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Hi there. Nate "The B Movie King" here at your service. This time, I'm going to talk about Death Race 2000.
Death Race 2000 began as a short story. Producer, Roger Corman, purchased the rights to make it into a film. In Corman's version, the serious and poignant story is converted into biting satire and it works perfectly.
David Carradine stars in his first major film role following the cancellation of the ultra popular "Kung Fu" TV series. According to him, one of the things that attracted him to the role, was the stark contrast between his character on Kung Fu and Death Race 2000's lead character Dr. Frankenstein.
Dr. Frankenstein is a man raised by the government for one purpose only: to compete in and win the country's annual death race. The death race is a brutal race held once a year in which the country's finest racers compete in a cross country race. The object of the race is to kill as many pedestrians as you can as you race to the finish line. Each type of person is given a different point value. Old people are especially valuable at a whopping 100 points. As you can see, fans of dark humor will find many things to enjoy here.
Death Race 2000 isn't just funny, it's also quite violent. As you might imagine, there are several delightfully gruesome death scenes sprinkled throughout the film. Producer Roger Corman and Directer Bartel were also very thoughtful in remembering to add a splash of nudity and sex. Throw in some creatively designed race cars and some outlandish characters and you've got the ingredients for a great B Movie classic.
Death Race 2000 was Roger Corman's 1975 entry to the "dysfunctional future society" genre. The film was built around David Carradine (probably Corman's single biggest expense) as Frankenstein, the only multiple winner of the Transcontinental Road Race from New York to Los Angeles. After an economic collapse in the late 70s, an authoritarian government has seized power of most of the world and runs a televised race across the US, where points are scored for killing pedestrians. There are allusions throughout the film to an Imperial America, from this gladiatorial contest to throwaways like "Mr. President's summer palace in Peking."
Lots of bloodbags in this film, though almost no gore is shown, just bodies flying through the air or bright red pools flowing from underneath vehicles. This being a Corman film, plenty of boob shots as well, though this is pretty tame stuff for 70s drive-in fodder. The acting is a cut above typical low budget quality; costars Sly Stallone (one year before Rocky), Mary Woronov and Paul Bartels ham it up knowingly in their satirical roles.
Production value was about average for the drive-in genre, other than a matte painting of a vaguely futuristic New York and six VWs modified and themed to match their drivers' personas, this film looks like 1975. Lots of synthesizer scoring, and plenty of wide lapels and neck scarves. It's worth a look, if only to see how Corman did it before the relatively bigger budget remake comes out in the next couple of years. Cute way to kill a couple of hours.
This anniversary CD from 2005 contains the film, the theatrical trailer (which played it straight, making the film look much grimmer than it actually is), and a series of interviews with Corman and crew from the present day that detail everything from the cost cutting that drove some plot points, to the relatively progressive political conceits that formed the background. Coincidentally, the French are blamed for interfering with the race, and the film forecasts America's fascination with reality television.
Nowhere near the dystopian visions of Soylent Green or Logan's Run, but definitely more fun to watch.
Death Race 2000 is the finest example to show how easy it actually was back in the seventies to come up with a timeless cult film. Honestly, anyone could have invented an outrageously exaggerated premise like this but the fact that it was actually Roger Corman who dealt with it just proves how eminently he ruled the B-movie circuit back then. Death Race 2000 is one of the most entertaining films ever made and I, for one, can't imagine someone not loving the severely ridicule story of a coast-to-coast car race where the contesters score points by wiping pedestrians off the road. Silly, yes…but even more ingenious, flamboyant and offensive. Pure cult, in other words, and fundamental viewing for every soul who ever showed interest in extravagant film-making! The script is stuffed with imaginative findings (euthanasia day at the hospital!) and downright UNsubtle protest towards the American way of life (a factor that determines Death Race 2000 as cult even more). Considering it's a Corman production, the film also contains explicit violence, provoking messages and a truckload of sleaze! All the elements that guarantee untamed cult success! Of course it has to be said that it could have been an even better film if Corman and director Paul Bartel focused on a more proper elaboration of the versatile idea. The rivalry between Carradine and Stallone, for example, should have resulted in a more intriguing sub plot and even though DR 2000 already contains much absurdity as it is, the premise surely had potential enough to add even more sick jokes and cynical situations. David Carradine acts deliciously as always and Stallone is excellent as well. Death Race 2000 is cinema that separates the men from the boys, people! Stop exploring the cult genre in case you didn't had the time of your life watching this film.
Deathrace 2000 is the story of a cross country race, arranged by an authoritative government, in a futuristic America. The race is scored both by time and by the number and type of pedestrians killed through-out the course of the race. There are plenty of hilarious scenes and significant plot twists to keep you interested as you watch. The acting wasn't the greatest and there obviously was a limited budget when this was made, but the story more than makes up for the appearance. Deathrace 2000 is well worth owning. It is a movie that you can watch repeatedly.
I checked out a remake, coming out in the fall of 2008, and it looks like they are going to butcher it. Don't judge the original based on the remake they appear to have changed key elements of the story line, but I hope I am wrong!
Paul Bartel’s (EATING RAOUL) first film for New World Pictures is a campy, smorgasbord of over-the-top violence, political commentary and dark comedy. Not meant to be an ultra-serious film with award-winning performances but I’m a sucker for anything that’s unusually amazing.
The year is 2000, but not the actual 2000. It is a future where morals and ethics are tossed aside in favor of the annual three-day Transcontinental Death Race from New York City to New Los Angeles. The drivers of the competition are earning high points for running over innocent spectators and pedestrians but this year, things are going to be very different.
The legendary half man/half machine racer Frankenstein (as portrayed by the late David Carradine) is back behind the wheel with a diabolical revenge and a lovely blonde mechanic (Simone Griffeth) on his side. Meanwhile, a diverse group of crazy drivers are vying to beat Frankenstein to the finish line: the hotheaded thug “Machine Gun” Joe Viterbo (pre-ROCKY Sylvester Stallone), icy cowgirl Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov), tough-as-nails Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins) and flamboyant Nero the Hero (Martin Kove).
Running at an unbelievably short 78 minutes, the film contains some awesomely nice racing cars including Frankenstein’s reptilian-inspired turbo charger which is not a bad-looking car. The racer’s costumes are tacky as hell indeed, and I dare you not to laugh at Carradine’s S&M leather cat suit.
DEATH RACE 2000 is just as low budget as a Roger Corman production can be. I’m dead serious.