A ‘RAD’ time at the drive-in with the Texas Theatre and Cru

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

DALLAS – “OK, dudes, let’s walk this sucker,” yelled one fan before the Texas Theatre commenced with an 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 historic Oak Cliff theater, sold out.

People love this movie, myself among them. To some, Rad is that goofy ‘80s movie where a scrappy, young paperboy named 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, showcased unbelievable stunts, and made you want 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.

Bill Allen, left, shares about his ‘RAD’ experience to Dallas audiences. Photo owned by Fresh Fiction.

“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 flatscreen 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 next month’s Tuesday Night Trash screening of 1989’s Action U.S.A. Filmgoers may not have been able to move around much, but at least they were well fed and got to giggle over movie trailers (such as 1989’s Gleaming the Cube, 1986’s Knights of the City, and the 1990’s Side Out).

A still from 1986’s ‘RAD’. Courtesy of Utopia Distribution.

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 all 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 a BMX freestyle show to really break the ice.

Visit thetexastheatre.com to keep tabs on upcoming screenings. Head over to myradcareer.com to get Allen’s book and other rad items. And watch Rad through your favorite digital platforms, including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu/Showtime, YouTube, Vudu, or Altavod.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.