The Film (4/5)
Brian Trenchard-Smith's Dead End Drive-In is one of a number of cult cinema classics directed by the English born, Australia-dwelling auteur during his initial golden period from the early 1970's to the end of the 1980's. The film is one of a number of post-apocalyptic Mad Max riffs that came in the wake of the success of the the Road Warrior. This one has the benefit of an interesting location, weird characters, and a thick dose of social subtext that is sadly still relevant 30 years later and half a world away.
The film stars Ned Manning as Crabs, a young man who initially is trying to get out of his menial job and into something quite a bit tougher, and better paying. When he goes out on a date with his girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) the two end up at the Star Drive-In. In order to save a few bucks, he declares himself unemployed to get a special rate. While the movie plays out, his two back tires are removed by police officials. He tries to pursue, but cannot do anything about it. He and Carmen are forced to spend the night, when it is revealed by the "owner" of the Drive-In that no one can leave upon entering. Also, that the government is holding undesirables, including immigrants and the unemployed within the gates of the Drive-In. They are supplying them with the bare necessities of life, but without quality so land, cheap food, and then rampant drugs, and allowing them to do as they will.
Crabs, however, wants none of this and begins to plot to get his freedom back. He works to get tires for his car, and gas to drive out of the place. While this is happening Carmen begins to integrate herself into the Drive-In culture including a white supremacist group that takes off when a group of Asian immigrants is forced into the drive-in. Not believing in the message of the other prisoners in the Drive-In, and wanting absolute and total freedom Crabs begins a plan to take on his captors and escape the Star.
Brian Trenchard-Smith's work, and I've made no secret of this in any of my reviews of his films are some of the greatest B-Movies in the world. He makes films that are unabashedly fun and exciting to watch, and sometimes that is all you need in a great film. His films are endlessly re-watchable (I can attest to this having endlessly rewatched everything from BMX Bandits to Stunt Rock many a time), and he makes even the worst film all the more enjoyable (Hell, I can even vouch for the Leprechaun sequels he directed). The film has wonderful production design that looks like someone's idea of what punk is exploded on screen. It is lit in garish neon, but also scorching apocalyptic Earth tones.
The film has quite solid pacing, there are a few spots where things slow down, but overall the film is entertaining from the first frame, and Trenchard-Smith with Peter Carey do a wonderful job realizing the post-apocalyptic world of 1995 on screen. The performances are solid for the material, none of them are Oscar winners, but that isn't expected here, they do fit the characters they are playing quite well. Trenchard-Smith lays the social subtext on quite thick, but manages to do it in a way that fits the story of the film naturally. He touches on immigration and issues with race relations, and though this film was made and probably dealt with the Australia of the 1980's, the message reverberates still in 2016.
Dead End-Drive-In is presented by Arrow Video in a Blu-ray edition that is a marked improvement over the Anchor Bay DVD of old. This edition is presented with a 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks and sounds quite solid with excellent detail throughout the presentation, colors are well reproduced, and there is some healthy grain throughout. There is some softness, and minor damage frmo the source.
The audio is presented through an LPCM mono track in English. Everything here sounds quite fine, dialogue and score come through nicely. I did not detect any issues with the track.
Arrow Video puts together quite a solid extras package for their release of Dead End Drive-In. The Blu kicks off with an informative and entertaining commentary by director Brian Trenchard-Smith. We then get 2 archival shorts by the director The Stuntman a documentary about Stunt Man Grant Page, and also Hospitals Don't Burn Down which is an insane riff on a public safety film which needs to be be seen to be believed. We also get a trailer for the film and liner notes.
Dead End Drive-In is one of the high points of Brian Trenchard-Smith's early career. The Blu-ray looks and sounds quite excellent, and comes with a number of solid extra features. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.