'Dead End Drive-In (Special Edition)' [Blu-ray]
(Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford, Wilbur Wilde, David Gibson, et al / Blu ray / R / (1986) 2016 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: In the near future, a teenage couple is trapped in a drive-in theater which has become a concentration camp for social outcasts. The inmates are treated to drugs, exploitation films, junk food, and new wave music.
Blu-ray Verdict: The opening of 'Dead End Drive-In' quickly sets out its world. There's been a series of disasters that have led to society struggling to survive. A food crisis, a financial crisis, and then an unemployment crisis. And Australia is suffering with the rest of them. Gangs of punks are fighting authority and crashing cars. As an Aussie movie, there's shades of 'Mad Max' to this, but it's given a more populated feel.
Instead of empty streets, there's a bunch of people in 'Dead End Drive-In'. Despite the lack of budget for the movie, Brian Trenchard-Smith gives a real sense of lots of people suffering from the consequences of economic failure.
The movie follows Crabs and his girlfriend Carmen, who end up stranded in an almost post-apocalyptic drive-in cinema after their tires are stolen by the police. The drive-in cinema has nearly 200 people in a similar situation, lighting fires and glaring at each other. The stranded are given food vouchers to eat takeaway from the on-site greasy restaurant.
Crabs is a very engaging character. He wants to become a tough guy, but no matter how much he works out, runs and eats, Crabs is still regarded as a "scrawny b*****d". Yet, as soon as he's stranded in the drive-in, he wants to get away. He wants this so badly, he irritates his girlfriend and also incurs the wrath of people spray painting "Crabs can't get it up" on his car. Carmen, incidentally, is so attractive I spent the movie slightly slack jawed.
For a supposedly trashy movie, it's actually very cleverly done. The car crashes are spectacularly choreographed. Don't expect a special-effects laden movie - it's not that - but when effects are used they're used well. Sparks fly up as cars speed through large fires. Bullets ping off the walls and cars with some canny squib effects.
Above all, there are some great undercurrents to the movie. The way the drive-in deals with the unemployed seems to ring very true with the concept of ghettos. The controller of the drive-in cinema even provides them with drugs. Crabs becomes even more likable because - like us - he sees the drive-in as a huge prison infested with unfair racial divisions.
'Dead End Drive-In' is, naturally, a little rough around the edges. But by limiting the movie to the confines of a drive-in cinema, it creates a well realized world. It's also great to see everyone throwing their all into a movie. Maybe by focusing more on characters and a basic story of "Me v. Them" it simply doesn't overstretch. It's an enjoyable - and sometimes thought provoking - way to spend 92 minutes of your life. [MS] This is a new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new 2K restoration from original film materials
High Definition (1080p) Presentation
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Audio commentary by director Brian Trenchard-Smith
The Stuntmen, Trenchard Smith's classic television documentary on Grant Page (Mad Max, Road Games) and other Australian stunt performers
Hospitals Don't Burn Down, Trenchard-Smith's 1978 public information film told in pure Ozploitation fashion
+ First pressing only: Fully-illustrated collector's booklet containing writing on the films by Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell