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For decades 'Death Race 2000' has existed as an abstract image in my
mind. A dark, violent piece of dystopian 70s sci-fi that was perhaps
best left unseen. Imagine my surprise when the sadistic bug-a-boo
turned out to be a humorous romp.
Though 'Death Race 2000' is filled with brutal, sadistic acts, it's all done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. This isn't the sort of self serious dystopian sci-fi of 'THX-1138' or 'Soylent Green'. Is there commentary here? Yeah, sort of. But it chooses to tickle with it rather than bludgeon.
Filled with beautiful women, non-stop action and wonderful scene chewing performances, 'Death Race 2000' is a fun little romp. Never thought I'd be saying that.
"Death Race 2000" is adrenaline-charged fun, a fast paced, funny,
satirical, and bloody sci-fi action picture loaded with political
commentary and a cast of B movie icons to die for. Produced by the
legendary Roger Corman and directed with gusto by the late Paul Bartel
("Eating Raoul"), it has a wicked sense of humour and also benefits
from a bunch of colourful characters and their equally colourful cars.
It hits the ground running and rarely lets up, with a particularly
It's the future (at least, the future as it was envisioned in 1975), and a no holds barred, brutal cross county car race known as the Transcontinental Road Race is the national sport. The points are scored by running down pedestrians. This sport is used by a totalitarian government to keep its violence-hungry population satisfied. The star of the race is the peoples' champion, Frankenstein (David Carradine), who has had various body parts replaced over the years. His chief rival is the foul tempered Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (a hilarious, scene stealing Sylvester Stallone). Competing against them are Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov), Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins), and Nero the Hero (Martin Kove). Seeking to put an end to the race are a group of rebels known as The Resistance.
Carradine is lots of fun as the cynical Frankenstein, although Stallone is the one who really walks off with the movie. Simone Griffeth is lovely as Frankensteins' new navigator, Annie; she, Woronov, Collins, and the always cute Louisa Moritz all make for fine eye candy. Adding to the entertainment value are other familiar faces such as Don Steele (a riot as annoying announcer Junior Bruce), Joyce Jameson, Fred Grandy, and Leslie McRay. (Look for John Landis in a bit part as a mechanic.) Director Bartel has an uncredited cameo as a doctor.
"Death Race 2000" is full of high speed action, explosions, and a genuinely interesting script by Robert Thom and Charles B. Griffith, based on the story "The Racer" by Ib Melchior. It does make us consider our own appetites for destruction while sating them at the same time. It may strike viewers as being dated in some ways, but it has an undeniable campy and cheesy charm going for it, making it hard to resist, and entertaining to revisit on a regular basis.
Nine out of 10.
In a dystopian near-future, The United Provinces (as America is now
known) is ruled by a despotic president who has developed a
bloodthirsty 'opiate for the masses': Death Race, a televised
transcontinental car race in which the drivers collect points by
killing pedestrians. As the five cold-blooded contestants battle it out
on the open roads between New York and New Los Angeles, a group of
political activists attempt to bring an end to the event by any means
Don't be put off by the crappy opening title graphics that look like they've been rendered in colouring crayon by a ten year old: produced by movie legend Roger Corman and directed by Paul 'Eating Raoul' Bartel, Death Race 2000 is a thoroughly entertaining cult classic that no fan of drive-in/exploitation cinema should pass on. A masterclass in how to make the absolute most of a minimal budget, this fast-paced film packs a surprising amount into its tight 80 minute runtime: outrageous graphic violence, imaginative design (the customised vehicles and crazy characters looking like something out of a seriously warped Wacky Racers cartoon), wanton sleaze and nudity, clever political satire, cruel black humour, and loads of bonkers high-speed race action (the likes of which would influence George Miller on his hugely successful Mad Max movies).
