculiarity of Ben and Ric’s early partnership.’ I’m really curious why you used the word ‘peculiar’? That is a strong word to me, I couldn’t help but ask you about it. Anyway, I think think your blog is awesome, and I will definitely watch this movie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was interesting to me too. I’m a “newbie” too. What was peculiar about it? I don’t know that much about it(which never stops me from having opinions LOL), mainly just what I’ve gathered reading here and little things here and there, so I want to know what I DON’T know. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I’ve been trying to think of how to respond to this… it’s just layers, I guess. The fogginess over when and how they met. The strange juxtaposition of Ric being the writer and ‘owner’ of the band, but clearly needing Ben’s voice and appearance to carry him, while Ben seemed so content to follow and let Ric lead. The traveling from state to state together, completely broke but determined. The murky history of how Ric apparently didn’t want Ben in Cap’n Swing at some point but Ben insisted, as hinted at by David Robinson in an interview. The experiments with a variety of musical styles and genres as they tried to find that sweet spot. I don’t know. It’s just all so… peculiar. To me, anyway. There’s just so much we don’t know.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I thought it was Elliot who said that in an interview? Did David say it somewhere else? Elliot was in Cap N Swing so he was around, I’m not sure if David really was at that point. Elliot made a brief mention in that Rolling Stone reunion article in 2011 that Ric was thinking of trying to go solo in the very brief nebulous period between Cap N Swing and The Cars, and he said Ben was just not having it. Thus we got The Cars.

        Which is actually why, when you think about it, The Cars would not exist if not for Ben.

        Ric would have tried and most likely failed to get much of anything going on his own and either come back and decided to do the band thing again, but perhaps having missed that “golden moment” where they would have all come together at just the right place and time and their chance to “make it” or just ended up lolling around solo and maybe getting some work but nothing that would make him anything more than a footnote or a few mentions in the Boston area local rock history books. He needed The Cars(and the kind of rock legitimacy and image having someone with Ben’s vocal ability and gravitas singing half the songs in the early years and David’s forward thinking reputation from Modern Lovers and Elliot and Greg’s sheer immense talent as prestigious Berklee graduates gave the band) to have that foundation of respect and success to build the rest of his career, IMO, which made him someone people wanted as a producer, etc, to put him in those circles.

        I don’t think what I’m saying is baseless because even having made a big name for himself with The Cars, the only member of the band whose name and image was widely known post 1980 at least, it’s not like his solo albums set the world on fire. Ric only had one Top 100 singles chart top 40 hit as a solo artist, with Emotion in Motion in 1986. Ric did need The Cars, it wasn’t a completely one way street. Without The Cars Ben may have only been a name known to deep afficianados of the Ohio and Boston rock scenes of the 60s and early 70s but Ric most likely wouldn’t have fared any better without them, IMO, writing all the songs, or not.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Oh yes, it was Elliot! My mistake. Here’s the link, if anyone else wants to read that article: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/the-return-of-the-cars-105832/

        I totally agree with you and have always felt that Ric needed Ben to reach any kind of success, but I think it is also fair to say that Ben needed Ric. Ben was not strong in the songwriting department, and while he always had driving ambition to be a rock star, he always leaned more toward working in a group rather than going solo. For many years they were the perfect yin and yang.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, as I said, without the Cars Ben and Ric would both likely be footnotes or worth a a couple mentions in history books on local rock scenes people write. I’ve seen books for both Cleveland and Boston, they’d probably have a couple mentions in them. 🙂 Luckily we don’t live in that Alternate Universe, we live in the one where they became The Cars.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This looks fun, I hope I remember to rent it when I get home tonight(I forget all sorts of things by the end of the day, probably my head too if it wasn’t attached 🙂 ).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I did, I finally had a chance to watch it last night. Very enjoyable, I mean I wouldn’t use it as a study aid for a The Cars history exam or an example of the actual personalities of the band members, but it definitely made me laugh out loud more than a few times. Love the Snowman narrator with the annoying little penguin(his own little Josh LOL), villainous Phil Collins, the Andy Warhol sequence(seriously what was that?:)), felt SO sorry for the band at Live Aid after all the work they’d done to liven up their live show. Elliot Easton having a second career as a stand up comic. So long as people don’t expect a factual examination of the band but more of an irreverent spoof with some nuggets of truth sprinkled throughout, I think it’s a really fun watch.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. My big honor was seeing this with your co host in a private screening. Ha. Dave thank you. Donna this us an incredibly well written depiction and in depth behind the scenes notes as to how the comedic non bio pic was born and delivered to us all. Yes please see this and check your knowledge at the door but keep your funny bones in tact. This IS Spinal Tap meets the Cars meets the insanely sharp witted talents of David Juskow and Cars fans will be in touch with this world for sure.
      B.B.

      Liked by 2 people

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