Last time I went to a drive in movie I saw “Congo”, which is probably one of the unintentionally worst movies I’ve seen to date. My biggest fear was that we’d get locked in the drive in and be forced to watch Congo over and over and over again. While Crabs and his girlfriend Carmen didn’t get stuck watching Congo, they got something almost as bad… They just got locked in for life.
I’m of course talking about Crabs and Carmen from Dead-End Drive In, Brian Trenchard-Smith‘s film from 1986. The film is set in 1995 aka “The Near Future” where a series of events has sent the world into panic mode, where food reserves, medical care and energy are all in short supply. Crabs (played by Ned Manning) is a young fellow who is training to get bulkier so that he can help his brother Frank, a tow truck driver, out on the “tracks”. It seems that people are getting in car crashes constantly, so while being a tow truck driver is a busy and profitable job, it’s also a dangerous one. Several drivers compete for salvage rights to the vehicles involved in the wrecks, and violence often breaks out between the drivers, the police, and the scavengers known as “cowboys”. The cowboys are roving bands of thugs that do their best to resemble Mad Max style road warriors. They steal the parts off of cars for profit and otherwise cause general mayhem.
One night, Crabs takes his best girl Carmen (Natalie McCurry) out to the drive in movie theater in his brother’s ’56 chevy for a night of fooling around. When they get to the theater, they see two rates, “adult” and “unemployed” – adult admission is $10, while unemployed is $3.50. Crabs decides that in order to save a little money, he’ll go for the unemployed rate, and slips into the theater and finds a place to park. While he and Carmen are fogging up the windows, one side of their car drops down, and Crabs finds out that someone took two of his wheels off of the car. After chasing down the thieves for a bit, he realizes that the thieves are in fact police officers, who take off after stealing his wheels. Crabs makes a complaint to the theater manager and finds out that the drive in is like a concentration camp for all the unemployed and undesirables and that they’re stuck there until the government decides what they’re going to do with them. Crabs isn’t having it, so he decides to escape, but can he?
While I did enjoy this movie, there really wasn’t much to it. It seems like it’s more a vehicle for the cast to run around in their favorite road warrior attire. It’s hard to really classify the film as being an action movie, or a sci-fi movie as well. While it’s in a sci-fi type environment, with the “in the near future” setting, there isn’t any other real sci-fi elements. On that same thought, there are only about 3 action scenes totaling about 15 minutes of the entire film. There also aren’t really any special effects to speak of, and the stunt scenes that do take place are done really well. The music is consistently 80’s-tastic and actually isn’t half bad.
Dead-End Drive In does have a few socio-political themes, amongst them are unemployment, governmental fascism and some not so subtle racism. I didn’t have a problem with the racism factor per se, but since they introduced it, I would have liked it to have more than just a casual mention in the film. It revolves around the busing in of some Asian citizens, and the primarily white populace holding a meeting to talk about how they were going to “clean up” the camp and keep the Asians under control. The whole meeting and mention of the divide only happens in about the last 20 minutes of the film, and takes place parallel to one of the major action scenes.
While the trailer (which you can check out below) mentions that “In the 70’s there was “A Clockwork Orange” and in the 80’s there was “Mad Max” and “The Road Warrior” and Dead-End Drive In carries on the tradition of startling visions of the apocalypse and beyond… this film just really doesn’t live up to any of those films. It never brings a “apocalyptic” view and it really doesn’t push any boundaries, it just is. It stands on it’s own as being fun and entertaining, but unfortunately it’s boringly average.
Check below the break for the trailer to DEAD-END DRIVE IN!