Dead End Drive-In is a 1986 Australian New Wave film about a teenage couple trapped in a drive-in theater which is really a concentration camp for societal rejects. The inmates, many of whom sport punk fashion, are fed a steady diet of junk food, New Wave music, drugs, and bad movies.
The film was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith. It stars Ned Manning and Natalie McCurry as the captive couple, and Peter Whitford as the manager of the drive-in. Mad Max 2 stuntman Guy Norris did some of the stunts.The soundtrack includes contemporary popular music performed by such bands as Kids in the Kitchen and Hunters and Collectors. The song during the rolling credits is "Playing With Fire" by Lisa Edwards.
In the near future, the economy has collapsed and massive crime waves sweep the inner-cities. The manufacturing industry has decimated to the point where cars are a commodity and parts are fought over between salvage companies and roving bands of car gangs. In an attempt to control the crime-wave, a chain of drive-in theaters are turned into concentration camps for the undesirable and unemployed youth. The dirty, graffiti-laden drive-ins are surrounded by high fences (electrified at the top), and the roads leading to them are Security Roads ("S-Roads") that do not allow walking under any circumstances. Police collaborate with the owner to sabotage cars of unsuspecting visitors identified as undesirables to keep them in; however, some who know the true nature of the drive-ins come voluntarily for the shelter and food. Broken cars are continuously collected at these facilities. The prisoners are allowed easy access to a wide variety of drugs and alcohol, and are fed a horrendous diet of fattening and greasy fast-food at the drive-in diner, which blasts New Wave music. This, coupled with the awful conditions on the outside, engineers an atmosphere of complacency and hopelessness so the inmates will accept their fate and not attempt escape.
The movie was based on a short story by Peter Carey although Brian Trenchard-Smith says he hadn't read it when he came on board the project. A previous director had been attached but had pulled out. "I came in, took a week, and welded the best elements from the first three drafts together, boosting the social comment," says Trenchard-Smith.
The film was shot over 35 days at a drive in at Matraville starting on 9 September 1985. Funding came from the New South Wales Film Corporation. The director said of the film that:
The Drive-In is, of course, an allegory for the junk values of the eighties, which our hero sees as a prison. The last 20 minutes of the film - the escape - is the desperate blazing climax, but the whole film has a feeling of high style, of heightened or enhanced reality - a little bit over the top, but retaining a reality that the public will accept.
The final stunt by Guy Norris cost around $75,000, more than any single stunt performed in Australia until then, and set a world record for a jump by a truck: 162 feet.