Released by: Severin Films
Released on: March 14th, 2017.
Director: Stu Segall
Cast: John F. Goff, Steve Vincent, Douglas Gudbye, George 'Buck' Flower, Norman Sheridan
Year: 1976 Purchase From Amazon
Directed by Stu Segall, the same man who gave us Insatiable and C.B. Hustlers and would eventually go on to a pretty amazing career in 80’s TV, and co-written by John H. Groff and none other than George ‘Buck’ Flower (credited as Flowers in the opening credits), 1976’s Drive-In Massacre makes its North American Blu-ray debut from Severin Films.
When the movie begins, a couple are taking in a film at the local drive-in. When the man reaches out to put the speaker in the car window, an unseen assailant wielding a sword cuts off his head and the skewers the poor guy’s gal pal through her neck. Not surprisingly, a pair of cops shows up - Mike Leary (John Goff) and John Koch (Bruce Kimball) – to start working the case. They interview the joint’s surly manager, a former carnival worker named Austin (Robert E. Pearson) who runs the place for the owner, a man named Van Hewsen. Austin claims he had nothing to do with it and doesn’t seem to care that anyone was murdered under his watch in the first place. More helpful is the drive-in’s simpleton janitor, Germy (Douglas Gudbye), a former carnival geek, who talks about how the owner of the place has a nice set of swords. Further conversation with Germy reveals the fact that a pervert named Ingleson (Norman Sheridan) prowls the lot each night hoping to watch couples go at it.
The cops head to Ingleson’s place to check up on him, but he claims that all he wanted to do was ‘beat my meat’ and doesn’t appear to be the killing type. After showing off his collection of porno mags, the cops check out his car. After finding some bloody rags, Ingleson makes a run for it but it’s to no avail. Eventually, our heroes are called to a warehouse where a maniac (played by Flower himself) is holding a young girl hostage – does he have anything to do with the story? Is he the killer? Is it Germy? Ingleson? Van Houzen? How does that fat cop run so fast? Why did the cops decide one should go in unconvincing drag for a stakeout? Oh so many questions, yet so very few answers await you in Drive-In Massacre.
As far as the performances go, they’re not good but they are entertaining. Goff and Kimball are enjoyable goofy as the two crime fighters out to save the day. They grumble about and occasionally make bad jokes. You never really get the impression that the characters’ they’re playing are good at police work, but at least they show up on time. Robert E. Pearson, best known for his turn in Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens as Dr. Asa Lavender, is kind of great in his own moustache twirling way as the persnickety man in charge of the drive in. He’s got a lot of great lines like “You really want to talk to this piece of puke?” and “Van Hewson thinks I married this "toilet"!” and he delivers all of them dialed up to eleven. Subtlety was not a factor in this production. Douglas Gudbye is likeable enough as the janitor character. If he’s a few cards short of a deck he means well… or does he? Norman Sheridan, who pops up alongside the lovely Sharon Kelly in Alice Goodbody and The Dirty Mind Of Young Sally, plays the pervy peeper well enough. Buck Flower, even if his character does come basically out of nowhere, is also a lot of fun here, running around with a giant knife and ranting at the cops out to take him down. It’s also cool to see seventies sex bombs Sandy Carey and Janus Blythe pop up here in small parts. Jacqueline Giroux has a small role in this as well.
The movie feels padded even at only seventy-five minutes in length. There are a few long stretches of dialogue that slow things down, though thankfully said dialogue is usually strange enough that, if it’s not exciting, it’s at least amusing. The gore effects are cheap and salacious, just as they should be, and the drive-in setting is both cool and authentic, giving the movie its own sort of retro charm in that regard.
Severin, with a bit of help from Distribpix, present Drive-In Massacre on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer taken from the film’s original 35mm negative. Though there is some mild print damage here and there, for the most part the movie is in great shape here. Not surprisingly, this presentation blows away the old DVD releases that made the rounds in North America, though we don’t have the UK release from 88 Films to compare it to. Colors are nicely rendered here, especially the reds, while detail and texture are generally strong throughout. Some scenes that take place outside during the night are a little dark, but that’s not an authoring problem, it seems pretty obvious that it was the original lighting. Regardless, this is nice and film like showing good grain structure and solid detail and texture throughout.
The English language DTS-HD Mono track sounds pretty good for what it is. There aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion, just a bit of flatness that was no doubt inherent in the original sound recording. Balance is fine, however, and the dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow. Optional English subtitles are provided in white text, though a few typos are noticeable in the translation. Not a big deal, really, but some will notice it.
Extras on the disc start out with an audio commentary courtesy of director Stu Segall. This is quite an interesting talk as he discusses how he got into the film industry, his early days working on various projects including a visit to a Russ Meyer set, how he worked on softcore and drive-in pictures as well as hardcore films like the infamous Insatiable, and about working with Chambers on that film. He also shares plenty of interesting stories and anecdotes about Drive-In Massacre such as his thoughts on the story, working with the various cast and crew members including Flower and more. A moderator, who is never identified, pops up here and there to keep Segall engaged but he doesn’t need much in the way of prompting, he’s got a good memory and a good sense for storytelling.
Also included on the disc are a few featurettes starting with Drive-In Days, an interview with actor and co-writer John F. Goff that clocks in at just over sixteen minutes. He shares some interesting stories about working as an actor, various oddball gigs that he had throughout his career, how he and the late George Flower came to be writing partners, and quite a bit more. This guy has been around the block and has a lot of interesting credits to his name. Maybe not so surprisingly, he makes for an interesting interviewee. Up next is a twelve minute piece entitled Norm Sheridan Recalls Drive-In Massacre, which is pretty much just what it sounds like. Here the actor talks about how he came on board due to his friendship with John Alderman, what it was like filming his death scene and other bits and pieces of trivia. He tells some interesting stories about working on this picture but also talks about how he got out of acting to go play Blackjack professionally! The third featurette is the six minute Making The Massacre: An Interview With Director Stu Segall. He covers a lot of the same ground here that he did in the commentary but he also talks about how he wasn’t really all that into horror movies when he made this picture, what went into creating some of the gore effects featured in the film and a few other minor subjects.
Outside of that we get a theatrical trailer for the feature (that is actually kind of spoilery), menus and chapter selection. There’s also an easy to find ‘Easter Egg’ on here that, when enabled, plays the trailer for C.B. Hustlers. Reversible cover art is also included, giving fans two fairly awesome choices to display.
The Final Word:
Drive-In Massacre is pretty wonky stuff, but fans of seventies trash-horror should definitely get a kick out of it. Severin’s Blu-ray is a good one, presenting the film in seriously spiffy shape, with decent audio and a nice array of extra features documenting the history of this cinematic oddity.
Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!