Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drive-In (1976, Rod Amateau)

Drive-In is a film I had never heard of and was pretty hard to find until recently when it was released on one of those crappy MOD discs from Sony Picture's Choice Collection. Those who aren't familiar with MOD (Made On Demand), several big companies have started burning their old catalog titles on DVD-Rs and selling them for as much as a new release would cost. I liked it better when companies would take their lesser known titles and release them at a reasonable price (sometimes even as double or triple features) because they knew they wouldn't be huge sellers. Now they burn them for a smaller number of customers who are willing to pay top dollar. Regardless, it's nice that some of these titles are finally seeing the light of day - Drive-In being a prime example.

Let me start with the most obvious question - what is this film Drive-In and why have I never heard of it? Well, back in the 50's, 60's and 70's, drive-ins were the place to go for watching movies, making out with your honey or to hang out with friends. Drive-In is a film which captures this almost forgotten, American past time. Hot off the success of American Graffiti, Drive-In came out three years later in 1976 and even starred a Ron Howard look-alike (actually he looked more like Ralph Malph). Just like American Graffiti, the film featured kids being kids and though it took place in the present, it showed how kids hadn't really changed much in the decade since American Graffiti's setting. Drive-In takes place in a small Texas town where the kids all go to the local roller rink during the day and the drive-in at night. We see the day to day lives of the town folk, with teen Orville (Glenn Morshower) being the most prominent character. Orville is a sensitive guy who keeps to himself and is pestered by his younger brother (Bad News Bears' Gary Lee Cavagnaro) who is trying to get Orville laid (mainly so he can learn himself how it is done). Enter the hottest girl in school, Glowie Wilson (Lisa Lemole) who just dumped her bad ass boyfriend Enoch, the leader of the Widow Makers gang. Glowie has been noticing Orville and tries to get him to meet her at the Drive-In, which he reluctantly agrees to do. When we finally get to the drive-in, we are introduced to a bunch of characters thrown in for comic relief - including a couple of bumbling crooks, a 'misunderstood' African American man, a couple of young lovers and the rest of the Widow Makers, who are there to fight rival gang the Gear Grinders.

Drive-In is one of those films that isn't really that good but I instantly fell in love with it anyway. The movie absolutely fails as a comedy (I can't remember laughing even once), but it doesn't matter. That's not why I watched the movie and I doubt that's why a lot of people who are discovering it for the first time are watching it either. Drive-In is pure nostalgia. The characters are silly, the dialogue is silly, the situations the characters find themselves in are silly, but the film never turns into slapstick. Everything in this film could happen and though some if it may seem unlikely, none of it is unbelievable. That's where the film shines. The best part of the movie was the relationship between Glowie and Orville. Usually the guy is the one trying to throw himself on the sensitive girl, but in Drive-In it's the complete opposite. When I was a teenager, I would consider myself very much like Orville. Virginal, awkward and sensitive (overly in my case). I dreamed all through high school of a girl like Glowie, a popular beauty who likes me regardless of how uncool I was and not afraid to make the first move. I had these unrealistic views of women and didn't realize that if you went up and talked to a girl, you would have a much better chance of getting a girlfriend. It's probably a good thing that I DIDN'T see this film as a teenager because it probably would have made my expectations even more unrealistic, waiting for my Glowie to come and save me from terminal virginity. Seeing it now though, reminds me of those fantasies I had and just being a kid in general. The main reason I love movies so much is the escapism and being able to identify with the characters. In this respect, Drive-In couldn't be better.

RATING: 10/10

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