Dead End Drive-In (1986)

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Released 3-Dec-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Audio Commentary-Brian Trenchard Smith (Director)
Theatrical Trailer-Dead End Drive-In
Teaser Trailer-Madman Propaganda
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 86:56 (Case: 88)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian Trenchard-Smith

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ned Manning
Natalie McCurry
Peter Whitford
Wilbur Wilde
Dave Gibson
Sandie Lillingston
Ollie Hall
Lyn Collingwood
Nikki McWaters
Melissa Davis
Margi Di Ferranti
Desirée Smith
Murray Fahey
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Frank Strangio

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    With the current renaissance of the so called, ozploitation genre of films, it's rather timely that Madman Entertainment has released a local DVD edition of the 1986 Brian Trenchard Smith film, Dead End Drive-In. While Dead End Drive-In is probably not familiar to a mainstream audience, it does have a modest cult following both in Australia and overseas.

    The screenplay was written by Peter Smalley based on the short story, Crabs, by renowned Australian novelist, Peter Carey. Although the film is by no means perfect, it does have a beguiling quality that is hard to dismiss. Dead End Drive-In is superbly shot by Paul Murphy and the production design by Larry Eastwood is sublime.

    In 1990 the world is in environmental and social meltdown. Nuclear accidents have caused mass destruction, high unemployment has resulted in anarchy on the streets, world economies are in ruin, high level corruption is rampant and food shortages are increasing. (Come to think of it, some of this sounds vaguely familiar).

     In Australia, rouge gangs, known as "car boys" roam the streets looking for any opportunity to acquire vehicles. A multi-car fatality brings the car boys out of the shadows to claim the wreckage. Jimmy "Crabs" (Ned Manning) sees this social disorder first hand when he attends the accident scene with his tow truck driving brother, Frank (Ollie Hall).

    Later that night, Jimmy "borrows" Frank's restored 56' Chevy. He has a big romantic night planned at the Star Drive-In for himself and his girlfriend, Carmen (Natalie McCurry) and the Chev is custom made for it.

    At the drive-in entrance Jimmy tries to save a few of dollars by announcing to the manager that he and Carmen are both unemployed. Little does he realise, this deception will cost him dearly.

    With the movie playing on the big screen (a Trenchard Smith film - Turkey Shoot), things are really heating up inside the Chevy. But someone is lurking outside the car and before Jimmy can pull on a pair of jeans, two of his wheels have been removed and stolen. To his astonishment, Jimmy notices that the thieves are actually the police.

    At the administration building Jimmy tries to lodge a complaint with the manager, Thompson (Peter Whitford), but he shows little interest and tells Jimmy and Carmen to come back and see him in the morning.

    Daybreak at the drive-in reveals the truth of their situation. A sea of derelict cars and other primitive dwellings cover the entire drive-in site. These vehicles are the living quarters for the peculiar array of people who slowly begin to emerge from them. The Star Drive-In is actually one of the government's solutions to rid society of  young undesirables - the unemployed. Once you enter this drive-in with an unemployment discount, you don't leave. The parameter of the drive-in is fortified by an escape proof, high voltage fence. Each night inmates are screened exploitation films for their entertainment. They are given thirty dollars a week and a book of vouchers to spend on junk food in the drive-in café. Inmates also have easy and unguarded access to drugs.

    The vast majority of the inmates have accepted their fate and are quite content to live their days and nights minus the hassles of the outside world. Gangs patrol the toilets and shower blocks, all eager to have control over their surroundings (Wilbur Wilde appears in an interesting small role). However, loyalties inside the drive-in are soon united when the authorities bring in a truck load of Asian immigrants. While Carmen becomes drawn into the racial rhetoric, Jimmy is far too busy planning his escape.

    If you're looking for them, you'll find plenty of social metaphors in Dead End Drive-In. But, I think the best way to enjoy this film is to let any logical thought slide by and simply go with the premise. Dead End Drive-In is arguably Brian Trenchard Smith's best film to date and a genuine film of the ozploitation genre.

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Transfer Quality


    Dead End Drive-In is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which is 16x9 enhanced.

    Overall the transfer has an excellent degree of sharpness. Blacks were clean and free from low-level-noise. Considering much of the film is quite dark, shadow detail was also outstanding.

    Larry Eastwood's dazzling production design presents an explosion of colour in a variety of forms. Drab and dirty exterior colours are contrasted against vibrant neon and garish costumes. All colours were beautifully balanced, with no over-saturation issues.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noticed. Film-to-video artefacts were not a significant issue and film artefacts were not evident.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles on the DVD.

    This is a DVD 9, dual layer disc. The layer change does not occur during the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks available on this DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality was excellent throughout. I sensed a couple of very slight hitches with audio sync, but  these seemed likely to have stemmed from the ADR process rather than the transfer.

    The original music score by Frank Strangio is distinctively 1980's. There is also plenty of non-original music used in the film, most of which will be familiar to Australian audiences. Some of this music includes tracks from bands such as, Kids in The Kitchen, Hunters & Collectors and Machinations.

    Although the main audio track is stereo, the use of Pro Logic II provided some good effect through the rear channels. Apart from the music, a couple of fine examples include falling rain at 18:20 and ambient café noise at 59:46.

    The subwoofer is reasonably active throughout with bass elements in the music and the occasional effect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    The main menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of music from the film.


Director's Audio Commentary - Brian Trenchard Smith

    A thoroughly enjoyable and informative commentary from Brian Trenchard Smith. Judging by comments made during the commentary, I'd guess that this was recorded sometime in 2002 for the American, Anchor Bay release of the film. Brian discusses Dead End Drive-In with great enthusiasm and covers just about every aspect of the production. He continually points out interesting pieces of information during the film in an open and humorous manner. He is also honest enough to point out the flaws and highlights the scenes that he'd love to change if he had the time over again. Highly recommended.

    Footnote: Probably to the great amusement of Peter Whitford and his family, Brian announces during the commentary that he believes Peter is no longer with us. Keeping in mind, the commentary was recorded quite a few years ago; Peter would be entitled to claim that reports of his death are greatly exaggerated. Certainly at the time of writing this review, Peter is still alive and well and actually worked quite extensively in 2008.

Original Theatrical Trailer

    Dead End Drive-In (1:37)

Madman Propaganda

  • Love The Beast (2:32)
  • Scenes Of A Sexual Nature (1:51)
  • Ten Canoes (2:05)
  • Restraint (2:19)
  • Stunt Rock (2:42)

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

         There is a R1 edition of the Dead End Drive-In  released a few years ago by Anchor Bay. Both that edition and this R4 Madman edition seem to be almost identical. Both are transferred in the correct aspect ratio and feature the same audio commentary. While the Madman release does contain the theatrical trailer, it does not have the stills gallery, which is featured on the Anchor Bay edition.

        Unless the stills gallery is of major importance, there seems no logical reason to look past the local Madman release.


         Dead End Drive-In is arguably Brian Trenchard Smith's best film to date. In fact the rear cover of the DVD boasts that this is Quentin Tarantino's favourite film from the director. While some of the acting and dialogue is a bit cheesy at times, Dead End Drive-In is still a highly enjoyable film, deserving of its cult status.

        The video and audio transfers are both excellent.

        Although there isn't an abundance of extras, the audio commentary is highly entertaining and informative.


  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Wednesday, January 21, 2009
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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