Dead End Drive-In (1986)

We have this image of Australians as a race of rugged he-men individualists, rushing off to wrestle crocodiles in their up-armored post-apocalyptic Subaru Outbacks.

The reality, of course, is that Australia is one of the most aggressively bureaucratic, nanny-states in the world.

Dead End Drive-In confronts this dualism head-on.  Crabs wants to be just like his brother, an ambulance chasing freelance tow truck operator, who rushes to the scenes of accidents in the hope of claiming the wreck before the youth gangs can strip it.

But we lose sight of this storyline when Crabs borrows his brother’s ’56 Chevy to take his girlfriend to the Drive-In.  In order to get in cheap, he claims to be unemployed.  Before long someone steals his wheels and they’re forced to stay overnight.

But It proves impossible to get out in the morning.  They can’t call or get a tow truck.  Instead, they are issued ration coupons good for food from the concession stand and have to live in their vehicle.

This is all part of the government’s secret plan for “ending”unemployment and most of the people trapped there don’t mind.  They have basic facilities, food, and drugs, all provided by the thuggish armed police.  But things start getting uglier when they start hauling in busloads of poor immigrants.

While it is often compared to Mad Max, this is mostly a thoughtful film, more interested in satire than violence – even if it all ends with car chases and gun battles inside the theater.  Perhaps the most telling detail is how readily his girl adopts to the deadbeat complacency of life in the Star Theater – even if the more-ambitious Crabs only wants out.

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