Documentary Review: At the Drive-In (2017)

Release Date: October 20th, 2017 (Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival)
Directed by: Alexander Monelli

80 Minutes

Review:

For film lovers, this is a pretty heartwarming documentary.

The story here is about an old school drive-in theater that didn’t have the money to move into the digital age that Hollywood film studios have forced theaters into. So they became a drive-in that focuses on old films.

But the story goes deeper than that, as it really focuses on the love for film that all the people around this unique theater share.

It shows you a community coming together to keep the drive-in running, as its employees work for free, volunteering their time to turn this place into something special when almost all the other drive-ins in America have shut down over the years.

While this is a film about the love of movies, it’s really a human story and about people’s love for the things that make them feel whole. Without the drive-in, these people would lose something dear to them and their community.

And frankly, I’m all for keeping old movies relevant and for having as many means to showcase them as possible. Especially, in a day and age where Hollywood has lost its way and the art of filmmaking has greatly been diminished by the art of making dollars.

It’s just really great to see passionate people put their lives and their own self-interest on hold in order to hold onto something that could easily slip away.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Going Attractions and Out of Print.

Book Review: ‘Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In’ by Joe Bob Briggs

After reading Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In I had to get my hands on its sequel Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In.

This book is essentially more of the same. While the first book covers Joe Bob’s tenure as a movie critic for the Dallas Times Herald, this book follows his stint at the Dallas Observer, following his firing from the Herald. It also leads up to when he left the newspapers behind and went on to host The Movie Channel’s popular series Dirve-In Theater.

This book has tons of great reviews of drive-in and grindhouse classics. This volume spans the mid to late 1980s and even gets into VHS reviews, as changing technologies were causing drive-ins to shutdown across the United States.

Joe Bob writes in his gonzo style, as he did with the previous book. However, there are less personal stories about the colorful characters that populated his first volume. Here, we get more into his social and political views. He also experiments with the format a bit more. Honestly though, I liked his more straight up gonzo style that he used at the Dallas Times Herald, which is featured in the first book.

In any event, this is still a hilarious read and Joe Bob covers a lot of films, many I already knew and some I didn’t. The man had a talent for picking out some really obscure yet interesting pictures during his time as a film reviewer.

If you are a fan of Joe Bob Briggs, these books are great to have. The first one is slightly better but this one is still a great piece of work where Joe Bob pulls no punches and goes for the throat with every article featured in the book.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In’ by Joe Bob Briggs

My love for Joe Bob Briggs is no secret. I’ve written about him plenty of times on Cinespiria.

Growing up with Drive-In Theater and MonsterVision was awesome. Before that however, he wrote for the Dallas Times Herald. While there, John Bloom created the persona of Joe Bob Briggs when he took over the movie review section. Joe Bob was a guy that loved drive-in movies and hated that “indoor bullstuff”. This book is the first of two that collects some of his best work from his time writing b-movie reviews.

This book is straight gonzo. It’s like if Dr. Hunter S. Thompson put down the guns and cocaine for a minute and had a passion for the types of films that no one else in America would even review.

Joe Bob Briggs looks at the wealth of b-movies that were coming out in droves in the 1980s. Domestic films, foreign films and films with no discernible place of origin. But unlike the high society types that looked down their noses at these works of art, Joe Bob honored and celebrated these films, even though most of them were horrible. The man had an eye that was able to detect a great b-movie from a sea of horrible ones.

Joe Bob also spends a lot of his time talking about his personal life. The book is full of colorful stories with even more colorful characters. He also gets socially and politically fired up at times because someone has to defend the holy American tradition of going to the drive-in theater and if it wasn’t for Joe Bob we all might be living in “wimp city” like those drive-in hating “jerkola” “turkeys” from San Francisco.

If you grew up with these movies or just have an appreciation for this sort of thing, Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In should be your Bible.

Rating: 10/10

Documentary Review: Going Attractions – The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie (2013)

Release Date: June 6th, 2013
Directed by: April Wright

85 Minutes

Review:

Going Attractions – The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie is a pretty good piece about the history of drive-in theaters in the United States but I do have one bone to pick with it. How can you make a movie about drive-in theaters and not interview Joe Bob Briggs? He was the American hero of the drive-in connoisseur in the 1980s. He is a guy that has seen everything and had a passion unrivaled by any other critic or writer I have ever come across. But then, this film does feature Roger Corman who Joe Bob coined “The King of the Drive-In”, so that does set me at ease a bit.

