Editor's note: Regular readers know that film critic Preston Barta has a soft spot for the 1980's-era movie 'Rad.' Has he worn the treads on the subject bare? Could be. But in a year plagued by a pandemic and political fatigue, we won't take the air out of Barta's tires. In fact, read his earlier pieces on the movie here, here and here.
DALLAS – “OK, dudes, let's walk this sucker,” yelled one fan before the Texas Theatre commenced with their outdoor screening of 1986’s Rad on Tuesday evening. The line, of course, comes from the Hal Needham-directed BMX movie, starring Dallas native Bill Allen. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but that’s part of the charm that is Rad and the reason why the event at Sunset Drive-In, just behind the famous theater in Oak Cliff, sold out.
People love this movie, myself among them. To some, Rad is that goofy ‘80s movie where a scrappy, young paperboy, Cru Jones, side-seats taking his SATs to compete in a bike race. To others, it’s all that and the epitome of cool. It introduced audiences to a sport that immediately had you leaning in and itching to take your bike down some scary hills. I have plenty of bumps and scars to thank Rad for, that’s for sure.
As part of the Texas Theatre’s Tuesday Night Trash series, Rad screened in 4K resolution with Cru Jones himself, Bill Allen, in attendance. The actor and author, masked up, stood in front of a sea of cars to introduce his movie. With his voice piped into cars’ FM radios, Allen thanked everyone for coming out. Audiences expressed their appreciation not by clapping but the best way they could — with a roaring round of honking.
“Dallas is my hometown. I grew up in Richardson, just 20 minutes up the road,” Allen said during a pre-show question-and-answer session. “As long as I could, I went to Richardson High School, but then I heard about the GED program. I never did take those pesky SATs, and that’s why I am here with you guys tonight.”
While the future of in-person entertainment can seem bleak, theaters like the Texas Theatre hold special events that keep the cinema spirit alive. As fun as it can be to fire up movies on the flat screen at home, there’s nothing quite like being among a crowd again, safely distanced, where you can order food and beverages from your phone to be brought to your car.
I’ve seen Rad countless times. I’ve practically worn out my VHS copy and already put a pretty good dent in my 4K Ultra HD disc that Vinegar Syndrome put out earlier this year. But surrounding yourself with people who love a movie just as much as you do, or are lucky enough to watch it for the first time, well, it just puts thunder in your heart.
After Allen joked about making out with co-star Lori Laughlin and recalled the experience of filming Rad’s memorable bicycle boogie sequence during his Q&A, he signed autographs and walked around to each car to thank them personally for joining the fun.
The Texas Theatre pedaled toward more excitement by playing a reel of upcoming events to look forward to, including the weekend’s opening of the Blumhouse slasher Freaky and the next Tuesday Night Trash screening of 1989’s Action U.S.A., the latter of which will premiere next month. Filmgoers may not have been able to move around much, but at least they were well fed and got to giggle over movie trailers (1989’s Gleaming the Cube, 1986’s Knights of the City, and the 1990’s Side Out).
The film started, and radio volumes turned up. For those familiar with Rad, this particular experience was further unique because you could hear the sound at its most crystal clear. I heard background dialogue like never before, catching one-liners that I completely missed in my 25 years of being a fan. So, you have that to look forward to with any upcoming drive-in experiences at the Texas Theatre.
Allen is currently on tour promoting the film’s digital release and his new book, fittingly titled My Rad Career. The novel is a brisk read and encapsulates the star’s journey through the slopes of ‘80s Hollywood. The Texas Theatre hopes to bring Allen back to his hometown soon, with maybe some BMX riders to really break the ice.