Blu-ray Review: DEAD END DRIVE-IN, Punks, Classic Cars and Explosions From Brian Trenchard-Smith
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, DEAD END DRIVE-IN stars Ned Manning and Natalie McCurry.
Director Brian Trenchard-Smith is a giant among men when it comes to exploitation cinema. The director, a British transplant to the Land of Oz, is responsible for some of the most incredible examples of Ozploitation that the island has to offer.
Among his contributions to cinematic ignominy are the insanely over-the-top post-apocalyptic action bacchanal Turkey Shoot, the extremely vivid BMXploitation king BMX Bandits (starring a very young Nicole Kidman), and the crazy combination of rock 'n roll and death-defying stunts, Stunt Rock. However, the film that is perhaps my favorite Brian Trenchard-Smith (BTS) project is the punks-gone-wild bonanza, Dead End Drive-In.
In the film, naturally set after the world's economy has collapsed and Australia has turned to martial law, society's undesirables are lured to the drive-in at the end of the world to be kept indefinitely. The promise of sleazy action films is enough to pique the interest of our young hero, Crabs (Ned Manning), who decides to take his girlfriend for an evening of outdoor entertainment in his brother's mint '56 Chevy. Too late they discover that once they're in, there's no getting out, and Crabs and his somewhat vapid lady, Carmen, have to adjust to life on the inside of Dead End Drive-In.
The drive-in is populated with the dregs of humanity, which in 1986 mostly consisted of burn-outs and dope fiends. In what largely equates to a punk rocker's version of Lord of the Flies, Crabs attempts to combat the hierarchy of brawn over brains with mixed results. It isn't too long before he concocts a plan to break free from this hellhole and get on with his life on the outside, which, to be honest, isn't much better.
Trenchard-Smith's vision of a dystopian future includes a drive-in that plays his own movies on a loop, kickass car battles, lots of drugs, and some halfway decent music, so it's okay with me. What got largely lost in translation upon the film's release was the incredible amount of social and political commentary that BTS injects into his chaotic explodatron. He takes on subversion, the immigrant crisis (always a hot topic anywhere in the world), the culture clash between generations, and Australia's paranoia over the changing demographics of its country. All of this is wonderful and rich if you can see it, but even if it flies over your head, it's never too long before something explodes and you can enjoy the film on a visceral level.
If there's one thing I an say about BTS at this early stage in his career, it's that he never half-assed anything, and Dead End Drive-In is another gem in his crown. With loud music, over-the-top performances from all and sundry, and some very impressive stunts coordinated by the legend that is Guy Norris (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Road Warrior), BTS goes for broke with every shot. The result is a pulse-pounding action explosion that is just as fun to watch in-between the explosions as during them.
Punks, classic cars, and trashy movies have always been my raison d'etre, and Dead End Drive-In provides them all in spades.
Arrow Video previously released Dead End Drive-In on DVD in the UK in a very slim edition without a lot of bonus material. However, for their Blu-ray upgrade, they've really gone the distance. The new 2K restoration looks and sounds fantastic and is well worth the upgrade.
While the UK DVD was nothing to crow about, Dead End Drive-In had been released in the early 2000's by Anchor Bay in a special edition that included a BTS audio commentary. Arrow's new Blu-ray includes that commentary, which is packed to the gills with tidbits and discussion of the film's themes and technical aspects that will be like catnip to BTS fans.
Arrow, however, didn't stop there and includes a pair of early BTS pieces to the set that further cement his position as one of the pre-eminent trash kings of all time. First there is The Stuntmen, a TV documentary that Trenchard-Smith made about legendary stunt coordinator Grant Page (Mad Max, Man From Hong Kong), in which Page is shown risking his life over and over again for our amusement.
Next up is a bonkers PSA called Hospitals Don't Burn Down!, in which a hospital does, in fact, burn down after a dickhead patient decides to have a smoke inside. No typical PSA, this thing really goes for the throat with buckets of blood and explosions, just to make sure that they get the point across. It is 25 minutes of Ozploitation gold.
Lastly there is a featurette with the main graffiti artist on Dead End Drive-In in which he shares some of his behinds the scenes photos of his work for the film. Graffiti heads will be pleased.
Overall this disc is a definite winner and well worth the money. Arrow Video has released Dead End Drive-In on all-region Blu-ray, so there's no reason you should not own this!