Drive-In Friday: Roger Braden

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roger Braden runs the Facebook group Valley Nightmares, which is all about the history of the films that played at the drive-ins and theaters in his home state of Kentucky. Besides that, he loves metal as much as I do and brings kick ass moonshine to the drive-in. He’s one of my favorite people to watch movies with, so I’m so happy he’s decided to share his drive-in picks with us.

Some of my earliest memories are of going to the Drive In with my parents, and a lot of those times friends from school or the neighborhood were there with their families as well. We were pretty much able to run wild, go to the playgrounds, walk the lot, just hang out and be kids. But when a feature was about to begin we knew to be back to our vehicle to watch whatever movie was up next. Westerns, car movies, comedies and war movies were the usual menu. First time I saw True Grit, Patton, Vanishing Point and so many others was at the Drive In as a kid. Then being in my mid teens in the late 1970’s and then progressing through the 1980’s meant turning up the Drive In experience a notch or two. We still ran wild in the lot, met up with friends and usually had a chick or two that wanted to get on the swing set and be pushed higher and higher. But unless we were parked in the back of the lot, when the next feature was going to start we were at our spot and ready for it.

When the fantastic folks at B & S About Movies mentioned doing this every Friday, I started writing down flicks and then working out what my Friday Night at the Drive In would look like. I had a lot of combinations, but this was the one I dug the most. All four are from the 1970’s, that three of the four are “PG” rated just helps my argument that the 70’s was one of the best decades for movies ever.

I’ve got to get the night started with 1976’s Grizzly from Louisville’s William Girdler. Suspenseful, fast paced, awesome scenery and for a “PG” rated film it has a fair amount of blood and gore. The scenes with the Grizzly look great too. When the Grizzly squares up on a helicopter, it still makes my jaw drop even though I know how it was done.

They didn’t call this one “Jaws on Land” by accident and it’s my favorite Girdler film.

Right from the very start with it’s documentary style opening, 1977’s Shock Waves draws you into it’s story of an elite Nazi Deathcorp that was unleashed at the end of World War 2 that were never captured or killed. Flash forward to the 1970’s where a group of tourists end up shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted island only to discover the former Nazi Commander (Peter Cushing) of that Deathcorp and the secret he’s been hiding all these years. The Nazi Deathcorp are still one of the best villians, visually and with their brutality, as they stalk the tourists on land and from underwater! Violent, but not gory, fast paced and an almost non-stop sense of dread power this “PG” rated film into one of my all time favorites.

Two couples (Peter Fonda, Warren Oats, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker) take a road trip vacation in a brand new RV (Look, it has one of those microwaves in it!) and on their very first night, in the middle of nowhwere, witness a Satanic sacrifice. And from then on it’s an almost non stop flight or fight movie as our couples try to report what they saw and just try to escape the Satanists who are trying to silence them. Race with the Devil , from 1975 and “PG” rated as well, is action packed, tense, suspensful and has plenty of shocks and surprises along the way that all lead up to one of the best “downer” endings to a Horror film still.

We all know this one. and if you don’t, stop reading this, and go watch Phantasm right now! My best description of this movie… it’s a fucking nightmare. The only “R” rated film of the night, 1979’s Phantasm is a classic whose style, visuals, story and blending of genres takes the film to the next level. Add to that a villian who became an icon, The Tall Man, with his legion of small hooded dwarfs determined to hide the secret of their existence cemented the films legacy as one of the best Horror films of the last 40 plus years.

I’ve always believed that the final feature of the night at the Drive In should be as stong, if not stronger, than the films that came before it. That’s what you’re taking home with you, especially with Horror films. There’s nothing like getting home just before the sun comes up and then hearing every creak and noise a house makes while you’re hoping to crash out for a few hours.

All of these films are on disc or stream at various sites. Many thanks to B & S About Movies!

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