A Movie A Day: DEAD END DRIVE-IN (1986) + REPO-MAN (1984)
Published at: Oct. 14, 2009, 4:36 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the newest October special horror run of A Movie A Day!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my usual A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Well, I have totally slacked off. I’m now two movies behind, but I have dedicated today as my catch-up day. There’s nothing else on the docket except for my AMADs.
Let’s get going with Brian Trenchard-Smith’s fun as hell Ozploitation classic DEAD END DRIVE-IN.
If you’ve been paying close attention to this site you’ll remember we all loved the documentary on Australian Exploitation called NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (which sees release on DVD this week, I believe). There’s a great hand-made, fun-first Roger Corman-in-his-heyday quality to these kinds of films and Brian Trenchard-Smith is one of the kings of the genre.
You can always count on Trenchard-Smith, especially in this era. The dude is the George Romero of Ozploitation, always going for the fun, but makes sure to put a layer of satire so it’s not a hollow experience.
DEAD END DRIVE-IN is a Mad Max rip-off, but it’s quite obvious that Trenchard-Smith wears that badge proudly. He embraces the Australian car-culture, semi-post-apocalyptic sub-genre, so it never feels like he’s trying to pull one over on us.
The movie subscribes to the dirty, punk rock, spiky haired no good youth version of the future. The world’s economy has collapsed and the punks are running amuck. What could the Australian government possibly do to protect the wealthiest from the violent poor?
Why, trap people in a drive-in, of course!
What’d really interesting about this movie to me is that it’s not like this drive-in a prison. It’s just a regular working drive-in that is a few kilometers off the road. Unfortunately for those that pay the discounted “unemployed” rate that means that during the movie the police take a couple tires and you’re stuck. The road between freedom and the drive-in is a security road where it is illegal for pedestrians to travel.
A dude named Crabs (Ned Manning) and his cute girl (Natalie McCurry) go to the drive-in, pay the discounted price and proceed to do the nasty while their tires are removed, trapping them there.
It’s almost a social experiment and surprising how quickly people will bend to authority. They’re told a new set of rules, given meal vouchers and surprisingly most people don’t have a problem with it.
Crabs ain’t having it, but even he falls in line at first, just as I assume most of us would. But when the big picture (ie permanent imprisonment) becomes clear Crabs tries to bust out.
The film has a little LORD OF THE FLIES in it, watching various cliques form and the political game of recruiting members. Natalie McCurry is a gullible target and is easily persuaded to go with the flow by a group of hot punk chicks.
There’s also a subplot about the government busing in Asians. I’m not sure if they do it knowing the punk kids’ prejudice will keep them busy, nice and distracted, or if it’s an concentration/conferment camp allegory… I guess it could be both, but I love that it very smartly and accurately shows how those in power can so easily distract the masses from what’s really important.
As you’d expect from a good Ozploitation flick there are tons of car wrecks, fist-fights, boobs, ‘splosions, evil punks, blood and nutballs to keep you entertained.
Final Thoughts: The movie is super fun, super ‘80s (tons of neon and smoke) and super crazy with an underlying satire that is right on. Keep an eye out for glimpses at two of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s previous films playing on the drive-in screen (Turkey Shoot and The Man From Hong Kong) as well as a solid performance from Peter Whitford as the owner of the drive-in.Whitford grounds the film with an understated and strangely likable villain performance.
DEAD END DRIVE-IN isn’t really a horror film, but it’s nice to change things up a bit even during October. It’s very much a genre film so it doesn’t feel out of left field. I mean, it’s not like I’m covering Busby Berkeley musicals or Frank Capra comedies.
To that end I’m going to recommend a title that has even fewer ties to horror, but fits perfectly with DEAD END DRIVE-IN.
God, I love REPO MAN. It’s one of the weirdest, funniest most bizarre movies ever. And yes, that overly photoshopped DVD cover is shitty, but the movie isn’t, so there.
I imagine REPO MAN isn’t a new movie to most of you guys, but if by chance you haven’t given it a view yet you’re seriously missing out.
This is another movie, like The Big Lebowski, that is all about dropping the audience in an exaggerated world amongst some fucking insane characters. There is certainly a plot, in this case warring repo men try to cash in on a big get, a green Chevy Malibu that has a huge reward attached to it, but all that’s really secondary to a young punk named Otto (Emilio Estevez) learning the ropes as a repo man from some certifiably insane people.
Harry Dean Stanton is a god in this movie. “People go through life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into intense situations.” Cantankerous, loud, but still somehow sweet. Such a brilliant part and handled so beautifully by Mr. Stanton.
Tracey Walter (you might remember him as The Joker’s right hand man, Bob, in Tim Burton’s Batman) is also great as the kinda spiritual guy who works in the yard. His character always has something deep to say, whether it’s about car airfresheners or plates of shrimp.
This movie is incredibly quotable. Just thinking back on it now I find myself smiling and itching to put the movie on.
Also, for you punk rock fans the soundtrack is killer. You got Iggy Pop, The Circle Jerks and more for your listening pleasure.
REPO MAN is directed by Alex Cox who followed this movie up with SID & NANCY. It was a great kick. Also, the flick is produced by Monkee Michael Nesmith.
It’s such a product of its time. The humor is loud and in your face, not afraid to go bizarre, but Cox also sneaks in a lot of really smart gags. He’ll set up something as a throwaway and you’ll see call-backs to it many times during the film.
The universe of REPO MAN is brilliant and unique, a mixture of science fiction, punk rock and comedy the likes of which we haven’t seen before or since.
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Tuesday, October 13th: PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)
Wednesday, October 14th: THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
Thursday, October 15th: THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)
Friday, October 16th: WOLFEN (1981)
Saturday, October 17th: MADHOUSE (1981)
Sunday, October 18th: THE HOUSE WITH THE LAUGHING WINDOWS (1976)
Monday, October 19th: THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945)
Still behind, but I will have all three AMADs I owe you guys delivered before I sleep. Next up is a ‘70s horror flick called PSYCHIC KILLER! Look for that review to hit in a few hours!
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