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David Carradine stars in this classic cult creation. Deathrace 2000 is
the 20th anniversary of the murderous trans-continental road race, or,
in the words of the US president "what you all want".
You could lose this film in the repertoire of John Carpenter. If you're a Carpenter fan, you really need to see this. Much is made of Corman's production of this film, but this is really not a Corman film in any sense - except for its very obviously low budget. Paul Bartel (of Eating Raoul fame) deserves the directorial credit here, and he really did well given the mediocrity of the material he had to work with.
Ostensibly, the film is about a race involving five participants - Frankenstein (Carradine), Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Stallone), Calamity Jane (Woronov), Mathilda the Hunn, and Nero the Hero - all of comic book stature. They are joined by navigators who double as concubines, which, I suppose, illustrates the trust and intimacy a driver must have with any partner involved in a high speed transcontinental race where the goal is to kill as many pedestrians as possible along the way. About a quarter of the way through the film, it becomes clear that the real story is about the connection between the US government, religion, mass-produced violence and a resistance movement, all focused on either promoting or ending the race once and for all. As despicable as the empowered elite may be in this film, the critique of the media is even more scathing.
Carradine is race hero Frankenstein. Sly Stallone plays his arch-rival Machine Gun Joe Viterbo, and an ensemble cast of fellow racers, media mavens, politicos, and willing and unwilling victims of "the great race" lend strong support. The acting is predictably campy and sometimes just a little too B grade. But the occasional pacing disaster just enhances the humor-value of the film. Stallone is particularly amusing, and gets great support from his sidekick. Carradine is typically bizarre, and even parodies himself with a few poorly choreographed kung fu techniques during his absurd fight scene with Stallone. As short as he is, Stallone is still a much larger and more fit man than Carradine, but gets handily whooped. The cinematographer makes no effort to hide the absurdity of this scene.
The script for this film is a series of well-delivered clichés strung together with cleverly choreographed racing action sequences. As such, it parodies tough-guy talk in films and in real life. The photography is excellent, and on par with John Carpenter's straightforward visual subtlety.
This film appears, at first blush, as a comedic celebration of violence. But it's really a very campy comment on the use of violence in sport and entertainment, as a way to distract and desensitize the public from serious issues such as economic stress, collectivist totalitarianism, the enshrinement of mediocrity, and "minority privilege" (a euphemism for rule by an entrenched powerful elite). The film is dated and does not need to be seen ten times to get it (though I just completed about my 12th viewing).
The political messages are worth hearing, the humor is worth paying attention to, and, if it's your first time, you will likely find this movie quite entertaining.
'Death Race 2000', like 'Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls', 'The Omega Man', 'Repo Man' and 'Rock'n'Roll High School', is one of those dependable all time favourite trash classics that I watch regularly and never fail to get a smile out of. Anytime you're down just put 'Death Race 200' on and you're guaranteed to be cheered up! Directed by the late Paul Bartel ('Eating Raoul', 'Lust In The Dust')), co-produced by b-grade legend Roger Corman ('Bloody Mama', 'House Of Usher'), and co-written by Charles Griffith ('The Wild Angels', 'Little Shop Of Horrors'), this is simply one of the most enjoyable and entertaining exploitation movies of all time. The setting is the near future where a totalitarian regime keep the populace happy with a violent and extremely popular sport of hit and run car racing. The champion of the people is Frankenstein (David Carradine - 'Boxcar Bertha', 'Q') who has to race against a flamboyant group of rivals, led by his mortal enemy Machine-Gun Joe Viterbo (Sly Stallone!) who is intent on knocking him off the top. The other drivers include such cult figures as Mary Woronov ('Chopping Mall'), Roberta Collins ('Caged Heat'), Martin Kove ('The Karate Kid'), Leslie McRae ('Blood Orgy Of The She Devils') and Fred Grandy ('The Love Boat'). This is a rip roarin' non-stop action-packed black comedy that is an absolute hoot! I can't recommend this one highly enough. Essential viewing!
Death Race parodies so many things it's hard to know where to begin. America-centrism (the government blame the French for everything), professional sports, pro wrestling (the drivers are badly acted "theme" types), Big Brother, and just about everything else you could name. At the same time it panders to the blood lust of the audience with cartoon violence. Sylvester Stallone is hilarious as a driver with the mannerisms of a 30's gangster, practicing on his accent for the Rocky movies. A must -see.
In a dystopian future, a cross country automobile race requires
contestants to run down innocent pedestrians to gain points that are
tallied based on each kills brutality. Starring David Carradine and
When I was younger and my family would go for a drive, my father would often make the remark that if he swerved and hit someone, it would be worth twenty points. In my youth, I never really understood where he picked it up from, but now I think it is safe to say that "Death Race 2000" was his source.
While this movie is fairly cheesy, it is fun in a way most other films simply are not. I would not even call it a "dark comedy" because the violence is not dark, it is just campy. Beverly Gray calls it "comically macabre".
