Drive-In Massacre


...Your nightmares are about to come true!



Year of Release: 1977
Genre: Horror/Mystery
Rated: R
Running Time: 74 minutes (1:14)
Director: Stu Segall


Cast:

John F. Goff ... Police Det. Mike Leary
Bruce Kimball ... Police Det. John Koch
Douglas Gudbye ... Germy
Robert E. Pearson ... Austin Johnson
Norman Sheridan ... Orville Ingleson
George 'Buck' Flower ... Suspect in Warehouse
Stu Segall ... Police Captain



Summary:

A horrifying double murder at the local drive-in brings detectives John Koch and Mike O'Leary to the scene of the crime. There they discover that the drive-in is built on the former site of a carnival - and is now operated by two of the carnival's ex-sword swallowers, Austin Johnson and Charles "Germy" Garmi. Oddly enough, the murders begin to attract a lot of customers to the theatre, and the detectives are refused permission for a stake-out by Austin and Germy. A second murder raises further suspicions between John and Mike, who believe that Austin and Germy may be doing a little deadly publicity on their own. Finally, the pieces come together as John and Mike come face-to-face with the grisly reality of the Drive-In Massacre.


Review:

Drive-In Massacre, remindin' us that nothin' scares off belligerent, rowdy teenagers like a 4'9" janitor with cerebral palsy. Just imagine the kinda order we could achieve if our entire police force were made up of mentally deficient Bob Denvers, instead of a buncha former high school jocks whose metabolism caught up to 'em faster'n karma caught up to Martin Shkreli. That'd be much better'n our current crop of Jello Pudding Cops, wouldn't it? An speakin' of goin' soft, let it never be said that there's anythin' I wouldn't do for a friend, cause I really stepped in it this time. I didn't even wanna drive up to the Gutter Bowl in the first place, but Billy Hilliard needed a ride on account of the serpentine belt comin' loose from his power steerin' pump so that now when he starts it up it sounds like there's a midget under the hood givin' 'im a round of applause. He was wantin' to watch the women's league championship game between B.J. Wilder's Alley Cats an Bambi Pankins' Ball Busters, an, well, the short version is that some stuff happened an I got stuck goin' on a date with Bambi after goin' above an beyond the call of rooting. The night started out just fine. Billy an I were enjoyin' some of the alley's Five Alarm carne de burro Flatch-in-the-Pants chili with a side of that molten Cheeto dust they call nachos, just mindin' our own business, soakin' up some atmosphere, debatin' wanderin' over to the Galaga machine to try breakin' Mark Skidman's high score; ya know, relaxin' for once. Sometimes people ask us why we spend as much time there as we do without ever actually bowlin', an the reason is cause the last time we did Billy shattered about 18 pins by the end of the night an purt'near took out Otis Turlinger when his 19lb 7-Ton Splitter Special Edition went clean through the backstop an into the employee lounge.

But anyway, we were just hangin' out watchin' the game progress, occasionally lettin' our eyes wander over to lane 12 where Chastity "bringing in the cleavage" Dollarhide was tryin' to keep from fallin' onto 'er top-heavy torso after every throw, til the game finally came down to the tenth frame with The Ball Busters down by ten pins an only Bambi left to throw. Billy just about hadda excuse 'imself, between the nachos del goopo an Bambi's bendin' over so far that you could see the "Juicy Coot" tattoo on 'er left butt cheek, an on 'er first throw she put down eight pins, leavin' only the 9 an 10 standin'. Things were lookin' pretty bleak for B.J. an The Alley Cats, cause Bambi rarely failed to flatten anything of a phallic nature, an since she realized B.J. was Billy's third cousin thrice removed, she took the opportunity to turn around an gloat in our general direction. I dunno what happened, but that just got me so P.O.'d that while she was still lookin' at us I made this real nasty tongue gesture an... well, she got so hot an bothered by it that all the blood musta left 'er brain an she ended up missin' both pins by about two lanes. I hadda sneak outta there while Billy was carryin' all four Alley Cats around on his shoulders, but it was already too late, cause Bambi started waitin' around outside the house til I couldn't stand the cold inside anymore an hadda deal with 'er when I finally gave up an went out to split some wood. That's when she ambushed me an said she wasn't leavin' til I agreed to give 'er another chance. I tried tellin' 'er I was already engaged to be engaged to Sadie Bonebreak in the event she got tired of girls, but Bambi didn't care none an now I'm pretty well trapped. B.J. offered to Tonya Harding Bambi's knee-caps the next time she went into the can at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks, but that seemed a little extreme. Guess I'll take 'er to The Rural Mural next week, cause I'll never hear the end of it if we're seen together at Mack's. Ya know this is pretty cruel an unusual punishment. All Moses hadda do was part the Red Sea for cripes sake, I feel like I'm gettin' a raw deal here.

