Director Brian Trenchard-Smith is a diverse talent whose career has stretched over several decades, and he has given genre films several major gems, including TURKEY SHOOT (a.k.a. ESCAPE 2000) (Severin Films re-released this last year…click here to read my review), BMX BANDITS, THE QUEST (with Henry Thomas), and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2. I’ve enjoyed several of his films, so when Arrow and MVD teamed up to release DEAD END DRIVE-IN, I knew I had to give it a look. Somehow, this 80s cult classic eluded me throughout the years. I’m glad I got to watch it, too…DEAD END DRIVE-IN is a lot of fun and encapsulates the heart and soul of the 80s perfectly.
If you are not familiar with DEAD END DRIVE-IN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:
THE PRICE OF ADMISSION IS THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
One of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite directors, Brian Trenchard-Smith was a key figure in the Ozploitation movement, responsible for The Man from Hong Kong, Stunt Rock, Turkey Shoot, BMX Bandits… and dystopian cult classic Dead-End Drive In!
Set in a near-future where the economy has crumbled and violent gangs play havoc in the streets, the powers-that-be have decided to lure the delinquent youth into drive-in cinemas and keep them there. No longer just a place to watch trashy movies and make out, these outdoor picture shows have become concentration camps for the unruly and unwanted.
With its day-glo colour scheme, new wave soundtrack and extraordinary stunt work, Dead-End Drive-In is in the tradition of Ozploitation milestones Mad Max and The Cars That Ate Paris only very, very eighties.
My buddy Hayes over at Hayes Hudson’s House of Horror described this film as “…a cheesy, light-hearted version of MAD MAX.” He’s exactly right. The look and feel of this post-apocalyptic flick screams Australian wasteland for some reason, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. I think this is one of the reasons I enjoyed the film so much.
DEAD END DRIVE-IN is shot well, although the cinematography offers nothing new; it is simply used to tell the story and nothing more. The HD transfer is crisp, and the sound offers a great surround-sound experience.
The acting is pretty good, although I will not say it is great. But it doesn’t have to be for a film like this. For these kind of titles, the cast just has to not suck enough so as to not detract from the film. Thankfully, the actors here are well above that caliber, but not so good as to warrant awards.
The plot in DEAD END DRIVE-IN is interesting, even though it shares similarities with other PA films from the 80s. I have to tip my hat to Trenchard-Smith, however, for not stealing ideas; he combines several small aspects of other films to form a major and unique story. The concept of jailing undesirables in a drive-in is certainly one I’d never heard of before, and I wager you have not either. Thus, the originality factor alone is enough of a reason to watch this one.
And watch it you should. DEAD END DRIVE-IN is wonderful 80s fare, and fans of Aussie exploitation films should love it. Heck, even horror fans will probably find it worth watching. The Blu-ray Special Edition contents are fun and include:
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• 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
• Theatrical trailer
First pressing only: fully-illustrated collector s booklet containing writing on the films by Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell
The film is available now.