The Record (New Jersey) - September 8, 1986

Author: By Will Joyner, Staff Writer: The Record

MOVIE REVIEW @@ DEAD END DRIVE-IN: Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith. Written by Peter Smalley. Photography by Paul Murphy. Music by Frank Strangio. With Ned Manning (Jimmy), Natalie McCurry (Carmen), Peter Whitford (Thompson), and others. Produced by Andrew Williams for Springvale Productions in association with the New South Wales Film Corporation. Released by New World Pictures. Opened Friday locally. Running time: 85 minutes. Rated R: profanity, nudity, adult situations.

You spot an ad for a movie called "Dead End Drive-In," and what comes to mind? Low-rent, late-night horror , right? Lots of screaming teen-agers caught with their clothes off, lots of blood. Bad acting, bad direction, mercifully bad lighting.

Duck into the "Dead End Drive-In" that opened Friday, and you're going to get something entirely different. It's not a great movie, by any means, but it's also not a picture cynically planned to feed on the public's worst fascination with violence.

First, "Dead End Drive-In" is an Australian production, filmed on the industrial outskirts of Sydney. Second, it's a fairly provocative allegory about the near future an open homage to Stanley Kubrick's classic "A Clockwork Orange" without any pretense to the same profundity, as well as an unabashed echo of "The Road Warrior. "

Third, exploiting an ugly low-budget look, the film is a playful send-up of a punk visual style now irrevocably in vogue all around the world.

The time is halfway through the 1990's. Nuclear mishaps happen frequently. Rioting over dwindled resources is widespread in the United States and Europe. A full-scale racial war has engulfed South Africa.

In Sydney, a cheerful young man named Jimmy (Ned Manning) incongruously jogs through rubble, past lots protected by barbed wire and barking dogs, along a greenish horizon dominated by chemical-spewing factories.

Jimmy's in training to be just like his big brother Frank that is, employed as a tow-truck driver, one of the few lucrative jobs left in this strange, auto-obsessed society. (A tow-truck driver has to be in great shape because any radio call requires combat, against other towing companies and against ghoulish scavengers known as "cowboys. ")

As good as he is, though, Jimmy's also a boy who just wants to have some naughty fun. One night, he borrows Frank's vintage '56 Chevy, emerges from their bunkerlike home (a deserted underground parking garage), and takes his vampish girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to the Star Drive-In.

The ad for "Dead End Drive-In" may be misleading, but it's correct when it says, "The price of admission is your life. " The place turns out to be an internment camp for unemployed young people, where, just as they're getting down to sexual antics, their cars are dismantled by roving policemen.

There's no escape, even for the odd ambitious type like Jimmy. Thompson (Peter Whitford), the kindly old man at the ticket booth, issues blankets, and coupon books for junk food and drugs. There's a cafeteria and a shower house, both covered with brightly colored graffiti murals. ("The Lord is coming," one says. "Wear a raincoat. ") This is life, for the duration.

This is also all-too-obvious symbolism of a postindustrial country's inability to motivate its youth, but "Dead End Drive-In" has a crude charm anyway. The drive-in's residents are done up in such an outrageous array of leather duds, black-and-blue makeup, and spiked hairdos that the movie turns into campy street theater, where unsubtle messages are perfectly appropriate.

The unsubtle message is this: Locked up or not, many of tomorrow's (and today's) youth are going to spend their days listening to music, puffing marijuana, and reveling in their rude docility. A few will have the gumption to jump the fence.

Ned Manning, as Jimmy the fence jumper, feigns just enough dated forthrightness to make everyone else who's wandering the dusty, car-strewn landscape half Kafka, half Lower East Side seem hilarious. Especially memorable is a punk cricket match that robs the game of every trace of gentility.

"Dead End Drive-In" has its share of bad acting, misguided direction, and bizarre lighting (the cinematographer went wild experimenting with filters, adding to the movie's glow of abnormality). And it eventually hits a narrative dead end of its own. But at least a razor-wielding psychopath isn't waiting in the shadows there.


Movie Review- `Stalker' can't find credibility

The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution - October 9, 1986

Author: CAIN, SCOTT, Scott Cain Staff Writer: STAFF

Charles Napier, a rugged character actor usually seen in supporting roles, is the Dirty Harry of Los Angeles in "The Night Stalker," a lively but unconvincing murder mystery.

Napier plays J.J. Striker, a boozing police detective who muscles his way int o a bizarre homicide case in which the victims are prostitutes. Their corpses are painted like Oriental silkscreens.

