How many of you remember drive-in movie theaters, those places where we’d go in high school to catch a flick and hopefully make out? Did anyone sneak in a bag of burgers from the local hangout along with a six-pack of Little Kings? I hope I wasn’t the only one.
I found a DVD compilation with an intriguing theme – “Drive-in Cult Classics.” These were exploitation movies made in the 1970’s with B-list actors working on a D-movie budget. Confusing plots, unintentionally funny dialogue and wooden acting abounded in such forgotten classics as “The Stepmother,” “The Sister-in-Law,” “Pick-up,” “The Teacher,” “Malibu High” and “Abbott and Costello Meet the Pope.” I made up that last one, but you get the idea.
The advertising slogans were just as cheesy, promising something lurid to get your attention and the price of a ticket.
“She worked her way through the faculty lounge one teacher at a time.”
“She corrupted the youthful morality of an entire school!”
“They kept it all in the family.”
“She forced her husband’s son to commit the ultimate sin!”
Most of these were usually the third feature at the drive-in. The operators probably figured that if anyone was still there at two a.m., they weren’t watching the action on the screen anyway. I hope I wasn’t the only one.
These productions definitely skimped on writing and directing talent. One of them attempted to be a Hitchcock-like suspense thriller about a compulsive killer. It was never explained why this guy killed people but midway through, one of the actresses strolled across the screen topless for no reason. It might not have propelled the plot, but it was the most entertaining part of the movie. It made me think of some of the erotic books I’ve read – when you’re out of ideas, show the characters having sex. Who’ll know the difference?
One of the cable movie channels has been running the 1950’s camp classics of legendary producer/director Roger Corman. Corman boasted that he made those black-and-white cheapies for a few thousand bucks and a free lunch for the cast and crew. Looking at them today you can appreciate his style, where he made something out of nothing in several days. These drive-in flicks don’t have the same bragging rights.
They didn’t contain graphic violence but nudity and sex were everywhere. Unfortunately, some of them were so bad that even the sex scenes were boring. One encounter showed the woman in the buff but the guy never took off his pants or shoes. Realistic, huh? And the looks of rapture on the actor’s faces! I’ve seen mannequins that expressed more emotion.
Films like these actually serve as a time capsule of the free love generation. Fluffy hair styles, drug use, outlandish clothes that we’re embarrassed to admit that we wore, and gratuitous sex reflected the culture of the time. It also pointed out the change in the entertainment industry, when movies had lost the strict confines of the rating system and anything went. Sadly for these films, that included good storytelling.
As a footnote, “The Teacher” tried to boost its street cred with this advertising line – “Featuring Jay North, TV’s ‘Dennis the Menace’ all grown up!”
“Golly, Mr. Wilson, I’m sorry!”
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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author whose books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. His website is www.timsmithauthor.com.