Thursday, 7 November 2013

MOVIE: Dead End Drive-In (1986)

Dead End Drive-In

Australia 1986, 92m, New World/New South Wales Film Corp/Springvale

DVD: Arrow Films (UK) - Cert 15

In a near-futuristic Sydney, a young couple named Crabs and Carmen head for a night at the local drive-in theatre. As they enjoy the movie, two of the wheels are stolen from their vehicle, and as dawn rises they realise that they are stranded. It transpires that the drive-in has been converted into a concentration camp for the unemployed and undesirable. What's more, the people imprisoned there seem perfectly happy to stay, as does Carmen. Crabs, however, is determined to escape...

Back in the day, BBC2 used to screen seasons of films from Australia, and it was through these that I got to see all kinds of interesting items like Picnic At Hanging Rock, Sunday Too Far Away and Breaker Morant, interspersed with more eclectic flicks like The Cars That Ate Paris or Inn Of The Damned.

I was reminded of these film seasons whilst watching Dead End Drive-In, as although I don't recall it being screened on BBC2, it would have fitted in perfectly with the latter films mentioned above.

Ned Manning (Crabs) and Natalie McCurry (Carmen) make fine leads, as Carmen's increasing infatuation with the lifestyle and mentality inside the drive-in contrasts with Crabs' reinforced determination to get out of the place. There's good support from the range of assorted outcasts who have made a new life from their limited surroundings. Then there's a sterling turn from Peter Whitford, as drive-in manager Thompson. Seemingly friendly, you start to question his motivation, and are ultimately unsure whether he's really one of the bad guys or a government patsy.

Intentional or not (I suspect the former), there's social comment aplenty in Dead End Drive-In. The sidelining of the jobless and disenfranchised. The way they are kept docile by a diet of junk food, cigarettes, beer and drugs. The divisions within. The manner in which the inmates blame all of their problems on immigrants. The further radicalisation of the inmates as ethnic minoroties start to be bussed into the drive-in... Make of it all what you will. The fact that I am writing about it 27 years later, and much of it is still relevant says a great deal...


Favourite in-joke: Director Brian Trenchard-Smith manages to include his own Man From Hong Kong and Turkey Shoot amongst the films on show at the drive-in...

Original Australian Teaser Trailer:

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