Director Max Kleven goes for a tone of gritty realism in most of "The Night Stalker," yet the killer's first victim empties a pistol into his body at point-blank range without doing substantial damage. This immediately puts "The Night Stalker" into the supernatural realm and, when a down-to-earth explanation is provided, it simply can't be credited.

Napier is a solid professional. He does classic hangover scenes and is wonderful as he huffs and puffs during a foot chase, telling himself that he's too old for these antics. Napier is perhaps best known as the cynical bureaucrat who betrays "Rambo" and, if "Night Stalker" had worked out, he might have become a star in the Charles Bronson mold. Too bad.

Robert Viharo, another craggy actor, is a fit companion for Napier as the detective's doomed partner. (Partners exist in movies of this type for the purpose of getting rubbed out.) Gary Crosby plays Napier's jaundiced competitor on the police force. Crosby may yet carve out a career playing egomaniacs who get humiliating comeuppances.

"The Night Stalker." A horror movie. Rated R for abundant violence, profanity and nudity


The response to this film, armed or unarmed, is 'yuck!'

San Diego Union, The (CA) - December 9, 1986

Author: David Elliott, Movie Critic

Rarely passes a day that I do not thank the god of puff -- whose name is said to be Morty -- for movie press kits. Were it not for the promo packet on "Armed Response," I wouldn't know that...

Director Fred Olen Ray "has received attention among horror film buffs for 'Prison Ship,' 'Bio-Hazard' and 'The Tomb'..."

Brent Huff, playing one of Lee Van Cleef's three sons, is "one of the fashion industry's leading male models" and "one of the entertainment industry's most exciting new stars" (thanks to such star-makers as "The Perils of Gwendoline" and "Nine Deaths of the Ninja.")

Michael Berryman, the giant actor with the most notable deformed face in movies since Rondo Hatton, has "additionally gained notoriety for his recent appearances in two Motley Cru music videos."

But let us tear ourselves from this pasture of plenty and chew the cud of crud that is "Armed Response." Yes, Lee Van Cleef -- who has perhaps the ugliest non-deformed face ever to grace a screen -- does indeed turn paternal, after decades as a vicious lone rogue. If you grew up watching '50s Westerns, you knew the villain was likely to be (a.) Lee Van Cleef, (b.) Jack Elam, or (c.) both of the above.

So now he appears gray and grizzled, yet with those rodent teeth and slit eyes still scary enough to spook a moray eel, and he has three sons (the only possible resemblance to Fred MacMurray). Van Cleef plays an alcoholic World War II vet who runs a bar with son Jim (David Carradine), a Vietnam war vet, on the fringe of L.A.'s Chinatown. Other sons, apparently veterans of street crime, are Clay (David Goss) and Tommy (exciting new star Brent Huff).

Trying to work a deal involving a stolen statue, Tommy is double-crossed by slimeball hustler Cory (Ross Hagen). Cory is working a bad number on mobster Tanaka (Mako), who gets his devil mitts on Tommy and tortures him by "bone-scraping" with acupuncture needles. What follows is quotable:

Tanaka, dripping irony: "Here we are again -- the evil yellow man torturing the valiant white hero."

Tommy, expiring proud: "Thank God I was born American!"

Well, Tommy dies American. So does Clay. Now down to one son, Van Cleef boils into a revenge spin. In the midst of flashbacks to Vietnam napalming, Jim (Carradine) unleashes his kung-fu death feet on the hoods. In a Chinatown curiously deserted, father and son win a long, blazing battle while a police unit sits a few blocks away, deaf to explosions.

Payoffs include Jim blowing up Tanaka after the dispatch line, "Rest in pieces," and the stunningly homely Berryman, one of Tanaka's boys, doing a suicide car crash into Van Cleef's bar. Then, though their livelihood is wrecked and two of the brothers are freshly dead, the surviving family survey the ruins and laughs -- the family that slays together stays together?

Other jollies include Laurene Landon as Deborah, a crazed, machine-gunning mama who is described as "a little hyper." And, for connoisseurs, a running duel of klutz acting between Van Cleef (at 61 still a master of the non-nuance) and Ross Hagen, who does dodo reactions of surpassing awkwardness.

Director Fred Olen Ray grubs straight down to sleazoid basics; he even makes the Vietnam scenes look like a National Guard exercise equipped with Korean War surplus. There's craft, if not art, in reducing pork bellies to dog food. Ray has the gift.

"Armed Response" * A CineTel release. Directed by Fred Olen Ray. Written by T.L. Lankford. Produced by Paul Hertzberg. Photography by Paul Elliott. Music by Tom Chase and Steve Rucker. With David Carradine, Lee Van Cleef, Mako, Lois Hamilton, Ross Hagen, Laurene Landon, Michael Berryman. Rated R. In local theaters.