There is some strong underlying message about American values that could be interpreted differently by different people: is America an inherently violent nation? Or are we a nation trying to maximize our freedoms? (This dispute comes into play when "rebels" show up who wish to end the race and restore the old America.) What is interesting is that Corman was known to be anti-authority, so he should be saying that this race is barbaric. Yet, he clearly understands that the viewer enjoys the death scenes... without them, the film would be nothing. What does this say about us, or about him?
Stallone has a surprisingly small role, despite being the secondary character. He does not speak much and seems to be in the movie for no other reason than to use violence against women. In the vernacular, he "keeps his pimp hand strong".
David Carradine, who never busts out many a karate move in this film, is the real hero. He plays the race's most popular character ("Frankenstein") who has allegedly been pieced back together year after year. His bondage gear outfit and smooth Carradine attitude make him a clear favorite for movie viewers, as well.
All in all, this film is a cult classic and deserves to be. Corman wanted to compete with "Rollerball" (1975) for a fraction of the cost, so he purchased Ib Melchoir's "The Racer" and went from there. I think he succeeded. I do not know how much money each film made, but I know of nobody today who is out there calling "Rollerball" the better film.
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.
Just exactly when bad taste ceases to be funny and becomes plainly
cruel is a personal thing. However I have tried this film on a few
friends and they did not enjoy it. That said I had rented the old VHS
from the art-house vid shop 3 times before purchasing a cheap DVD copy
when it popped up.
Personally I thought some of this was laugh out loud funny and other parts frankly embarrassing to watch.
I highly recommend Deathrace 2000 but take no responsibility should you decide to watch it! Tim
'Mad Max' meets the 'Running Man' and they both drive over miss Daisy.
'Death Race 2000' is a disconcerting smithereen job, but also fun. It is
unprobable to say the least: 'Frankenstein' as the embodiment of national
virtue? Nice thought over a dose of mescaline maybe. With unbelievable
music too. Everything seems 2 B possible: ethical correct splatter
comedies? You've got it. The acting in this supposed SF (caricatures of
the immoral society of the future) is absolutely horrible (apart from
Carradine and Griffeth). Add some black humor and non-existing emotions and
you have Death Race 2000: the obscure cult flick in which Sly gets slapped
around some as driver Machine-Gun Joe Viterbo. And retrospectively one of
his best roles, besides 'First Blood' and 'Rocky'.
Luckily there was room in the rating for some graphical splatter and nudity, which is why this has become a cult movie. And fat chance the uncut version will be banned where I live. It is more than questionable if the story is really about the fear of America becoming that chauvinistic and drenched in bloodlust. I get the impression that most of it is just a glorification of violence. But in a more thoroughly humorous way than e.g. Wild Bunch (1969) et al. Imagine the American president has a summer house in Peking, or driver Mathilda the Hun has a nazi-navigator Herman the German...
DR2k was appropriately filmed by the great cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (Badlands, Silence of the lambs, Sixth Sense, and last but not least Ferris Bueller's day off). Good for Paul Bartel that he made Death Race 2000 before George Miller made Mad Max (1978), because it would have been a completely obsolete cartoon otherwise: something like Evil Knievel vs Dick Dastardly. Nevertheless DR2k is quite enjoyable. This movie may be inspired by 'the Cars that ate Paris' (Weir, 1974) and seemed to have inspired 'Carmageddon' (VG) and Mad Max of course. Guys, it's been real. Jesus Chrysler, I'd almost rate this 6/10.
Every once in a while, Roger Corman, "a dear friend of mine" ;=8), comes out with a little gem among the tons of coal he produces every year, and "DR2K" is one of them. Kind of a poor-man's "Roller Ball", "DR2K" is about the ultimate in New America's blood sport in a fascist "near-future", with David Carradine("Kung Fu")as the anti-hero Frankenstein. Produced by Corman, and directed by Paul Bartell("Eating Raoul"), the film is fast-paced, blackly humorous, and well-made. Unlike many Corman cheapies, the stark, spartan setting of "DR2K" only adds to the bleak atmosphere, where Mr. President rules from overseas, and old folks are routinely euthanized as part of the game. The game, in this case, being the Transcontinental Road Race where anything goes, and where pedestrians are run over and assigned kill points. Carradine plays a darkly foreboding Frankenstein, so-called because of the many limbs he has lost as a result of running the Death Race. A pre-"Rocky" Sylvester Stallone is grand as Machine-Gun Joe Viterbo, Frankenstein's arch-rival. Also stars Mary Woronov("Eating Raoul", "Rock & Roll High School")as Calamity Jane, Roberta Collins("Eaten Alive", "Hardbodies")delightful as Matilda the Hun, and 60's DJ Don Steele as a mincing little announcer. One of Corman's many little social cowmentaries, this one about the all-too American obsession for violence and sports; thankfully he allows Bartell to deftly and briskly direct. Still, it's a fairly low-budget affair; pedetrians get crushed, and things git blowed up real good, but it only makes you wonder what the film cud have been with a larger budget. Oh well, at least there isn't a giant evil pickle from Venus in this one... The MooCow says this Guilty Pleasure is definitely rentable, so just yell "Blitzkrieg!" and fire up that vcr!! :
The B-film industry was once a thriving staple of Hollywood, with
directors of all walks and ideals being able to make a film as long as
they could raise the cash. Roger Corman, a producer and director among
many other things, is one embodiment of the independent spirit.