I don't wanna get nobody alarmed or anything, but if you don't hear from me next week, somebody please call Sheriff Arbuckle an tell 'im to send a S.W.A.T. team to the Pankins' basement. I'm pretty sure it won't come to that, so long as I don't let my Mountain Dew outta my sight at least, but just in case, ya know?. Anyhow, it's kinda weird how after a whole month of hit movies you actually start to miss the garbage; I reckon I must have cinematic Stockholm Syndrome or somethin'. That's alright though, I mean, somebody's gotta give these flicks their due, an the first step in that process is always pointin' out the conventional wisdom inherent in each one to prove that not watchin' 'em could result in the general public becomin' dumber'n a sack of dead crawdads, so here's what I got outta this one. First, in the 1970s, criminal records were documented in yellow notebooks, an you could just yank out any particular rap sheet you wanted an wad it up in your pocket like an old Montgomery Ward receipt til you needed to wave around in a perp's face. I think people just didn't wanna learn to type in those days cause they hadn't invented the backspace key yet, an anytime you made a mistake you hadda start all over. Second, for certain people, it's real embarrassin' to have somebody think you're gay when you're not, so the best way to fake 'em out is to have your coworker dress in drag when you go on a stakeout. At least this way nobody'll think you're weird. An third, yellin' at somebody to come back an let you kill 'em is not an effective strategy, an doin' so also makes it real hard to claim it wasn't premeditated after the fact.

But I think my favorite part of watchin' these classic flicks is how you notice little things that, even with all our technological advances, we still managed to do more efficiently in the good ole days. Take datin' services for instance. You've got a buncha desperate people who go online or to some agency where they end up havin' to try concealin' just how screwed up they are when they're fillin' out their profile, cause if the truth about their secret S&M fantasies involvin' bein' shot in the groceries with paintball guns ever got out they'd end up havin' to leave town. Know what we used to use to determine our compatibility level with somebody? The Drive-In. That's right, you could find out anything you needed to know about somebody by simply haulin' 'em out to see the Horror of Party Beach/Beach Girls and the Monster double feature. Seriously, consider this; if you were the kinda person who took their culture seriously, you didn't want somebody squirmin' around in your lap while you watched The Driller Killer. There was a time an place for that, they were called intermission, an the backseat. So when that sorta thing'd happen to a guy, he'd instantly realize that the girl had some serious unresolved paternal abandonment issues, an that he should prolly pretend to go to the concession stand an come retrieve his car the next mornin'. Conversely, when a meat-headed Bro-Magnon couldn't keep his paws off of a dame while she was tryin' to enjoy Death Race 2000, it would become abundantly clear what an unsophisticated clod he was, an prompt her to ditch 'im in favor of the lawn chair section. There's just no enjoyin' a flick when you've got an image of the dead-eyed, mouth-breathin', potato-headed children you'd create permanently searin' itself into your brain. And really, back in the day, if you were the kinda go-getter who knew what they were lookin' for in a drive-in companion, you could pretty well wander around lookin' into people's cars to find somebody to either appreciate the movie with, or test out the shocks with. Generally, a rejected man would be easily recognized by the lacquered fingernails stuck in his face, an a rejected woman would prolly be in one of the cars with the speaker set to full blast in an effort to drown out her hysterical sobbing. That's when you'd swoop in an lure the desired hormone factory or intellectual outta their cars an into yours, where their varyin' interests might be better appreciated. Also, an equally important tool for determinin' compatibility was the movie itself, an the reaction it invoked. After all, you might wanna cut people some slack if they go for your groceries durin' The Creeping Terror, cause let's face it, that flick could be used as an effective interrogation tool at Guantanamo. But on the other hand, if that happens durin' the meat hook scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you knew you were dealin' with a brain that was runnin' on auto pilot an programmed to seek out like-minded daytime TV viewers with whom to reproduce. Seems to me like it's high time we had a drive-in resurgence, cause if nothin' else it'd definitely cut the divorce attorney queue times down significantly.

