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Dead End Drive-In
Dead End Drive-In is one of a bajillion movies set in the near future, but what sets it apart is that in this take, we find that the government is secretly using drive-in theatres as pseudo-concentration camps in which they detain the undesirable and unemployed elements of society. Many of the prisoners aren't really too concerned with trying to escape. They find that the life they have inside the drive-in is better than the life that they had outside. At least here, they're fed, have some shelter, and are able to develop a sort of society where most of them are able to fit in quite easily.
But when a young man with the keen nickname of Crabs (Ned Manning) and his buxom girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) find themselves trapped in the camp as well, they're none too happy about this. Crabs is bound and determined that they won't hold him and that he'll somehow be able to escape and return to the ‘free' world outside the electric fence that surrounds the Star Drive-In.
"The price of admission is the rest of your life!"
While the politics of the film beat you over the head, Dead End Drive-In is still a pretty enjoyable Australian B-movie. While the script suffers from its fair share of problems and a good chunk of the dialogue is goofy as goofy can be, the colorful cast of characters and rebellious attitude of the film make it worth a look for those who enjoy the tasty combination of teen angst with a strong eighties flavor. Everyone locked away in the drive-in has that sort of skewed movie version of ‘punk rock' going on, which means there's lots of leather and lots of colored hair and garish makeup on display. Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, he of Stunt Rock and The Man From Hong Kong fame, does a pretty great job of milking this concept for all that it's worth. Everyone in the drive-in has a cool car, many of them from decades past, and those cars are all nicely shot and often times very colorful. The young punks interned in the drive-in's (essentially concentration camps, let's be honest) have all got loads of flair and the last half of the film, where Crabs' escape plan is put into action, offers plenty of ‘them against us' themed high-octane action.
The movie borrows a bit from other dystopian/'the future will be terrible' themed films, from Australian efforts like Mad Max to some of Roger Corman's post-nuke films both in style and in tone. The film isn't particularly deep, it puts action and sensationalism over really taking its interesting political themes (keep the troublemakers docile by giving them junk food both for their bodies and their brains) but it offers up loads of entertainment value. When the movie does deal in more serious fare, it's with a satirical bent, but it works.
As to the performances, Nick Manning (who has done a load of TV work over the years, check out Prisoner Cell Block H for example, which also starred Desiree Smith who has a decent supporting role here) is a pretty fine choice to carry the movie. He's in good shape so we have no trouble buying him in the action set pieces that involve his character. He's also got a fair bit of charisma and gives the part enough energy to make it work. Natalie McCurry is also a lot of fun here. She looks great decked out in her leather jacket with her big hair pulled back, and even better when she's running around later in the film with a tank top on. She looks right for the part and she too has the right sort of attitude to pull this off. Dave Gibson, who popped up in Thou Shall Not Kill… Except has a supporting role here, as do Ollie Hall and Sandie Lillingston who had a very small roles in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome made a year prior to this feature.
Astute viewers might notice one of the director's earlier films, Escape 2000 (a.k.a. Turkey Shoot), playing in the background when Crabs and Carmen first arrive at the drive-in.The Blu-ray:
Dead End Drive-In arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in a transfer that is a pretty massive upgrade over the old Anchor Bay DVD release from years back. Colors really pop here, they're beautifully reproduced, while detail and texture are vastly improved resulting in a picture with quite a bit of depth to it. Black levels are nice and solid and there are no issues with crush or screwy shadow detail. Grain is present, as it should be, but there's really very little in the way of honest to God print damage worth complaining about, the picture is very clean. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement a non-issues and all in all, things look great here.Sound:
The LPCM Mono track, in English, sounds just fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and properly balanced. There are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion and the action scenes, which have plenty of foley and sound effects work in them, pack a pretty decent punch. The score also sounds quite good, with nice depth and range to it. Optional subtitles are provided in English only for the feature.Extras:
Director Brian Trenchard-Smith supplies another interesting commentary that runs the line from technical information to stories about the cast and crew on set. Much like his other commentary tracks for releases of his other films (Escape 2000 being a good example), he's able to distinguish the good from the bad in the movie and it's fun to listen to him recount his experiences behind the camera. He talks about some of the stunt work in the film, casting the picture, the locations that were used for the shoot and a fair bit more.
Also included on the disc is a forty-eight minute featurette called The Stuntmen, a TV documentary that Brian Trenchard-Smith made on the life of Australian stunt man Grant Page. Having worked on classics like Mad Max and Road Games, he's got a pretty interesting career well worth examining. A few other Australian stunt performers are featured here as well. It provides a pretty fascinating look into just how dangerous some of this work really is, and it does a fine job of letting us get to know some of these characters and, more importantly, why they do what they do for a living. Great stuff. A second short from the director's early days, 1978's Hospitals Don't Burn Down is a completely insane public safety film that runs about twenty-four minutes in length. The premise is that a fire breaks out in a hospital while a doctor and nurse run around trying to save as many patients as possible. What stands out here is just how damn gory it is!
Rounding out the extras on the disc are a theatrical trailer for the feature, a still gallery, animated menus and chapters selection.We also get a nice reversible cover sleeve optionFinal Thoughts:
Dead End Drive-In isn't Brian Trenchard-Smith's best film but it is a doozy of an Ozploitation piece packaged with crazy characters, bizarre situations and solid action. Arrow Video have done right by the picture, offering it up in beautiful shape with strong audio and a nice selection of supplements. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.