The film also benefits from an excellent cast: David Carradine, the perfect choice to play surly race champion Frankenstein (I came face-to-face with the actor a couple of times and he was just as unapproachable in real life); a young Sly Stallone as Frankenstein's main rival, uncouth hoodlum Machine Gun Joe Viterbo; sexy Simone Griffeth, as Frank's navigator Annie, whose stunning looks and figure would make it hard for me to keep my eyes on the road; cult favourite Mary Woronov as sassy driver Calamity Jane; and Martin 'Karate Kid' Kove, as Nero the Hero, the terrorist's first victim. With a cool line-up like that, a good time is almost guaranteed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Death Race 2000" seems like it was tailor-made for the midnight movie
crowd. Gonzo is the word that comes to mind. You can't help but chuckle
at some of the gleeful violence in such a roughly hewn movie, and the
acting herein varies from wooden to cheesy (and a big draw is watching
Stallone ham it up in that hair). Not to mention David Carradine in the
bondage Darth Vader getup.
It's all too ridiculous and that's its charm. Like watching the love child of "Cannonball Run", "The Running Man" and "Mad Max". Which really doesn't seem doable anywhere else but on paper; but here, it works.
I avoided DEATH RACE 2000 for a long time because I thought it would be
too violent and sadistic just like the remake with Jason Statham. But I
figured that since it was made in the 70s it couldn't be that bad. And
it isn't. Special effects have gotten much better. The blood in the
remake looks real. Anybody can tell that the blood here is fake. The
violence is also quite minimal. I mean, there's a scene where a guy's
head gets crushed under a car tire but trust me, it really isn't as
gory as it sounds.
The movie is only around 75 minutes long, which is as long as it needed to be. There really aren't any scenes that I thought were unnecessary. I really liked the story and the political commentary. The action scenes were pretty good for a movie that cost just $300,000 (around $1.5 million in today's money) to make. I still can't get over the fact that this spectacular (and I promise I'm not using that word sarcastically) movie was made for only that much money. (By the way, I didn't give this movie 10 stars for being good AND inexpensive, just for being good. I'm just saying that the fact that it was inexpensive is amazing given how good it is.)
Anyway, another thing that I really liked about this movie is that it is really funny. I don't want to give any specific examples since DR2K is so short and it's best if you watch it without knowing much about it, but there are some scenes that might seem sadistic at first but really aren't.
This isn't a movie that takes itself too seriously, which I really liked. Here's the thing. Every dystopian movie has an absurd premise. I can't think of a single one that doesn't. So why are they so serious? (There are maybe a few exceptions, like LOGAN'S RUN, which is somewhat serious but not excessively so.) Take THE HUNGER GAMES for example. It's so serious but, ultimately, the premise is quite ridiculous. The makers of DEATH RACE 2000 knew they were making a movie with a droll premise and apparently didn't hesitate to make it lighthearted and humorous. I thought it was hilarious how Matilda the Hun, the Nazi driver, yelled "Blitzkrieg!" every time she ran someone over. Sylvester Stallone as "Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo has some really great lines such as "You lousy stinking dirtball. You've got two seconds to live!"
I can't believe that the late Roger Ebert gave this movie 0/4 stars. That was another reason why I avoided this movie for quite a long time. Now don't get me wrong, I really liked reading his reviews and I agreed with his opinions on many of the movies that he reviewed. But go read his short review of DR2K:
It's really not a review of the film itself. It's more of a criticism of movie theaters that don't enforce MPAA ratings.
DEATH RACE 2000 is one of the most entertaining movies I've ever seen. You might think it's a movie that's so bad it's good but it's not. It's just good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Actually, that's not quite fair. The movie itself is far from trash,
although there is a lot that's trashy about it. But it makes a good
sound bite, no? :-)
As I write this, there are already 130 reviews of DR2K on IMDb. What could I add? With that many reviews in the hopper already, this is a vanity review. Oh well. Here's my take:
This is cheap B-movie fare, but it reminds me of the Beatles in that its greatness stems from a nexus of circumstances unlikely to ever occur again. Everything came together here to make a really outstanding B-movie, and the trashiness adds to the fun (for those who let it). DR2K has wicked tongue-in-cheek fun while also throwing at us gratuitous nudity and slapstick violence, and always keeping us guessing at what in the world is coming next. I think only the 1970s could produce a movie like this; we grew up too much after that, and everything is too self-aware and self-conscious now to do this sort of zealous, devil-may-care schlock any more.
