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The trailer for Dead End Drive-In tells us that after such classics as A Clockwork Orange and Mad Max, this new movie about a young couple in the near future trapped in a drive-in that actually doubles as a sort of concentration camp for society’s wayward youth is the next step in cult cinema. It really isn’t that at all but I suppose sitting it somewhere between Clockwork Orange and Mad Max makes a little bit of sense considering the film’s themes and Australian post-apocalyptic good looks.

Dead End Drive-In
The opening of the film tells us of economic collapse and crime waves and all the usual near future stuff we grew to love in the mid-eighties. Then it’s all future punks, retro cars and uneven responses to dark situations as life apparently goes on post collapse, even down to going on dates and heading to the drive-in for sexy cuddles. However once all that is done with, Dead End Drive–In begins to reveal it’s true colours.

Like many 80s dark future films, Dead End Drive-In warns of the dangers of junk food, bad movies, bad fashions and youth culture run amok but as our lead, Jimmy (Ned Manning) takes super 80s cutie Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to Stars Drive-In and winds up trapped there, the film gets a little more focused on a point.

For the most part Dead End Drive-In is telling us that no matter how trapped you feel in your life or indeed within the constraints of your generation, there’s always a way out if you really want it. No matter if your lady is happy to settle for this life or your friends will never break their cycle of devastation and even if the authorities are holding you back there’s always an escape. Of course this is an 80s Australian cult movie and that way out involves a car chase and some batshit crazy stunt involving an insane car jump but none the less Dead End Drive-In has a message to get across and even if the madness of youth controlled 80s future is the way the message is being played, it’s still a message that works even in moments when the film doesn’t.

Dead End Drive-In

Video


The flickery and grimy soft opening credits sequence, set to a uber 80s Human League-esq tune doesn’t inspire much confidence that this presentation is going to be all that good and even though the improvement is immediate once the credits stop, it’s still nothing to get all that excited about.

This one reeks of 80s. From costumes to camera angles there’s no escaping the era Dead End Drive-In was made in. Neon pinks and purples spewing out of smoky 80s visuals don’t really get to shine behind the soft lifeless DVD image. Colours do have a bit of pop, largely due to their garish nature but without any level of impressive sharpness it’s hard to see past the dated looks of this 1986 punk infested dark future.

With those negatives largely unavoidable, there is a certain level of noticeable improvements over what you'd expect from this no doubt VHS cult flick. Close up details can sometimes impress given the right level of lighting, grain isn't all that heavy (though it is in places) and given the film's largely night time setting the image never gets all that grubby but remains bright and well coloured.

Looking at the trailer on the disc and being reminded of how bad VHS used to look, there’s no doubt fans of Dead End Drive-In will be quite pleased with what’s on offer on this DVD and in that respect it’s well worth the upgrade but this is a cult movie that’s had a spit and polish as opposed to a full restoration it seems.

Dead End Drive-In

Audio


The Dolby Stereo track is very much of its era. It feels a bit tinny, very limited and often times confined to have every element work on the same level with no dynamic range at all. The centrally placed dialogue feels a little low and ever so disjointed from what we're seeing onscreen. Action sound effects feel a little thin with explosions sounding hollow and gunshots and decorative chains on punk's jackets rattling in mostly underwhelming and low budget ways.

Really the audio presentation is what it is, a clean(ish), crisp(ish) upgrade to a low budget 80s affair. It does a good job with all that taken into account but really does very little to hold its own to modern or better restored movies from the same era.

Dead End Drive-In

Extras


The only extra is the Trailer (01:35) … A Clockwork Orange, Mad Max.... now this? Haha.

Dead End Drive-In

Overall


Dead End Drive-In actually won me over by about the midway mark. It’s classic, kid stuck in a rut stuff and the escape from the confines of the punk ridden drive-in was actually quite enjoyable, despite the overkill of 80s youth culture taken to extremes. The disc looks and sounds okay for a low budget cult status movie but the extras are non-existent, so that’s a bit of a letdown as quite often revisiting the cast and filmmakers now can make these old cult flicks a little better.

Dead End Drive-In


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