Producing over three hundred films in his career, his name is virtually
synonymous with B-level schlock, and it is his productions that have
given many of today's major stars their start. In fact, you will find
three very familiar faces gracing Death Race 2000. Death Race 2000 is
one of his more extravagant productions, but do not let that fool you.
Even in 1975, the three hundred thousand dollars he spent on Death Race
2000 would have equaled lunch money on The Godfather Part II, released
the previous year on a comparatively lavish budget of thirteen million
dollars. While I like both films equally, Death Race 2000 impresses me
more simply because it manages to entertain me from start to finish
without spending enough money to fund an emergency ward for a month.
Death Race 2000's plot is simple enough. Five drivers in customised cars drive across a repressive American dictatorship, starting on the East Coast before making their way to New Los Angeles. Along the way, they may run over any pedestrians for certain scores. Rather than simply being the first to cross the finish line, the winner is he who can accumulate more points than the others. It is this critical difference compared to other racing films from which much of the comedy is derived. Those who have seen the film before will remember Euthanasia Day with a lot of fondness, and the utter incompetence of the resistance movement is hilarious in itself. But the real comedy derives from the individual drivers and their personalities. By far the most normal driver in the competition is Calamity Jane, a woman with a cowgirl fetish and metallic bullhorns on the front of her car. Coming next is Nero The Hero, who will look very familiar to viewers of The Karate Kid. His whole shtick revolves around being a Roman Gladiator, but the film does not really give him enough time to develop it.
Things get really interesting with racer number three, Matilda The Hun. Sporting Nazi symbolism and screaming "Blitzkrieg" whenever she scores a pedestrian, she is the least subtle indication that the makers had their tongues firmly in their cheeks during the creation of the film. Next are the two big rivals in the competition. Sylvester Stallone plays "Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo like a cranky adolescent who has snorted too much cocaine. There is literally nothing on the road he will not kill, and Stallone's trademark slurred speech suits the character to a T. But the real star of the story is Frankenstein, the other previous race winner and a friend of the President. David Carradine plays Frankenstein like a C-grade Darth Vader, delivering much of the comedy. His diversion on Euthanasia Day and the moment where he kicks Stallone's butt are worth watching the film for by themselves. Learning about why he wants to win the race, and what he will do in order to accomplish it, are hilarious in and of themselves. You can sort of see why Carradine and Stallone went on to become headlining stars whilst Kove enjoyed a brief career as the lead villain.
Death Race 2000 is as dated as hell, let's not kid ourselves. The matte painting of the starting race track is more obvious than an undone bluescreen effect. The blood is so fake that it looks pink at times. The editing makes it very confusing to see how one is getting run over, or who is punching whom during the aforementioned Carradine/Stallone altercation. On the other hand, its story of a dictatorship America that uses sport as an opiate for the masses, its portrayal of the media, and its depiction of blind obedience are timeless. They are even more relevant thirty years on than when the film first premiered. I like to think of the incompetent resistance movement as an indictment of the fact that we would have a better government if we had a credible or even opposing opposition. Seventy-nine minutes is too short a time to go into these political subplots at all, but that Death Race 2000 touches on them at all when far more serious and lengthy films made years later cannot even consider them is a credit to Corman and his company. Death Race 2000 is one of those films that should be preserved in a time capsule for the edification of future generations.
I gave Death Race 2000 a seven out of ten. Were I making it today, there are a few things I would do differently. The television segments would have been filmed using video or line removal rather than a camera at a television screen, for instance. Balancing this out, however, is the fact that so many of the shots are so effectively composed that it is no wonder Tak Fujimoto went on to become a multi-award-winning Hollywood cinematographer. In short, if you have not seen Death Race 2000 yet, then grab the new Roger Corman Classics DVD. It will be the best B-film, in fact one of the best films period, you will see all year.
This film received one of the ultimate compliments: they made it into a pinball machine (a good one, too) and it's probably one of two subjects Sylvester Stallone wishes would go away! Fred Grandy is probably glad his role isn't as prominent. Actually, as a movie, it's pretty decent. I enjoyed it myself. Mary Woronov did a great job and most of the other leads are good as well. Stop the proceedings, Oscars for everyone! Worth watching.
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