Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Drive-In (1977)

Directed by Rodney Amateau. I had never heard of this movie before until I saw it listed on a web site. It's the kind that takes place all in one night and has a lot of characters and jumps back and forth from story to story, while still managing to maintain a central character. George Lucas' "American Graffiti" is best of this genre, and it should be acknowledged that "Drive-In" is not particularly good. Still, for all of its flaws, it is worth seeing.

There are several flaws of "Drive-In." It's not particularly funny and the cast is not notable. Take movies like "Diner," "Dazed and Confused" or again, "American Graffiti" and the casts are full of people who end up becoming big stars either because talented people were attracted to the script, a smart casting director was assigned the project, or the film did well and catapulted the cast to stardom. "Drive-In" has none of this.

However! "Drive-In" is the story of one night at an Austin, Texas drive-in movie theater and could not look cooler. Because of when and where it was made I couldn't have less doubt that it is the true inspiration for the look of Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused." That inspiration is summed up by Lisa Lemole or at least the hotpants she wears in the role of Glowie Hudson, as well as the van driven by Billy Milliken who plays Enoch.

Milliken is a decent actor but this performance is frustrating. With creativity and skill the role of Enoch could have been Milliken's Jeff Spicoli, but Milliken is no Sean Penn, and this movie predates "Fast Times," robbing Milliken of the opportunity to even understand the potential of a role like this. Consequentially, regardless of some talent Milliken ended up with a career as a film crew member after this. Instead, Gary Lee Cavagnaro (as "Little Bit") has the funniest, most professional performance in "Drive-In," but he ended up doing even less in the movies, though you are more likely to recognize him because he played the fat kid, Engelberg, in "The Bad News Bears."

"Drive-In" is short on laughs but long on style and charm, unlike similar flicks of its time, say, 1979's "Van Nuys Blvd." which tries to update "American Graffiti" but is just a mess. "Drive-In" is a rare movie mostly because nobody really wants to see it, but if you like this kind of thing, definitely seek it out.

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