Dead End Drive-In DVD Review

Written by Joel Harley

DVD released by Arrow Video

Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written by Peter Carey (story) and Peter Smalley
1986, Region 2 (PAL), 88 minutes, Rated 15
DVD released on 15 April 2013

Ned Manning as Crabs
Natalie McCurry as Carmen
Peter Whitford as Thompson
Wilbur Wilde as Hazza
Dave Gibson as Dave
Sandie Lillingston as Beth



A dystopian future tale about a society which has hit the skids, a world economy at rock-bottom and the armed gangs who roam the streets. Rising crime statistics, no money and mass unemployment? Imagine that. The Australian government rounds up the nation's more delinquent youths and locks them away in concentration camps. It's like Grease meets Mad Max.

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One night, young Crabs takes his girlfriend out to see a drive-in movie. Unbeknown to the unfortunate couple, they've just driven into one of the government's concentration camps. As the wheels are stolen from their ride and they find themselves unable to leave, Crabs and Carmen are trapped at the Dead End Drive-In. With no way out other than via the road (which it is illegal to walk upon) Crabs must find, build or salvage himself a vehicle from whatever spare parts he can find around the Drive-In. Stranded at the Drive-In. Branded a fool. What will they say, Monday at school? Ahem, sorry. Obligatory Grease reference.

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A confession: I once spent four months on the unemployment line after the my place of work was closed down (not my fault). The dole office I attended was a remarkably similar place to this future prison camp. The people manning the desks and the rubber stamps weren't quite as friendly though. People in power shouldn't be allowed to watch this movie, since it will probably give them ideas. It can only be a matter of time before the powers that be start locking the unemployed up in concentration camps and stealing their vehicles. Either that or Soylent Green. Although, hey, free beer, burgers and movies.


Movies don't get much more eighties than Dead End Drive-In. From the music to the clothes, make-up and – above all – the hair, it's the quintessential eighties movie experience. With appropriate nods towards Mad Max and Escape from New York, it's great retro fun. Director Brian Trenchard-Smith was one of the directors featured in the excellent Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood. Counting the likes of Quentin Tarantino among his fans, it's not difficult to see why he went on to become one of Australia's most celebrated cult directors. It's trashy and dumb but very enjoyable – exactly the sort of thing you might expect to see playing at a drive-in movie theatre, in fact.

While there's much to sneer at – the acting isn't much cop, and 'teenage' Crabs looks about thirty – there's even more to like. Sod the new Grindhouse movement and exploitation revival that's in vogue right now, Dead End Drive-In is the real deal. It's the one that I want, oh yes indeed.

Video and Audio:

It looks grubby and washed-out, in an authentic Mad Max sort of way. The 80s hair metal and soft rock which plays over the soundtrack is pretty good too.

Special Features:

There are no special features included on this disc.


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Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
Other articles by this writer


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