When evening fell, the movies began to unfurl.  The crowd thinned down to a group of die-hards and set­tled in for a night of enter­tain­ment under the stars.  Short sub­jects between films includ­ed a Mr. Magoo car­toon and a pair of Three Stooges shorts, includ­ing the con­tro­ver­sial fave “You Nazty Spy” (this drew roar­ing laugh­ter from the crowd). The fol­low­ing is a run­down of the fea­ture films shown, along with anno­ta­tion from Your Humble Reviewer:

Billy Jack: this peri­od piece offers a ver­i­ta­ble smörgås­bord of free-think­ing, post-hip­pie ide­als and con­cerns (the plight of the American Indian, Montessori school­ing, the gen­er­a­tion gap, role-play ther­a­py, etc.), with a lit­tle Hapkido-style ass-whoop­ing on the side for com­mer­cial spice.  It was prob­a­bly a bit too slow of an open­er for this crowd (one bone­head in the crowd near­by spent much of the film doing a drunk­en shout-back to the screen) but Tom Laughlin’s tow­er­ing pres­ence in the title role still impress­es.  Sadly, the print was very beat-up: the first few min­utes was miss­ing, the col­ors had fade bad­ly (with a pink­ish tone set­tling in) and a re-spliced sec­tion played back­wards & upside down for about a min­ute near the end.

Convoy: a mess, but a fas­ci­nat­ing mess.  Sam Peckinpah takes the reins of an cin­e­mat­ic adap­ta­tion of a pop­u­lar 1970’s hit and tries to turn what should have been a Hal Needham-style action com­e­dy into a Big Statement on indi­vid­u­al­ism in America.  Time has only enhanced its eccen­tric­i­ties.  You can’t say it works but you can’t take your eyes off it, either.  Print qual­i­ty: a lit­tle fad­ed and scratchy but intact and watch­able.

The Road Warrior: the kick-ass sequel to Mad Max remains an intense, action-packed blast, packed with insane stunts and amaz­ing pho­tog­ra­phy.  Mel Gibson’s star may have plum­met­ed due to his behav­ior in the last few years but his work here remains as icon­ic as ever — and no one has ever direct­ed vehic­u­lar action as skill­ful­ly as George Miller did in this and the first Mad Max.  In short, per­fect dri­ve-in fare. Print qual­i­ty: again, a lit­tle fad­ed and scratchy but intact and watch­able.

Stunt Rock: sad­ly, this is where Your Humble Reviewer began to fade out.  He got through a half hour’s worth of this won­der­ful­ly bizarre mix­ture of 1970’s the­atri­cal hard-rock and over-the-top, death-defy­ing stunt work.  It’s a real par­ty-hearty piece of work and the print was the best of the four that Your Humble Reviewer saw, looking aston­ish­ing­ly sharp and col­or­ful (it had to be a fair­ly fresh print because it looked that good).

Those who made it to the end also got to see the blax­ploita­tion fave Cleopatra Jones.  Though Your Humble Reviewer left the premis­es before it began, he can hearti­ly rec­om­mend it from past view­ing expe­ri­ences: it’s a col­or­ful and excit­ing flick with a great orches­tral-soul score, fun per­for­mances (Shelley Winters is the scene-steal­er as the dope-deal­er vil­lain, “Mommy”) and tight­ly-craft­ed action sce­nes cour­tesy of direc­tor Jack Starrett.

Overall, Drive Invasion 2010 was a worth­while expe­ri­ence.  It offered a chance to see a fas­ci­nat­ing mix­ture of punk/rockabilly hip­sters mix­ing peace­ful­ly with some good ol’ boys and a batch of flicks that you would nev­er see pro­ject­ed oth­er­wise, the lat­ter ele­ment made all the sweet­er by get­ting to see them at a gen­uine dri­ve-in.

The only real down­side to this event, at least from the schlock-cinephile per­spec­tive, would be that the film por­tion of the event is over­shad­owed by the music por­tion.  It might be worth hav­ing a few less musi­cal acts in the future because much of the crowd was exhaust­ed by the time the movies start­ed rolling.  Also, this would allow the movies to begin a lit­tle ear­lier  (let’s face it, most of the audi­ence will be out cold by 4 a.m. at an all-day fest like this, par­tic­u­lar­ly if they’ve been there all day).

Along the same lines, it would be nice if a bit more “show busi­ness” was put into the pre­sen­ta­tion of the films.  The pro­gram­ming of the films didn’t real­ly pay atten­tion to pace or judg­ing the crowd’s mood: for exam­ple, it would have packed more of a punch if it began with a high-octane num­ber like The Road Warrior instead of the not-exact­ly-pace-con­scious Billy Jack.

There’s also room for more show­man­ship in the pre­sen­ta­tion of the movies, like hav­ing a lit­tle d.j.-style chat­ter over the drive-in’s p.a. sys­tem to jazz the crowd up (and if hor­ror flicks are includ­ed in future screen­ings, it would be fun to have folks run­ning around in cos­tumes and masks to do spook-show-type stuff dur­ing the big shocks).

However, what remains is still a fine event that deliv­ers plen­ty of enter­tain­ment for the $28 admis­sion price.  There’s noth­ing quite like see­ing a vin­tage fave pro­ject­ed on a big screen under the stars — and the Drive Invasion is a great way to make that wish come true.  If you can get Atlanta come next October, it’s well worth check­ing out.