Bikini Drive-In (1995)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics.  For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

When Kim Taylor (Ashlie Rhey) inherits her grandfather’s beloved drive-in theatre, she and her friends must raise the money to save the failing establishment from both the bank and the evil clutches of land developer J.B. Winston (producer David F. Friedman.) When Kim’s dick boyfriend refuses to help her, Winston’s son Brian (Richard Gabai) goes against his father, and teams up with Kim (in more ways than one) to concoct a surefire way to sell tickets. The plan? An all-night monster movie marathon using all the old films Grandad saved with a scream queen and dancing bikini girls! A few (titty) twists and turns aside, the plan works, the bad guys, the bank and the meddling sheriff are vanquished and the kids all live happily ever after. 

It’s not the plot that makes this my favorite Fred Olen Ray film. It’s the inclusion of all the fake trailers (years before the QT/Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature) and all the original drive-in intermission shorts I enjoyed in my own youth. It’s a love letter to all the fun that could be had on a night out at the drive-in. According to Ray, many of the things you see in this film came from other films. “The monster suit, worn by (my son) Chris here, was from Biohazard 2… Michelle as the 50-foot woman was a test shot I had to do to prove to Roger that we could handle the effects, but since he made me pay for them myself I got to keep the footage (and the rights to it.) The sets from Dinosaur Island also appear in a fake trailer… and Jim (Wynorski) stole the title of my fake movie, House on Hooter Hill.” 

Appearances by Conrad Brooks, Forry Ackerman, Ross Hagen, Clare Polan and Anthony Cardoza among others as well as the Dick Dale-style surf soundtrack add to the overall nostalgic feel for a bygone era that spawned an entire generation of monster and B-movie enthusiasts. In her greatest comedic role to date, Michelle Bauer plays Scream Queen Dyanne Lynn, a spoiled actress served by a beefy manservant. It’s about time we ladies got a little equal opportunity exploitation in one of these films! 

Last, but not least, we have the director himself as DJ Randy Rocket, who, in full mid-‘90s fashion, gets a striptease in return for promoting the drive-in’s all-night marathon on his show. A tough casting choice, I’m sure. 

Most people familiar with this film probably saw the titty-free version on USA’s Up All Night back in the day, but there’s an uncut Blu-Ray on the way later this year from Ray’s Retromedia label which promises to include an entire bonus of restored drive-in intermission shorts from back in the day. Put the kids to bed, pass the popcorn, fire up the Pic mosquito repellent for a fun night in!  

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