Dead End Drive-In, on the other hand, is sporting a substantially more fucked out set of themes, railing against fascism, racism, totalitarian governing bodies, and society’s willingness to sell out its basic freedoms. I mean, how dated and irrelevant can a movie be? Thankfully, the film remains timeless in one respect: the glorification of the drive-in. As Joe Bob Briggs has said many times before, the drive-in will never die. Naysayers who are pointing to the current decline in the theater format will be pacified by the realism of Dead End Drive-In’s speculative premise:
Eric Draven is not in the film, by the way. Talk about false advertising.
The year: the future. The place: Australia. The set design: pretty close to the Road Escape From New York’s night time dystopia thrown in for good measure. The result: spectacular., actually, but with a dash of
Crabs (Ned Manning, 1915) is an innocent teen in this chaotic vision of Australia. Like any innocent teen, he’s perpetually distracted from the ensuing apocalypse around him by two important factors: girls and cars. He borrows his brother’s sweet hot rod and takes his would-be girlfriend (Natalie McCurry, Cassandra) to the local drive-in, only to find out it has been turned into a concentration camp for aimless, unemployed youths that have been wreaking havoc across the land. Wrongfully accused, he finds authority figures unresponsive to his pleas for freedom. As he plans his escape, he is met with apathy from his fellow inmates, who prefer free food, shelter, and films to free will.
Dead End Drive-In is one of those “social commentary” type of movies, a satire of fascism and youth gone wrong wrapped up in a no-holds-barred sci-fi/action movie. Unfortunately for grindhouse goons like myself, the film is heavier on story and characters than gear-grinding and gunshots. I mean, when you’re going into a movie like Dead End Drive-In, who really wants a story? Much less a good story, with compelling characters in high-stakes situations.
I can’t help but wonder what Brian Trenchard-Smith was thinking with this choice. Clearly this is not the same man who would later prove God’s existence through an ass-kicking Michael Biehn in Megiddo: The Omega Code 2. Putting his credibility as aof mindless action films on the line must have been a terrible risk at this point in his career. I can see his agent pleading with him in thick Aussie tones, “B-Trench, my man, can’t we dial back on the whole script thing? This intelligent dialogue and scathing social satire is for the birds! Let’s just gut the script and start over. Hell, let’s throw the script out and improvise as we go along! For God’s sakes, man, don’t lose everything because you’re too stubborn to return to the BMX Bandits franchise!”
No more BMXs for this guy.
Smith would have none of it. Dead End Drive-In is exploitation cinema at its – SIGH – most thoughtful, humorous, and entertaining. We have a lot of intelligent character development, suspenseful plot twists, excellent art design, and humorous in-film commentary on Ozploitation. The one exploitation pedigree the film manages to maintain throughout its running time, aside from a convincing dystopian setting and synth-heavy music score, is ample nudity through “ought” (especially from co-star McCurry).
There isn’t even a big chase/fight scene until the end of the film. Thankfully, it saves the movie, wiping away all that serious stuff built up from before in one shotgun-blasting, van-jumping, explosive melee of exploitation idiocy. These last 10 minutes truly earn the film its Ozploitation stripes. Though it should be noted the finale is juxtaposed with a scene mocking prevalent racist attitudes among the prisoner populous, very nearly turning the film into a serious piece of cinema again. Thank God for ramp-jumping future vans, am I right?
Both BMX Bandits and Dead End Drive-In are available to stream on Netflix and sporting decent transfers. If you’re new to Ozploitation or the works of Brian Trenchard-Smith, I can think of no better primer than this double feature. Sure, the films have some pretty huge range between them in terms of content, but there’s enough badass action between them to make even the most jaded viewer praise the gospel of B-Trench.
Now, in the spirit of American stereotyping, let us all raise our Foster’s Oil Cans in salute and get to streaming, mates!
Extra Bitter, motherfucker.