Dead End Drive-In (1986)
By: Devon B. on April 3, 2009  | 
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 87 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford
Screenplay: Peter Smalley
Country: Australia
External Links
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After Brian Trenchard-Smith did the unheard of with Night of the Demons 2 by turning a would've been direct to video clunker into a movie so entertaining it even got a limited theatrical release, I began to follow his career. Unfortunately his Australian films were fairly obscure in the States, and I pretty much lost interest in him after Leprechaun 4. I had heard of Dead-End Drive-In, but I thought it was censored in the States, and even caused a bit of controversy when it got screened in its full strength form by accident. I may have this wrong, because I can't find a copy of the article where I thought I read this, and I may have it confused with a story about Turkey Shoot, which also had trouble with the MPAA.

In Dead-End Drive-In, it's the "near future" (about 20 years ago now). There have been a series of disasters that have lead to an economic crisis (this is sounding eerily familiar) which has created a world in which looting and gangs roaming the streets are common place. The government gets tough, and sneaky. Our hero borrows his brother's car and goes on a date to a drive in, which screens some of Trenchard-Smith's other films, but makes the mistake of lying to get the concession rate. This pegs him and his female companion as part of the problem with society, and during the screening of Turkey Shoot, tyres are stolen off his car. At first the pair think they're stuck for the night, but it turns out the drive in is actually a makeshift gaol. While the other prisoners don't seem to mind, our hero is determined to get out. One wonders why he doesn't just bust the fence that boarders on a clearly visible residential neighbourhood, but at least some lip service is paid to why he couldn't.

Trenchard-Smith says Dead-End Drive-In was considered an exploitation piece at the time, but it's really not. The film certainly has a few exploitation elements, like some brief gratuitous nudity, but until stuff gets blown up real good at the end, it's more of a slow burn social study.

This is not to imply the film is dull; it is entertaining and interesting, but don't go in expecting a manic pace. There're some good car stunts and a bit of fighting, but if you're not interested in social commentary about things like relative innocents being corrupted by being in gaol, accepting the status quo or racism as a scare tactic, you probably won't enjoy the movie as a whole. Some of the commentary gets heavy handed, but that happens a lot in any parable. The score is so 80s it hurts, and some of the acting is shit, but Dead-End Drive-In is a good example of an "exploitation film" offering more than was expected.
The film has a minor bit of wobble in a few scenes, and the print is a tad dark, but that may be intentional. There're a few spots, and it's over 20 years old so there's grain, but the picture is pretty clear and clean considering the age and budget of the film.
The audio is a 2.0 English track. The dialogue and explosions are clear, which is all you really need from a 2.0.
Extra Features
The disc has the film's trailer, as well as trailers for some other Madman titles and a commentary with Trenchard-Smith. The commentary is great listening, with him taking dry digs at himself; discussing the film's messages; foiling the MPAA (something he's a master of); mentioning that residential area that broke my suspension of disbelief; and, most shockingly of all, explaining that Dead-End Drive-In almost got re-dubbed for American markets a la Mad Max!
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Dead-End Drive-In is not Trenchard-Smith's most enjoyable film, but certainly it's way better than Leprechaun 4. The DVD isn't exactly jam packed, but the film itself looks good and the commentary is a great bonus feature. I'm sure Not Quite Hollywood will get people dipping into Trenchard-Smith's previous work, and Dead-End Drive-In will give you a feel for his style, but you may be better off starting with The Man From Hong Kong or the aforementioned Turkey Shoot.

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