Dead End Drive-In Blu-ray Review

A dystopian Australian movie in the spirit of Mad Max

A slate of movies called Ozploitation came out of Australia in the Eighties. Inspired by the success of Mad Max, director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Dead End Drive-In explores a different apocalyptic scenario for his movie. The low-budget Australian film is an interesting take on a society on the brink of economic collapse. Featuring outstanding stunt work and a quality New Wave soundtrack, Dead End Drive-In is worth a look for those wanting a little more depth from their genre movies.

Released in 1986, Dead End Drive-In takes place in a near future where society has fallen apart. It’s a nearly lawless time where the basic functions of government have mostly stopped working and bandits roam the streets. People survive by the skin of their own teeth. The main character is Jimmy (Ned Manning), the smaller brother of a musclebound scavenger. Jimmy is known by the nickname ‘Crabs.’ Using a tow truck, Jimmy’s brother Frank roams the highways looking for fresh accidents in the hopes there are parts available.

Jimmy takes his brother’s beautifully mint 1956 Chevy. Its sparkling condition stands out in the grimy world of this dilapidated society. Jimmy takes his girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) out for a joy ride that ends up at a secluded drive-in movie theatre. Apparently most of society has collapsed, but people still need to watch movies.

Seeing a fully restored classic in mint condition, driving around in an apocalyptic wasteland, is unique to this movie.

The couple aren’t aware the remaining government has turned the drive-in movie theatre into a concentration camp. Young people are trapped and forbidden to leave once they enter. Jimmy and Carmen react differently to being held prisoners in this run-down drive-in. Jimmy becomes friendly with Thompson, the man that runs this drive-in prison. Carmen embraces the situation, upsetting Jimmy.

There is something about Dead End Drive-In I really like that I can’t fully explain. The Australian actors, all new to me, offer convincing performances for exploitation material. Maybe it’s the anachronistic Chevy car which sticks out in this dystopian future. Seeing a fully restored classic in mint condition, driving around in an apocalyptic wasteland, is unique to this movie. Car enthusiasts will cry when they see what happens to it.

This is b-movie fare that lightly explores allegorical issues that would have resonated for Australians in the Eighties, including Asian immigration and the racial divide. It’s not completely successful marrying those deeper themes with the fairly standard action elements. While Dead End Drive-In isn’t Mad Max by any stretch, I bet many of those fans will get a kick from this Ozploitation adventure.

Dead End Drive-In Blu-ray screen shot 10

Video

Arrow Video gives us a perfect transfer of low-budget filmmaking from the Eighties. A new 2K film scan of the original camera negative produces film-like video brimming with definition.

The 86-minute main feature is encoded in flawless AVC averaging well over 30 Mbps. The video is shown in the film’s proper scope aspect ratio at 2.35:1. It is in strong 1080P resolution on a BD-50.

The transfer offers decent black levels and a consistently nice contrast. The film elements have been cleaned up to remove dirt and debris, leaving a nearly pristine presentation. Some minor halos are apparent in a few scenes. Its cinematography is rather strong for a low-budget film. Palpable depth and some dimensionality give Dead End Drive-In a crisp feel with excellent detail.

Audio

The 2.0 PCM soundtrack packs a musical punch with a variety of Australian New Wave songs. The remastered audio has a coherent soundstage and clean fidelity. Dialogue is nicely rendered in balance with the musical score. Some bass and ample headroom in the mix make for a pleasant listening experience.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font. They are inside the widescreen framing at all times.

Extras

This set doesn’t offer the extensive array of featurettes we usually get on Arrow Video releases but the commentary is informative. The included archival documentary from Australian television by director Brian Trenchard-Smith on stuntmen is definitely interesting. I’ve never seen anything like it and makes for fascinating viewing. The keep case set includes a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon, and a fully-illustrated collector’s booklet containing writing on the films by Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell on first pressings.

The Stuntmen (48:46 in upscaled SD) – An entertaining piece of Australian television dedicated to the country’s stuntmen. This documentary interviews them as they show us how they work and operate in dangerous situations.

Hospitals Don’t Burn Down! (24:10 in upscaled SD) – A bizarre short film by director Brian Trenchard-Smith that worked as a public service announcement on the dangers of smoking.

Vladimir Cherepanoff Gallery (00:18 in HD) – A series of photographs from Sydney’s graffiti community.

Dead End Drive-In Trailer (01:36 in upscaled SD)

Audio commentary – Director Brian Trenchard-Smith gives an informative, revealing solo commentary. He covers its themes and the critical reaction to his film among other topics.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a pre-production screener. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full-resolution 1080P screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered during the process. Patreon supporters are able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.