I have seen small documentaries about the history of the drive-in theater. However, never have I seen something as well put together and as extensive as this film.

April Wright, the director, did a pretty fine job of taking the audience through history, looking at each decade or era and showcasing technological innovations and just the general evolution of the drive-in theater industry. It also discusses cultural shifts and how things came along to sort of disrupt the growth and popularity of the drive-in.

Going Attractions does talk to a lot of experts, historians and drive-in fans. The interviews are made up of a lot of personal stories and experiences but they help paint the picture really well.

It is unfortunate that very few drive-ins exist anymore. Where I live, I have to drive about three hours before I even get to one and that’s a “family friendly” one. Honestly, I haven’t seen a film at the drive-in since the mid-1990s. I wish it were something that was still commonplace.

Rating: 6/10

Book Review: ‘Profoundly Disturbing: The Shocking Movies that Changed History’ by Joe Bob Briggs

If you know who Joe Bob Briggs is, it would probably behoove you to read some of his books. His personality comes through and his writing is just as entertaining as he was when he hosted The Movie Channel’s Drive-In Theater and TNT’s MonsterVision. He is a great American, a phenomenal Texan and has a stellar taste in Earth’s greatest art form, the motion picture.

Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies That Changed History is one of those great literary bodies of work that should be in the collection of any book reading film aficionado. The book itself is quite profound.

Briggs discusses films that had a major impact, creating a cultural shift that forever changed filmmaking. In retrospect, most of these movies aren’t shocking now but at the time they were released, they stood out as unique, different and challenged the status quo. The films Briggs covers are The Cabinet of Dr. CaligariMom and DadCreature From the Black Lagoon…And God Created WomanThe Curse of FrankensteinBlood FeastThe Wild BunchShaftDeep ThroatThe ExorcistIlsa, She-Wolf of the SSThe Texas Chain Saw MassacreDrunken Master, Reservoir Dogs and Crash.

Each film discussed is analyzed in great detail, as Briggs talks about what made it controversial and unique and how it influenced the films after it. He gives a lot of facts about each movie and tells the tales behind their genesis. He also gives plenty of examples of other movies that film lovers should check out in addition to the one being discussed in each chapter.

The book is so good, informative and entertaining that I wish he did a follow up of some sorts. Now he does have a similar book titled Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies that Changed History. I haven’t read that one yet but it’s on my list. He also has Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In and its sequel Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In. I own those and I plan on reading them fairly soon.

Rating: 9/10

Talking Pulp: Joe Bob Briggs – A Texan of Exquisite Taste and a Man Who Influenced a Generation

For those who read my blog Cinespiria, you know that I am a pretty big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is a show that helped me appreciate my love of film in all its forms, especially that low brow stuff they like to make fun of as the basis of their show. MST3K wasn’t the only influence I had, however. There is a man who came out before that great show; a man that taught me a lot about b-movies and cult films, especially horror flicks with a high level of absolute awesomeness. That man’s name is Joe Bob Briggs.

All men are not created equal and the same should be said about Texans. As far as I’m concerned, Joe Bob Briggs is the greatest Texan ever born. He is certainly the most entertaining and knowledgeable when it comes to the things I love most: motion pictures.

In the early 80s, Joe Bob took offense to the redevelopment of the Times Square area in New York City. 42nd Street was well-known for its multitude of grindhouse theaters that specialized in b-movies with double and triple bills. These theaters typically ran films 24 hours a day. Briggs encouraged a campaign that saw film fans write to city officials, pressuring them to preserve the area. Briggs referred to 42nd Street as “the one place in New York City you could see a decent drive-in movie.” Briggs wanted to preserve a piece of Americana and referred to these theaters as places where “Charles Bronson can be seen thirty feet high, as God intended.”

In the mid 80s, Briggs started a one-man comedy show called An Evening with Joe Bob Briggs. He eventually re-branded the show as Joe Bob Dead in Concert. The show was a bit of a variety piece, showcasing Briggs’ many talents. It encompassed comedy, storytelling and music. Joe Bob’s show toured the country and played in over fifty venues within two years.

