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From this documentary's title you expect a history of the drive-in theatre. You just get a little bit of that, mostly old drive in pictures that I am sure they got off of John (Joe Bob Briggs) Bloom's office walls. A few interviews with drive-in owners flesh out what it must be like to run a modern drive-in. John Carpenter is interviewed although by the time his career began the heyday of the drive-in was already passed, so why is here there? They would have done much better interviewing AIP's Samuel Z. Arkoff, film auteur David Friedman or Pop historian Johnny Legend. I have to conclude that the interview they got ( beside perhaps John Bloom ) were with people they knew or had easy connections with. They claim to have been on this 4000+ mile road trip looking for drive-ins. I have to ask where is the movie that accounts for all that mileage? They should have found a lot more interesting people beside gnarly gas station attendants and taking a break to watch one of the film-maker try to eat a 4lb steak. In a short movie like this, this kind of stuff takes up way too much valuable time. The film-makers would have come off looking better if they had attempted to simply make a movie about Roadside Attractions or Route 66, with Drive-ins as a sidenote. As it is, you are bound to be disappointed by scenes of abandoned drive-ins and college boys driving around with a jerky camera. There are over 900 operating drive-ins in the US, a better movie could have been made. Recommended if you are into the Drive-In subculture, but do not expect much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Somehow, I had the idea that this video would be about drive-ins. Instead,
it comes off as an overly-intellectual, self-important film school thesis
festival entry, about young adults wondering what it must've been like to
live in the fifties. And as if that weren't enough to make the scholars
take note, the director narrates the video in an irritatingly dull,
monotonous tone; trying to sound matter-of-fact, like he has a bucketful of
A group of film students drive half-way across the country to the director's hometown in Nebraska, where he has arranged an Independence Day celebration at the local drive-in, hoping to breathe life into the place. Along the way, we see a handful of bad home-movie shots of dead drive-ins. Mostly we see bad home-movie shots of the filmmaker's road trip; including many diversions into activities that, while mildly amusing, have absolutely nothing to do with drive-ins. Likewise, some of the people interviewed have little or no connection to the subject. Film director John Carpenter and writer Michael Wallis are apparently included for name recognition only.
Carpenter recalls his teen years visiting drive-ins, but reveals nothing about the drive-in as an entity. Anyone could've told us that a horror picture is good to take a girl to!
In between talking about himself and using offensive language to express mean-spirited political views, malcontent Wallis provides nothing other than more of the Carpenter interview with a different face. Neither is he an insider. He adds nothing to the video.
The highlight of the program is a couple of big guffaws provided by the insight and razor-sharp wit of John Bloom (aka Joe Bob Briggs), in a rare appearance as himself. I believe this man has worked in the (theatre) industry before. He simply knows too much inside information, and he's always dead-on in his evaluations.
We do hear from four or five owners of operating theatres, but they are mundane "I'm the only drive-in left"-type interviews that everyone's heard for 15 years. One particularly restless segment involves a drawn-out description of how a concessionist makes a particular sandwich. Yes-sir, that'll keep you glued to the set! There is virtually nothing on the history, the rise, or the fall of the drive-in theatre. And no projection booth shots... something that would've certainly livened-up this little opus.
In the end, the filmmaker draws some mistaken conclusions, based on the events of the trip. * 1 star.
WARNING! A BIT of a SPOILER AHEAD... do not read if you don't want to know about the ending!
The cause of the failure of the drive-in's Independence Day celebration was NOT that no one cared, it was because the theatre was foolishly competing against the town's professional fireworks aerial display (no such attraction was offered at the drive-in). Evidently, this never dawned on the director.
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