The Twenty Greatest Drive-In Movies

March 20, 2016

Notes on the drive-in movie…

Let’s embrace the low-brow, shall we?  Let us revisit one of the greatest institutions of yesteryear- the drive-in movie theater.  A place where some of us once shared collective experiences- swings and slides for the kids, footage of hot dogs happily marching to the snack bar. and speakers never sounding quite right.   But there was something wonderful about all of it, too.  So, close your eyes, my friends, and return with me to the world of the drive-in movie.

In no particular order…

  1.  “Little Shop Of Horrors”  (1960)  Roger Corman  (A black comedy made cheaply and quickly.  It has achieved cult status, not only as a film, but as a Broadway musical and big-budgeted remake as well.)
  2. “Texas Chain-Saw Massacre (1974)   Tobe Hooper   (A grisly film; it made by jaw drop the first time  I saw it.  And, yes, it was at a drive-in!)
  3. “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” (1958)  Nathan Juran  (Probably my favorite bad movie.  If there is a feminist meaning to be deciphered from this mess, it is lost on me!)
  4. “Halloween” (1978)  John Carpenter  (The first of the Michael Meyer’s stab fests-and still the best.  It benefits greatly by the superb cinematography of Dean Cundey.)
  5. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)  George Romero  (Supposedly first premiered at a drive-in in Pittsburgh,the city where it was filmed.  This low-budget shocker is perhaps one of the most influential of films.)
  6. “Black Christmas” (1974)  Bob Clark  (Spooky little Canadian horror film was directed by “Porky’s” maestro.)
  7. “Switchblade Sister” (1974)  George Hill  (A laugh out-loud girl gang saga)
  8. “Death Race 2000”  (1973)  Paul Bartel  (This film is no masterpiece by any stretch, but it has gone on to junk classic status.)
  9. “Rock and Roll High School” (1979)  Alan Arkbush  (Lively teenage musical with the Ramones at their sneering best.)
  10. “Humanoids from the Deep”  (1980)  Barbara Peeters and Jimmy T. Murakami  (Seaside community is invaded by really horny creatures from the deep.)
  11. “Psych Out”  (1968)  Richard Bush  (American International jumped on the bandwagon with this ridiculous psychedelic concoction.)
  12. “House on Haunted Hill”  (1959)  William Castle (Castle’s gimmicks worked better in a theater, but as drive-in fare, this one is pretty tasty.)
  13. “Gidget”  (1959)  Paul Wedkos  (This was a drive-in phenomena, somehow speaking to the teenagers of the day.)
  14. “Masque of Red Death”  (1964)  Roger Corman (Loosely based on a Poe story; this stylish adaption is perhaps Corman’s best film.)
  15. “The Blob”  (1958)  Irwin Yeaworth  (Steve McQueen battles this menacing substance with the help of some bad teenage actors.  Check out the title song.)
  16. “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”  (1961)  Irwin Allen  (Not in the class of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954), Irwin Allen’s sci-fi is an appealing attempt at the genre.  Frankie Avalon sings the title song.)
  17. “Buckets of Blood”  (1961)  Roger Corman  (I actually like this film better than the well-known “Little Shop of Horrors”  (1960).  Its send-up of hipsters is still pretty funny.)
  18. “Ssss”  (1973)  Bernard L. Kowacski  (How can you resist a film with Strother Martin as a deranged herpetologist who likes snakes a little too much?)
  19. “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”  (1957)  Gene Fowler, Jr.  (Hilarious werewolf film with Michael Landon as a teenager with loads of angst and hormonal surprises.)
  20. “Chained Heat”  (1983)  Paul Nicholas  (Innocent Blair is thrown into prison after killing a man by accident.  What ensues is your usual assortment of brutal beatings, rapes, killings, etc.)