Of course you can still GO to drive-ins, they do exist. Finding an appropriate movie to watch at the drive-in is another matter. Who really wants to see "The Time Traveler's Wife" from their car? Even cheapo horror remakes seem wrong for it. They're too glossy and the people in them are too pretty. The movie needs to be cheap, sleazy, and/or just plain bizarre to make it worthwhile to me. The Monster-Rama solves this by digging up 35mm prints of horror flicks from days gone by and stringing them together with battered trailers and retro intermission reels featuring animated hot dogs. This year they showed a great refreshment stand ad that was clearly modeled after the trailer for "ALIEN".
Ah, but what of the actual movies they showed? This year's lineup was definitely inspired, and included a few flicks that I was watching for the first time ever. Here's a recap:
The Vampire Lovers (1970): Who knew a movie from 1970 could be the very definition of lesbian vampire porn? Ingrid Pitt plays Carmilla, a sexy vampire gal who hails from a vampire family, the Karnsteins, all decapitated or otherwise deceased except for her. She likes to reinvent herself every so often, kind of like Madonna does, only Carmilla not only changes her hair color, she slyly changes the letters of her name around so as to throw smart people off her trail, alternately being known as Mircalla and Marcilla. No matter what you call her, she's very into ripping off the blouses of nubile women and kissing their boobs. She goes about insinuating herself into a household with one particularly sexy young woman, Emma, and when Emma's dad goes out of town, it's time to step up the lesbian seducing and biting. Unfortunately for her, Peter Cushing arrives and chops off her head before she can change her name to Carmalli.
Next up was The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula (1974), which was the last Dracula flick made by Hammer Studios. You know you're out of ideas when you start to come up with crazy ideas like the one for this movie, which involves a family of martial-arts experts who enlist the help of Professor Van Helsing to rid their small Chinese village of vampires. Yes, it's a kung-fu Dracula story, with Peter Cushing literally the only link to the glories of Hammer's yesteryear (Christopher Lee got one look at the script and decided to sit this one out). This movie was an incomprehensible mess, apparently re-edited from one that made slightly more sense than this did, but I still enjoyed watching it, and it was mercifully short. There were a couple of kung-fu brawls, most of them involving the living vs. the undead, and then it was over.
The third flick was The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), and much to my happiness, the print that was shown here actually had the movie's alternate title on it, Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride--there's something about alternate titles that really turns me on. This one does have Chris Lee in it, as well as Peter Cushing, playing the Dracula and Van Helsing roles once again. Dracula finds himself resurrected, apparently by a Satanic cult, and he takes up residence in a high rise office building that's been built on the site of the church where Van Helsing killed him in the previous film, Dracula AD 1972. This time, the Count uses his new Satan-worshipping friends to enact his latest scheme: commission the development of a new strain of bubonic plague, then commit suicide by wiping out all of humanity with it. The original title is the one that actually describes the movie, of course, since Dracula does not get married in it and one thinks that a wedding ceremony would be the last damn thing on Dracula's mind. Some Satanic rites, however, are right up his alley. Actually, if you thought a kung-fu Dracula movie was weird, how about a James Bond/Dracula movie? Well that's kind of what The Satanic Rites of Dracula is. Oh, and it has Joanna Lumley in it, aka Patsy Stone. She gets the movie's best line, when she's rescued from a basement full of chained-up vampire chicks. One of her male rescuers recognizes one of the imprisoned vampire girls, and when he goes to unchain her, Joanna wails "Oh, STOP HIM! She's a VUM-PARR!"
The final drive-in masterpiece was Vampire Circus (1972), little-seen and only recently issued to home video. I remember catching it on late night TV as a kid, and as you might expect, there is a circus in it made up of vampires, not that the dimwit villagers who visit the circus catch on soon enough. I mean, even though the circus people turn into bats and leopards right in front of their eyes, why on Earth should the villagers suspect them of being vampires? Hmmm? The print for this one was elderly and had turned pink after many years in storage, I would presume, but sitting outside under the dark sky with crickets chirping in the woods on either side of me, I didn't care. Part of the reason was that it was getting to be 4am and I was more concerned about falling asleep. But that was always part of the fun of going to the drive-in, too. Could you or would you stay up for the second feature? Only geeks like me would actually want to sit through second features like Don't Look In The Basement. Come to think of it, maybe I'll get lucky and the Monster-rama will include THAT on one of its lineups for next year! I can only hope.