The anthropomorphic characterization of the hot dog and the disembodied boy’s head are what nightmares are made of. And doesn’t the hot dog remind you of South Park‘s Mr. Hankey?
Anyone who ever found themselves at a drive-in movie as a kid or teen will never forget it. The coziness of the car on a warm summer night, windows rolled down, with the soundtrack oddly blasting over the car radio. The movies — and they were often B flicks or reruns on consecutive, all-night programs — were almost beside the point.
When this commercial was made in the ’50s, pizza was a novel new food for most Americans. Note: The characterization of Italian-Americans verges on the offensive.
On a date, you could smooch or pet or even more, and drive-ins became associated with adolescent eroticism. For younger kids, there was a playground, and a chance to run free in a darkened landscape of cars, spying on the adolescents making out, or playing hide-and-seek or tag.
The most exciting part of the evening was often the visit to the refreshment stand, where wondrous food products not usually eaten in the home were for sale. Before the invention of microwave popcorn, the movie theater was where most people enjoyed it — and doubly at the drive-in. Pizzas and hamburgers were other staples of the comically crude and limited menu.
And the drive-in theaters advertised their concession stands with the most amazingly crappy commercial come-ons you could imagine. Even then they looked crude in the extreme, homemade ads with overenthusiastic announcers, and food that looked like cardboard.
In retrospect these ads are refreshing in the simplicity of the message — no star endorsements, no lengthy drug-company disclaimers, no special effects, unfolding at a leisurely pace, because you were a captive audience. Sure the food was awful, as you can tell from the pictures, but the patrons loved it, and they loved climbing out of the car and heading for the concessions stand during the intermissions between flicks.
In the 1960s there were over 4,000 drive-in movie theaters in the United States. Sadly, that number has declined to 371 today. If you want to find one, go to driveinmovie.com.
The next feature: More drive-in movie commercials!
The multiple voiceover voices, each trying to get you to buy a cup of what was probably awful coffee, is intriguing, and the attempts to persuade you comically crass.
The scary vignetted talking heads make this ice cream trailer a classic.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 4, 2011