Dead End Drive-In (1986)
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford, Wilbur Wilde, Dave Gibson, Sandie Lillingston, Ollie Hall
Can you say ’80s? Set in the future (at least the future from 1986), the world lives in chaos. At least apparently in Australia. There’s isn’t too much explanation given here, but somehow a drive-in theater is turned into sort of a short term prison, or something to that effect. Not just criminal, but more like the dregs of society. Our young hero named Crabbs and his girlfriend go on a date to the theater and wake up the next morning realizing they are now trapped. Actually, it takes a while for him to get the idea. Then the rest of the movie is about dealing with others there, as well as trying to figure out a way to escape.
Being a product from Brian Trenchard-Smith, I honestly expected so much more. More craziness, more wild action scenes, and just….well, more. This is the man who started out making documentaries for Australian television, including two on stunt men (more on that in a bit), before diving head first into the world of Ozploitation, with such films like Stunt Rock (1980) and Turkey Shoot (1982). But this film seems to be quite sedate in its premise and execution. A few action bits here and there, but definitely not enough to keep my interests. And what was all the bits about racism and keeping the Asians out?
Arrow Video has released this title on bluray and at first glance, it would be hard for me to recommend, unless you’re a diehard fan of Trenchard-Smith, or of Ozploitation. But there is an extra on this disc that I think it enough to make it worth the purchase. His 1973 film The Stuntmen is featured and is a great little piece of film. It covers the work of Australian stuntmen Grant Page, as well as Bob Woodham, Herb Nelson, Warren Campbell, Graham Mathrick, Roger Ward, and more. The film shows a few different stunts being prepared for and then executed. There is one where a car being driven by two stuntmen catches fire from the inside. They eventually hit a tree and fly out the front windshield, engulfed in flames. They breakdown the stunt on how it is done, but it doesn’t take away any of the amazement of what they went through.
This new release does have audio commentary by Trenchard-Smith, as well as the film going through a new 2K restoration from original film material, and it does look exceptional. The disc also features another one of his documentaries, Hospitals Don’t Burn Down, made in 1978 as sort of a public service announcement.
If you’re expecting something similar to Mad Max or Road Warrior, then you will be sadly mistaken. But I would say that checking out his Stuntmen is a must!