The movie begins with this grouchy drive-in ticket taker (Johnson) who seems like he's about one trunk fulla teenagers away from turnin' into Michael Douglas in Falling Down, admittin' folks to the drive-in, while another guy waves orange signal cones at the drivers like he's studyin' up for his 747 herder's license so he can get a job at O'Hare International. Then we head inside where some couple's preparin' to recreate the set of The Fog inside their car, til the guy hasta rein in the woman's ovulation enthusiasm cause she's so butt ugly that he can't get his shifter knob outta first without watchin' a few minutes of Mamie Van Doren's sweater lumps. Only he's broken one of the cardinal rules of Joe Bob Briggs' Guide to Impeccable Drive-In Etiquette an parked way too far from the speaker, an when he sticks his torso out the window like he's bein' birthed by his Chevy Vega, some Commie hardtop theater owner comes along an chops off his head with a samurai sword an follows that up by shish-kabobin' his date til she gets this look on 'er face like she just caught a dinner guest sneakin' 'er meatloaf casserole to the dog. The next day, two cops (Mike an John, but I defy you to remember which one's which) head over to the drive-in to talk to Johnson, cept Johnson don't really answer their questions an spends most of the time practicin' his Rodney Dangerfield routine, complainin' about the income inequality he's facin' in relation how much human reproductive fluid he's forced to come into contact with on a daily basis. Then he tells 'em that since the drive-in patronage is made up entirely of seedy degenerates that the suspect pool is essentially anybody that comes through the gate, an calls the cognitively congested janitor (Germy) over to give a statement while he goes to water down the hot dog relish. I don't wanna be rude or nothin', but Germy's the kinda guy who thinks Oxnard is a Rocky Mountain Oyster processin' plant, an he proceeds to tell the cops about how he used to work at the carnival as a sword swallower/circus geek before it got converted into a drive-in, an gives 'em this sob story about how he was the only geek who couldn't land a job at Tyson foods after the carnival closed, due to his poor dental hygiene. He also tells 'em that there's this one jerk who comes in every night an stays in one place about as well as a fat broad on a hemorrhoid donut, an that he might be who they're lookin' for since the only reason you'd spot-hop like that is to see who's poundin' the upholstery in their backseats. Prolly some vigilante workin' secretly with the passion police in an effort to undermine our proud American drive-in boffing heritage.

