Auto Motives | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Auto Motives 

Durham's Starlite Drive-In wants to bring back yesteryear with a series of retro classics

Growing up in the 1970s and '80s, I always wanted to take in a drive-in movie. I would see television shows and films, invariably set in the 1950s, in which teenagers would gather in their cars, put speakers in their windows and sit back to take in films about biker gangs, bloodsucking freaks and monsters from the muck. Some people would actually watch the films, but others would crawl into the back seat, pull out a flask and start rounding the bases. But I never got to live my teenage years in such style.

Now, many years later, I have my chance. Three local film collectors, Matt Pennachi, Adam Hulin and Michael Snipes, are producing monthly drive-in retro spectaculars at the Starlite Drive-In on East Club Boulevard in Durham. Calling their partnership Cinema Overdrive, these men, all in their mid-20s, have been collecting discarded prints of old films, including some indisputable classics like Deliverance, and others that are considerably more downscale, like Seven Brothers Meet Dracula.

Local cinephiles may already be familiar with this trio's curatorial work through their monthly Retrofantasma series at the Carolina Theatre in Durham (last week, the offerings were Motel Hell and Madman). Now that Retrofantasma has become a popular institution, Pennachi, Hulin and Snipes are making good on a deal struck with the owners of the Starlite to program movies once a month, from April all the way through a planned triple-feature blowout for Halloween. In March, before a packed parking lot, the series kicked off auspiciously with a double feature of two exploitation classics: Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000 and Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Supervixens.

Last month, I took in a double feature of Death Wish and Seven Brothers Meets Dracula. After parking my truck, I tuned my radio to the frequency that carried the film's soundtrack. (Radio simulcasting has replaced the old speaker-in-the-window. Not only is this more convenient, but it's less expensive: My mother told me recently that in her day, people were prone to driving off with speakers still attached to their cars.) Perhaps because of the unseasonable coolness of the evening, the turnout was modest. Still, many people had set up lawn chairs and beer coolers, as they smoked cigarettes and watched Charles Bronson go off on his sadistic killing spree. It was hard to tell whether their interest was ironic contemplation or genuine enthusiasm, but a huge cheer went up at the film's climax.

As the film played, I chatted with Pennachi, a friendly, garrulous man with glasses, untidy black hair and an apparently bottomless knowledge of films ranging from Citizen Kane to Bucket of Blood. A conversation with the Pennsylvania native gives a hint of what an encounter with Quentin Tarantino must be like, in his genuine and infectious enthusiasm for the obscure and the unfashionable. As the second film of the doubleheader, Seven Brothers Meet Dracula, played on the screen, Pennachi discoursed at some length on the film's provenance, describing a now bygone film culture in which certain movies were made specifically for drive-in audiences. Today, Pennachi points out, Hollywood is churning out $100 million movies that are, in the end, only expensive drive-in movies, but inferior to the classics of yore.

"This film," Pennachi says, gesturing at the Asiatic mayhem up on the screen, "is better than Armageddon. Armageddon was piece of shit. And how much money did they spend on it?" EndBlock

On Thursday, June 27, Pennachi and friends will be bringing a glorious double-feature celebration of 1970s internally combustible redneck schlockto the Starlite Drive-In: Smokey and the Bandit and Evel Knievel. Tickets go on sale at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. Call 688-1037 for details.

  • Durham's Starlite Drive-In hosts a series of retro classics.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review

Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

The only peeople who murdered those boys were let off by an inexperienced prosecutor and hoodwinked judge. The facts are …

by Greg 1 on The West Memphis Three are free ... what about the real killer? (Film Review)

"Miles Ahead"... "opening Friday".... where? I'm having a tough time finding film times/locations on now. The …

by Tbone on Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Film, Miles Ahead, Isn’t a Real Biopic—It’s Something Better (Film Review)

Actually, many evangelicals and other Christians would not agree with the notion that "if you are a true believer you …

by bsquizzato on Film Review: Christian Movie Miracles From Heaven Goes Where Secular Hollywood Won't (Film Review)


The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation