Written by Amanda Pampuro
Dead-End Drive-In is another post-nuke Aussie film, which features a few other B movies in its background. I’ve invented a drinking game for this movie and others, in which whoever can identify the movies and posters makes everyone else drink. Play with other B movie buffs (if you can find them) or dazzle mortals with your knowledge.
There isn’t an Australia movie I’ve reviewed recently that doesn’t involve everyone getting blown to bits except Australia. Our friends down under seem as afraid of attack as they are sure that they will be the last land standing. I’d rather not put either theory to test. Instead, let’s talk about hyphens.
Using hyphens is a sign that you adhere to grammatical rules (and I’m tempted to make that a little more generalized and say if you worry about grammar you probably worry about the Speed Limit and pickpockets as well). The hyphen also signals that the words you are putting together aren’t what normal-tight-shoed-speakers might say, kind of like putting “ripe phrases” in quotes, to signal that you know people use those kinds of words, but you yourself would never stoop to that level “fo sho.” And hyphens of course can clarify meaning—in case you might have thought Dead End Drive In was about a loser street.
The reason the double hyphened title bothers me is because it is a sign that the creators were of the same breed as film’s nice drive in owner. He gives all the residents beer and drugs, and plays the part of the cool English teacher who still gives out tests. And to make matters worse, the only guy who cared about the hyphens (as is usually the case) was the guy who wrote the title sequence. Dead-End Drive-In did’t make it to the movie poster, it didn’t make it to the DVD box. It is the last shot from a lost cause. A moment of silence for the hyphen, please.
When our protagonist Crabs brings his girlfriend to Star Drive In, and his wheels are stolen (by the police) they are issued meal tickets instead of offered a tow truck. Star, it turns out, is one of many refugee camps for random rowdy young folk. The purpose for detention is never revealed, whether they are prisoners or will be turned into food or lampshades. But for Crabs, the problem is imprisonment itself. My idea of what it is to be punk—Crabs breaks away from the limitations of his environment and creates something new for himself. While everyone else has given up on escape, and most would prefer their life of perpetual partying and tagging, Crabs walks the borders looking for a break in the electrified fence.
Think 80′s movie—new wave soundtrack, graffiti, hairspray, the O-Zone sobbing in the background. The movie only makes itself into 1991 by adding a deserted post-society background and making the youth reckless drivers and thieves. Really the ’80′s were so narcissistic they considered themselves the future, and figured the future would just be brand new wave and bigger hair. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.
So, bad eighties movie, but I loved it, because Dead-End Drive-In is about escape. Only when you understand your limitations can you hope to scale them. Defeat death by cliché, being young and useless and oppressive government rule. Escape a kitsch film scene. Escape poor special effects. Overcome movie reviews that talk about grammar and philosophy instead of the movies they mentioned in the title.