So later that night, we watch this chunk-headed side of beef argue with his side dish girlfriend about when he's gonna leave his wife so the other girls at the women's shelter'll quit makin' fun of 'er, an once she tells 'im she's got his pot roast in the oven he decides to do the honorable thing an abandon his existing family to teach their new baby about the importance of pushin' beyond the boundaries of its dead lift plateau. Unfortunately, this touchin' moment in white trash history is rudely preempted when they become the victims of further drive-in ninjutsu, an end up coatin' the blade with a layer of lung tar so thick that the killer hasta immediately rush home an watch infomercials til he finds the toll free number for Tarn-X. Meanwhile, at the police station, the chief is chewin' more ass than the guests at a Hannibal Lecter dinner party an explainin' that the town functions on a B-movie based economy. Which, for the remedial members of the force, means that all these swords bein' driven into the drive-in patronage are seriously drivin' down the drive-in concession stand kickback to successful health inspection exchange rate. So Mike an John haul Germy in to check out the sword they found bein' used to hold the last couple together like a turkey melt at a diner an ask 'im if he has any recollection of performin' fellatio on it. This is about like askin' a porn star to recall a specific wangdoodle, so Germy says that he always made sure to keep a strict business only relationship with his props an that he don't recognize it, but he did manage to get the license number of the troublemaker who keeps swappin' places durin' the movie an blowin' blue car exhaust all over the guys sellin' popcorn. So the next day the cops head over to the residence of the discourteous drive-in patron (Orville) an wave around a piece of paper that looks like it's been run through the wash five or six times claimin' they know all about his sex act with motor vehicle charges, til Orville breaks down an pleads guilty to wankin' in the first degree. Then they go outside to look around in his car an find enough blood to quench Bela Lugosi's thirst for the rest of his natural death, an about that time the movie turns into an episode of COPS with Orville runnin' through people's front lawns til he's eventually overtaken an mashed into the ground like a cigarette butt. Cept it turns out the blood belonged to a dog that he decided to put out of its misery when he saw it bein' dragged behind the car of one Clark Griswold, so Orville Readycocker gets let loose an the cops decide to follow 'im to the drive-in that night since he's the only lead they've got, an cause the place is showin' Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke.

They figure that even if Orville's innocent, they'll at least be able to club some suspected pot smokers into submission to release some of the tension. Course, they don't wanna arouse suspicion or any homosexual Peepin' Toms, so one of 'em dresses up like Ethel Merman to make sure nobody gets the idea that anything weird's goin' on, before parkin' next to Orville. Orville's watchin' the guy in the next car try to overcome the repulsion of his date, cept the woman's got a rejection booth where 'er crotch aughta be an the guy ends up stompin' off to find a woman who doesn't take the Ed Wood double features so seriously. Then the cop in drag hasta get out an hike up his dress to get over to a shrub cause the place doesn't have transgender restroom facilities, an by the time the P.O.'d patron who left to get some ice for his genital inflammation gets back he finds that his chances of gettin' head have gone from bad to impossible. I mean, short of takin' the approach pioneered by Ralphus in Bloodsucking Freaks. Orville's also been eliminated both as a suspect and as a future member of the national sex offender registry, cause he's found moments later with a whole buncha stuff that aughta be inside on his outside. So now the cops decide to haul Johnson up to the station, an he's real P.O.'d cause he thinks there're hippies havin' disgustin' sex up against the Mister Softee machine an turnin' his snack bar into a conception stand. Course, eventually they remember that you can't arrest somebody just for lookin' too much like Boris Zhukov an hafta let 'im go, at which point he fires Germy for bein' there to witness his humiliation an for actin' too much like a poor man's William Sanderson. Then the cops get a call about some maniac with a hostage inside a warehouse who's already macheted two people to death an is now threatenin' to harvest Brazil's entire sugarcane crop before it's fully matured. So they head over to the warehouse where Buck Flower's checkin' the lost an found for his hostage an tryin' that old "I'm gonna count to three" routine that young mothers use in the grocery store when their kids're runnin' around like gazelles on PCP, only when they end up killin' Buck they find out from the hostage that he was 'er Dad an that he'd only been outta the quack shack for a grand total of six hours. Looks like it's back to square 1-A row 16 for the cops, cause they're plum outta ideas again. But at least the drive-in's showin' The Toy Box, so it's not a total loss. Gonna cut here, but this one's in the public domain in case you're interested in where the heck they were goin' with this thing. Here's a link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF5mTUkXTLE

