Last Call Blog | The Last Drive-In | Season Two-o, Week 5 — Deadbeat at Dawn

Dayton, Ohio’s greatest filmmaker gives a grim, grimy and gross glimpse into gang life

Jim Van Bebber starred as Goose, the gang leader who tries to leave but gets pulled back into the dangerous dance of death that is the Dayton gang scene of the 1980s. (Art by T.J. Denton @TDenton_1138)

Week Five’s second feature slingshot us Mutants as far away as you can get from the religious iconography and headless Jesus statues of The Exorcist III,at least from a tonal perspective.

Dayton, Ohio, director Jim Van Bebber’s Deadbeat at Dawn obeys one of the prime rules of a Drive-In flick — anybody can die at any time — and provided the perfect exclamation point on what, thematically, was dubbed by JBB to be Nasty Vicious Death Night on The Last Drive-In.

Van Bebber drew inspiration for his flick initially from Sam Raimi and co.’s efforts in making The Evil Dead, vowing that “if those f-ers in Michigan can do it, we can too.” If you liked The Warriors and if you like gore, this one’ll do you good.

The impact that a host of 1970s flicks with really downer endings such as Vanishing Point, Who’ll Stop the Rainand Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, had on him as a kid and the setting of a Midwestern urban wasteland helped fuel the gritty, guerrilla approach by Van Bebber, a then-Wright State University film student, and the grim authenticity of the fight scenes. Those guys from the Ravens and the Spiders wanted to do some major damage to one another, even when the members wore jock straps on the outside of their pants and off-off-brand Batman masks.

Van Bebber starred in the flick he also wrote as Goose, the guy who vowed to quit the Ravens and commit to his girlfriend, but those plans get killed by that rival gang when a couple of their leaders beat her to death. He hits bottom, including drinking his druggie father’s last beer, then fights his way to redemption, one bloody step at a time.

Bruce Lee, another one of the director’s guiding lights (along with Tom Savini and the fights in Born Losers, the first Billy Jack movie), had a quote talking about martial arts and the obsession with some in the field about which of the martial arts styles was best? He said the following:

“If you don’t have style … if you just say, ‘Here I am, as a human being — how can I express myself totally and completely?’”

In Deadbeat By Dawn, it can be argued that Van Bebber didn’t have a style when he set out to film the flick. The camera is there. The action is there — as real as he can make it. The setting is there in all its crumbling plaster, violent and suffocating decay punctuated by kaleidoscopic transitions.

Amid the risky, low-budget creation of his film where he risked his own bodily harm and had to pay fines out of his own pocket, Van Bebber did find a mantra — “Pain is temporary, film is forever.”And he quite possibly did stumble across a style all his own, at least according to Joe Bob: “Travis Bickle on acid.” A grimy Joseph Campbell-odyssey through the grossest depths of the city that gave us the guys who invented the airplane, once someone’s seen Deadbeat at Dawnit’s tough to forget. Maybe it won’t roll around in the viewer’s noggin forever — but long enough.

  • Four Breasts
  • Twenty-Nine Dead Bodies
  • Two Motor Vehicle Chases
  • Arm Sewing
  • Double Face Slashing
  • Shoulder Stabbing
  • Hand Blown Off
  • Head Twisted Off
  • Exploding Neck
  • Knife to the Head
  • Bloody-Wound Tub Soaking
  • Golf Clubbing
  • Human Trash-Compacting
  • Heroin in the Bloody Toe
  • Beer-Can Thumping
  • Hooker Pawing
  • Heavy Coke-Sniffing
  • Urinal Head-Ramming
  • Bloody Zombie Ghost Scene
  • Head Splitting
  • Throwing Star to the Forehead
  • Heads Roll
  • Thumb Rolls
  • Gratuitous Giant Snake
  • Kung Fu
  • Seconal Fu
  • Baseball Bat Fu
  • Throwing Star Fu
  • Railroad Tie Fu

And for starters, we all know that when Joe Bob drags an easel out that things are going to get COMPLEX. 

Sure enough, they did as the episode opened.

We learned all about the $75 artisanal coffee Elida Geisha 803 which has civet crap as one of its main ingredients and has tendrils extending from California (the consumer) to Ethiopia, Costa Rica and Japan.

So let’s raise our mugs to globalization at its finest and how a guy from Texas can show us how the world is improving, one cup of enhanced coffee beans with a bouquet of civet crap at a time.

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