August 10th is a day like no other for two reasons. One of those reasons being the infamous date a sword wielding madman began removing the heads of unsuspecting drive-in patrons from their bodies! And thus begins one of the most under-rated films of the 1970s - Drive-In Massacre. A slasher film that was several years ahead of the entire late 70's (and most of the 80s) slasher craze.
Like many films of that era - this show made the rounds at drive-ins through the 70s and into the early 80s. However, I never saw this amazing flick at a drive-in, but, at a well attended midnight showing at a small cinema in Cape Girardeau (the next weekend was Motel Hell...another classic). In the pre-Internet days, as I've mentioned before, it was a bit more difficult to get solid information about certain films. Especially a non-SAG film like this which used SAG members but under assumed names to avoid a SAG shakedown (yeah...I said it).
The story is straight forward - a crazed killer is dispatching the patrons of the Simi Valley Drive-in theater. Who can it be? The Peeping Tom Creeper who attends the drive-in every night to see couples making whoopee? The not-quite-there grounds keeper who was a sword-swallower when the location was a local carnival? Perhaps the chronically angry manager? Two police detectives certainly have their job cut out for them (if you'll excuse the pun).
Although it is always my intention to defend a film, and this film is expertly directed by Stu Segall, I will admit to a small number of faults, that, in fact, make the film a bit more endearing to me. The establishing shot goes on far too long, as does a warehouse scene. Sure - the screenplay was a bit light and needed to be padded a tad. Happens to the best of them. But, I'm a little jaded...a lingering opening shot of a long gone drive-in may not move the plot forward, but, it does cause a pang of sentimentality that I'll simply never get over.
The film was written by actor George "Buck" Flower, who managed to appear in everything from Back to the Future to Sorority Babes in the Slimbeball Bowl-a-rama, and film co-star John Goff under the pseudonym of Hemingway's balless character Jake Barnes. As mentioned earlier, the film is directed by Stu Segall who went on to have a great deal of success in television.
The film was written in a week and shot in four days, with all external night shots done in a single evening. Some may think it shows, but, I was shocked to find it out. I've seen much more appreciated films with shoddy production values - this film can boast well done interiors and exteriors in addition to the acting of a solid cast.
The film is not available consistently on streaming services - currently on the poor transfer (from which these screen captures are taken) is available on the Full Moon streaming service. That is why I absolutely must plug Severin Films (@SeverinFilms on Twitter). This is not a paid post - just have to be honest. I picked up their extras packed Blu-ray of this title and it is something. The transfer is clean and bright. The colors snap and the sound is infinitely better than the evening I saw in the theater. But, in all honesty, I would have been happy with a poor transfer from video tape as along as the extras were included. A commentary by director Segall as well as video interviews with the writers among a host of other extras makes this particular purchase one of the best I've made....seriously. While it is available - pick it up!