This late-comer to the post-apocalyptic genre kick-started by The Road Warrior is a lively and surprisingly intelligent outing. Dead End Drive-In succeeds where many Mad Max imitators fail because its story is as interesting as its action. In fact, the action often takes a backseat to Peter Smalley's inspired script, which suffuses its dark vision of the future with plenty of dark humor, intriguingly eccentric characters, and amusing satirical digs at racism, the dole, and the vapid elements of youth culture. It also presents an unconventional lead in Jimmy "Crabs" Rossini; instead of the usual square-jawed hero, this lead character is a scrawny naïf who must grow into the role of hero. Ned Manning brings the right amount of charm and humor to the role, and his work is supported nicely by both Natalie McCurry's amusing work as a sweet but rather dim love interest and Peter Whitford's cynical turn as the weary "warden" of the drive-in. Dead End Drive-In's appeal is sealed by some smooth work behind the camera; exploitation vet Brian Trenchard-Smith gives the film a slick pace punctuated by some exciting action set pieces, and Paul Murphy's stunning photography gives the film an eye-popping visual style that is best described as "neon comic book." All in all, Dead End Drive-In is a fun exploitation quickie that stands apart from the post-apocalyptic pack thanks to its combination of smarts and thrills.
by Donald Guarisco review