Alrighty, well, this one's pretty mediocre and in no way memorable... but it's no 2.9, as the IMDB would lead you to believe. Fact is, it's not really *bad* at all, it's just utterly without charm and offers very little in the way of excitement. Drive-In Massacre is an incredibly obvious example of a movie being churned out as quickly and cheaply as possible to make a quick buck, which somehow just wasn't nearly as off-putting and repulsive in the '70s as it is today. It's still dull, unimaginative, and the kinda movie that probably came and went in two weeks or less despite making an attempt at a William Castle style gimmick wherein the movie declared that the events depicted happened at a drive-in not too unlike the one most people were probably sitting at the time, and that the killer is still at large. That said, there's just something about exploitation flicks from the 1970s that causes the viewer to cut them a lot more slack than they might a movie from the '80s, and I can't really explain why that is. The '70s were essentially one big schlock-o-rama, with hastily filmed cheap flicks hitting the drive-in circuit fast and furious, and people absolutely loved them even when the quality of the movies wasn't necessarily that great. For all its problems, Drive-In Massacre is short enough that it doesn't overstay its welcome, and there's enough action that it never drags too badly. The real problem with it is that there's just barely a plot. The ending is also likely to infuriate people who prefer to have some kind of definitive conclusion, because that gimmick I mentioned earlier is made possible by the fact that you never find out who's responsible for the murders. That can bother me sometimes if the movie was especially good up until the ending, but even then it has to be really ambiguous. I can generally live with an ending that makes it clear that there are only two possible outcomes. Drive-In Massacre completely shits the bed with its ending, but it isn't really that bothersome because the lame cop-out finale didn't exactly have a whole lot preceding it TO ruin. And what's truly bizarre in all this is that the director (he also produced, wrote, and had a little bit part on screen) actually went on to have a reasonably successful career as a TV producer, so clearly the man learned from his mistakes. Still, the movie comes across as having been put together by a relatively small group of people who knew they were making a cheapie that didn't have to be that great, and were primarily working on it to have fun and get some experience under their belts. Which was how you did things in those days, and for that reason I see no reason to chide the crew for the final product. So really, I think the best way to describe it is to say that it has its moments. It's a fun little piece of '70s trash, but I don't really expect it to stay firmly lodged in my memory for any real length of time. And if nothing else, it's probably slightly better than the average public domain title.

Anyhow, let's get this thing analyzed and diagnosed before I forget what it was about. The plot is, as I explained, barely a plot at all. Killer on the loose who attacks a drive-in theater once each night while the mildly ineffectual police force tries to figure out what kinda monster would try to disrupt the cornerstone of American culture. We've got virtually nothing in the way of plot twists with the exception of the ending, which could only be considered a twist if you were expecting to actually get an ending. So pretty flimsy on that front. The acting might be considered subpar to someone that hasn't had much experience with low budget flicks, but I wouldn't consider it to be poorly acted. Douglas Gudbye is alright as Germy, Buck Flower is pretty entertaining as the psycho in the warehouse near the end of the movie (Buck's actually an excellent character actor who did a lot of these kinda trash flicks, and also co-wrote the screenplay with John Goff who played Officer Mike), but I think my favorite performance was Robert Pearson as the asshole drive-in manager. That scene where the cops come to interrogate him and he pretty much just ignores them and gives this big Rodney Dangerfield "no respect" speech is hilarious. I suppose that some of the players in the really irrelevant parts may be a little wooden, but acting is nowhere near this movie's biggest problem.

