The Star Drive-in (4 Wassell Street Matraville) opened in August 1958 and operated until 8th August 1984 when it closed for the last time because it was no longer profitable. No fanfare greeted the last screening and only nine cars were there to view the last film screened, The Exterminator.
Dead End Drive-In had the temerity to be socially critical of its target audience’s appetite for junk culture, while revelling in junk culture movie tropes. It’s my socio-political-retro-future-action-exploitation flic adapted by Peter Smalley from acclaimed writer Peter Carey’s short story ” Crabs”.
35 split day/nights of shooting in and around Sydney’s abandoned Matraville Drive In was a glorious experience I will never forget. The design of the Star Drive In by Larry Eastwood and Nick McCallum is nothing short of genius, beautifully lensed by Paul Murphy. This 1985 film demonstrates the high professional standard all departments of the Australian Film Industry had reached in the 15 years of its renaissance. Stunt co-ordinator Guy Norris performed the record breaking climactic truck jump stunt, and earned himself a well deserved international career.
My most bizarre memory of the shoot occurred when, at 3 am, a car full of drunken hoons, whooping and hollering, their testosterone stimulated by sounds of motorized mayhem, skidded round the entry barriers and roared into the drive in at high speed, perhaps hoping to join in the fray. We were about to do some gunfight scenes, so there were a couple of M 16s loaded with blanks on set. Someone – who shall remain nameless (!) – fired a burst in their direction, prompting a fast U turn and exit. I think they got their desired adrenalin rush. Perhaps they needed a change of underwear anyway. Subsequently, a European resident of a neighboring Matraville street took out a writ in the New South Wales Supreme Court to shut down the film because the nightly sounds of gunfire and explosions were giving him World War Two flashbacks. Indeed, gunfire at 3 am is grounds for complaint. ( Personally I enjoy that sort of thing, but I guess it’s not for everybody.) Co-producer Damien Parer handled this potential disaster with great expertise. He hired a barrister ( attorney) and headed to court to request the right to discharge firearms until midnight. But when the complainant’s counsel stated that his client was a decorated war hero, it looked like we were sunk. Then the judge asked what the decoration was. “ The Iron Cross “ was the answer. It is said the judge’s face hardened. We were allowed our requested firearms curfew. We finished those scenes in a couple of nights. But it was a lesson to me to be more sensitive to environmental impact on the civilian population. “