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Monday, February 27, 2017
When a movie is described as "so bad, it's good", often the "it's good" part is solely up to the charity and goodwill of the viewer. If you simply don't like bad movies at all, chances are DRIVE-IN MASSACRE (1976) won't appeal to you at all. But if you qualify as a bonafide junk-film junkie, then this no-budget little effort will likely tickle your fancy in a big way even though, at times, it really does tend to get just a tad dull.
What it mostly does for me is to let me indulge in some good old-fashioned nostalgia and wallow in hazy, golden memories of things like drive-in theaters (natch), renting obscure VHS horrors from the local hole-in-the-wall video store (which is how most people probably first caught this one), and reliving those crazy wonderful early days of slasher flicks before the genre wore itself out through sheer repetition.
Like BLACK CHRISTMAS and THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (and before HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH), DRIVE-IN MASSACRE was right there on the ground floor of the slasher era, when poor but plucky filmmakers were still making up the rules and flying by the seat of their pants.
Here, of course, most of the film's shortcomings--limited funds, rushed schedule, less than stellar acting and dialogue, crude gore effects--are, in hindsight, what makes it so endearingly fun to watch.
And speaking of gore, there's considerably less here than in the average H.G. Lewis movie, but what there is scores major fun points. My favorite is the guy who leans out his car window to snag a speaker and gets his head cleanly lopped off by a samurai sword.
Most of the kills happen to people sitting in their cars watching the drive-in movie, including a double skewering (later reprised in FRIDAY THE 13TH) and a sword through the throat which elicits a wonderfully expressive reaction from the actress (that's her on the poster).
While semi-competent police detectives Leary (co-scripter John F. Goff as "Jake Barnes") and Koch (Bruce Kimball as "Michael Alden") bumble their way through the murder investigation in seriocomic style, suspects include foul-tempered drive in manager Austin (Robert E. Pearson as "Newton Naushaus") and feeble-minded janitor Germy (Douglas Gudbye)--both of whom happen to have carnival experience working with knives and swords!
(Note: all the cast aliases have something to do with SAG rules.)
There's also a perv named Orville (Norman Sheridan as "Norman Sherlock") who likes to creep around from car to car, peering in at the more amorous couples and--err--"gratifying" himself. While we're busy keeping up with all the potential suspects and red herrings, much screen time is devoted to those couples yakking away (some of the dialogue is amusing) while the guy tries to score.
Not all the action is confined to the drive in, however. In addition to scenes of the two cops grilling people at the station or running down (literally) suspect Orville who flees an interview at his house, there's a lengthy detour in which another likely candidate gets cornered in a warehouse while holding a young girl hostage.
This nutty-looking psycho is none other than familiar character actor "Buck" Flowers (ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE FOG), who, it turns out, co-wrote the screeplay along with Goff and director Stu Segall (as "Godfrey Daniels").
Buck's hostage here is his own daughter Verkina Flowers, and the cat-and-mouse sequence that follows her escape, while nominally entertaining, seems most likely intended to pad out the running time.
This is also true of a long interlude in which former carnival geek Germy wanders through a brilliantly-lit carnival at night for several minutes while dialogue from earlier in the film wafts through his mind.
While the scene serves little purpose, it's beautifully photographed (looking particularly good in Blu-ray) and offers yet more nostalgia value, this time for the days when a carnival was just about the most fun place I could imagine being at. Besides a drive-in, of course.
The Blu-ray from Severin Films (which boasts a cool reversible cover) is widescreen with 2.0 English audio and optional English subtitles. Severin comes through again with some cool extras which include an informative director's commentary, a trailer, and recent interviews with star/co-writer John Goff, actor Norm Sheridan, and director Segall. Despite some occasional imperfections (or, in my case, because of them), the picture is a joy to behold.
Many people, of course, will have no idea why this cheap little gore flick would appeal to anyone at all. But if you're one of those to whom the very sight of the cover of DRIVE-IN MASSACRE elicits a giddy tingle of excitement, no explanation is necessary. It's just plain fun, period.
Buy it at Amazon.com:
Release date: March 14, 2017