Here's who matters and why: John Goff (The Fog, They Live, Azira: Blood from the Sand, The Screaming, Ripper Man, Skeeter, Dragonfight, Grotesque, Alligator, The Capture of Bigfoot, The Alpha Incident, Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, The Witch Who Came From the Sea, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS), Steve Vincent (Lila, Space Thing, Day of the Nightmare), Douglas Gudbye (Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks), Verkina Flower (Beyond Evil, Terror on Tour, The Capture of Bigfoot, The Witch Who Came From the Sea), Robert Pearson (Claws), John Alderman (Superstition, New Year's Evil, The Alpha Incident, Hannah: Queen of the Vampires, Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Jacqueline Giroux (Trick or Treats, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, The Beauties and the Beast), Bruce Kimball (The Thing with Two Heads, Till Death, Snakes, Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Brain of Blood, The Mighty Gorga), Sandy Carey (Time Walker, Wham! Bam! Thank You, Spaceman!, The Beauties and the Beast), Janus Blythe (The Hills Have Eyes 1977, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, Phantom of the Paradise, Eaten Alive 1976, Spine, The Incredible Melting Man), George "Buck" Flower (Back to the Future 1 & 2, They Live, The Fog, They Are Among Us, The Curse of the Komodo, Moonbase, Wishmaster, Bloodsuckers, Dark Breed, Village of the Damned 1995, Ripper Man, Circuitry Man II, Skeeter, Warlock: The Armageddon, Body Bags, Waxwork II, 976-EVIL II, Camp Fear, Speak of the Devil, Dragonfight, Blood Games, Puppet Master II, Dead Men Don't Die, Spontaneous Combustion, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, Death Nurse 2, The American Scream, Mac and Me, Bloody Pom Poms, Punkinhead, Maniac Cop, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Bates Motel 1987, Berserker, The Night Stalker, Starman, The Capture of Bigfoot, The Time Machine 1978, Killer's Delight, The Alpha Incident, Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, The Witch Who Came From the Sea, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, Criminally Insane.

The special effects are hit and miss, and probably come off a little better than they deserve due to how poorly lit everything is. The lighting is actually so bad that I'd like to watch it again if anybody ever decides to try cleaning it up, just to see what the heck I missed the first time around. Of what we can actually see, we've got the decapitation in the opening scene, which is surprisingly good for a movie of this caliber, the bloodless neck impalement, which looks like crap, the two-for-one shish-kabab scene (okay, but the padded suit is fairly noticeable), a slashed throat that's decent, and the end sequence which is just about impossible to see. So we've got some problems here, but there're a couple decent effects as well. Didn't see too much of that lousy vibrant blood that the '70s are notorious for either, so that's a plus. The shooting locations are okay, but the cinematography pretty well blows chunks. I say that because it's clear that they really were filming at a drive-in, but the movie is shot in such a way that you never see the screen, and there's never any kind of wide angle shot to give us an idea of where we are or how big the place is. The other thing is, and I don't claim to be an expert on this, but how common is it for a drive-in to be paved? That just seems wrong somehow. Other than the drive-in, we've got the police station, which is okay, a gratuitous carnival, which is pretty neat, a warehouse, and a coupla home interiors that don't really bring anything to the table. I guess I was a bit disappointed, due to how poorly they utilized what should have been a great setting. The soundtrack is a fifty-fifty split, with half of it being at least somewhat suspenseful, and the other half being goofy and ineffective. The best track is kind of a simplified version one that appears in Halloween, except that this movie actually came out first, so it's not a simplified version of anything; rather, that Halloween track seems to build on the framework established here. Certainly didn't expect that, and I don't imagine Carpenter ever saw this movie from which to derive inspiration, but the similarity is unmistakable. Pretty good track, too. Then you've got others that're terribly disorganized and feature random noise. One of the stranger ones sounds a whole lot like they used an impact sprinkler for the tempo, and another sounded like they'd stuck a trailer hitch in a dryer just to see what'd happen. Multiple tracks utilize the sound of a beating heart that isn't terribly effective, but neither is it detrimental, so the soundtrack is sometimes helpful, sometimes laughable. Overall, Drive-In Massacre is a decent way to kill 74 minutes, and nowhere near as bad as the IMDB would have you believe. That said, don't expect some hidden gem to reveal itself and become a light for you when all other lights go out, because it's nothing special.


Rating: 44%