In 1986, Joe Bob Briggs was hired by cable giant The Movie Channel (the sister network to Showtime) to host a new show called Drive-In Theater. This was the gig that first brought Joe Bob Briggs into my life.

I didn’t discover Drive-In Theater until the summer of 1989 when I was ten years old. I often times spent the night at my cousin’s or my friend’s house and both of them had The Movie Channel. Back then, parents weren’t in helicopter mode like they are now. As long as we didn’t commit atrocious acts out in the world, our parents were pretty lackadaisical about censoring what we watched. Truthfully, they were usually asleep and had no idea what we were watching, as long as we stayed quiet enough. Plus there weren’t all those parental controls on cable boxes and whatnot.

I watched a lot of great flicks, many of them probably way too intense, sexual or scary for a ten year-old mind. Still, I turned out pretty okay and what these weekly experiences did was help me develop my love of film. That love already existed but what Joe Bob Briggs did was he introduced me to films I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. He spoon fed me giant helpings of feature films that the art house snobs and penguins at the Academy would thumb their noses at.

Drive-In Theater was the highest rated show on The Movie Channel and it was nominated twice for a Cable ACE Award. It ran for ten years and I got to see most of it. But when Joe Bob’s run at The Movie Channel came to an end, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, things got even better.

In 1996, Joe Bob Brings joined the TNT network where he would go on to host their spectacular MonsterVision movie show for four years. Now TNT couldn’t show the gratuitous violence and boobies that The Movie Channel could get away with. However, TNT geared a lot of their movies on MonsterVision towards a horror and sci-fi format, hence the name.

Most of MonsterVision‘s offering were 70s and 80s horror and sci-fi classics. It also showed some older films in the genre but the show was at its best when Joe Bob Briggs got to add his commentary and two cents on films like the Friday the 13th series, Return of the Living Dead, PhantasmSwamp Thing, Gremlins, They Live, The WarriorsThe FogMetalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-SynCritters, Logan’s RunDeadly FriendSoylent GreenSalem’s LotThe BeastmasterHalloween III: Season of the Witch, the Poltergeist series, The FunhouseNight of the LepusThe Fearless Vampire KillersThe Fly (1986), Child’s PlaySaturn 3Back to the FutureThe ExorcistThe Wraith, PredatorMad Max 2: The Road WarriorGhoulies, Godzilla vs. MothraThe Last StarfighterNightbreedHighlanderTron, The Black Hole and so many more.

Joe Bob Briggs would often times have guests on the show as well. MonsterVision opened their doors to horror greats and scream queens and allowed them to talk about these films. Briggs was a hilarious and thoughtful interviewer and his appreciation for a lot of the movies he was showcasing was apparent in how he talked about them and how he shot the shit with his guests.

MonsterVision existed in my later teen years and I am glad that it was a part of my life then, as I was growing into a man with a more refined taste and a pretty discriminatory palate in regards to film. It was a major influence on me and it inspired me to scour the mom and pop video stores for more obscure titles in the horror and sci-fi genres. Luckily, the Internet was becoming a big thing by this time and tracking down some hard to find movies was made a little bit easier.

After MonsterVision ended, I went through Job Bob withdrawal. The same thing happened when Mystery Science Theater 3000 left the airwaves too. Unfortunately, both of these shows disappeared around the same time and never has anything else come close to being as genuine in its appreciation of low brow cinematic art as these two shows were. But my love of these things never ceased and I never stopped watching the films that fit the type of ilk as those featured on both shows.

About five years ago or so, I was a political and economic blogger. My site, at that time, was getting about 100,000 hits per month. I sometimes got shares and mentions by famous people on Twitter. Kelsey Grammer once shared a post, as did several political pundit types. However, one day I was taken aback. The Twitter account for my site got a follow from Joe Bob Briggs. He even reposted a link to some story that I had written. Now I don’t know if he actually read my words but it was a pretty cool fucking feeling seeing a guy I looked up to for most of my life, share something that came from out of my head.

I miss Joe Bob Brigg’s presence on television tremendously, even to this day.

Things are starting to look up though, as Mystery Science Theater 3000 is returning in less than a month, after a nearly two decade hiatus. However, I am still waiting for the day that Joe Bob Briggs returns to the small screen, now in widescreen high definition, to grace us with his two cents once again. I don’t know if that will ever happen but damn it, it needs to.