It's a bit like Mel Brooks at his best, but doing it on a shoestring budget. This sort of production only works if everyone believes in it enough to put enthusiasm into their work, because it sure isn't going to make it on production value. Thankfully, in this case, they got terrific, spirited performances from just about everyone involved. (That's not to say that the acting was top-notch, just that it was lively and kept things moving and entertaining.) There's no mystery why some hate the film; you need a sardonic sense of humor and a tolerance for low budget antics. Those without should watch something else. For the rest of us this is a real gem.
Simone Griffeth is enchanting in this movie, both for her beauty and seductiveness as well as for providing much of the best real acting; I find myself wishing she'd found a lot more success later. She seemed to have everything one could want in a rising starlet, but I don't think I've ever seen her before. The other gals are lovely as well; plenty of good B-movie eye candy, just as it should be, and they don't just sit there, they really get into their roles, as the guys do too.
*** MILD SPOILER: *** what other movie offers you, with as straight a face as anything else in the film, a line like "Mr. and Mrs. President Frankenstein"??!? LOL!!
If you're up for some campy fun and dark humor, don't miss DR2K!
David Carradine plays legendary driver "Frankenstein" who runs the
annual cross-country race in the future year 2000(!) which is televised
to a nation of oppressed citizens for their entertainment(very much
like the Roman Empire) There are no rules, since the goal is for the
racers to rack up points by hitting as many pedestrians as possible,
some of whom willingly sacrifice themselves, and others who don't seem
to have a clue what's going on...
Violent but funny film has a carefully controlled performance by David Carradine, and many flamboyant ones from the others(including Martin Kove and Sylvester Stallone) Carradine must deal with treachery from his co-pilot, who is part of a resistance movement meant to overthrow the president, who no longer lives in the country.
Effective satire offsets the graphic violence, and chase scenes are well staged, leading to a most satisfying(and ironic) end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the Dystopian future of 2000 various race car drivers participate in
a no-holds-barred cross country competition in which points are scored
by running over pedestrians. Weary reigning champion Frankenstein
(excellently played with perfect stoical cynicism by David Carradine)
is bound and determined to win. Vicious 30's mobster-style rival
"Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo (a pre-stardom Slyvestor Stallone gleefully
sending up his own macho musclehead persona) gives Frankenstein a major
run for his money. Meanwhile, a group of political activists try to
stop the race and overthrow the current totalitarian government.
Director Paul Bartel brings his customary wickedly warped and engagingly loopy tongue-in-cheek sensibility to the gloriously crazy premise, maintains a brisk pace throughout, and delivers plenty of over-the-top gory carnage and a pleasing smattering of tasty female nudity. The fiercely barbed and acidic script by Robert Thom and Charles B. Griffith pokes spot-on subversive fun at fascist politicians, cruelty as entertainment, inept revolutionaries, mindless fan worship, the duplicitous and manipulative media (all the resistance army's attacks are blamed on the French!), and America's wholehearted affinity for extreme violence. The first-rate B-flick cast play the darkly humorous material with tremendous lip-smacking gusto: the delectable Simone Griffeth as Frankenstein's luscious navigator Annie Smith, Mary Woronov as sassy'n'sexy cowgirl Calamity Jane, the always delightful Roberta Collins as fiery Swastika sweetheart Matilda the Hun ("Blitzkrieg!"), Martin Kove as the vain, preening, and effeminate Nero the Hero, Don "The Real" Steele as obnoxious reporter Junior Bruce, Joyce Jameson as obsequious commentator Grace Pander, Louisa Moritz as the ditsy Myra, Harriet Medin as passionate old lady resistance leader Thomasina Paine, and Sandy McCallum as the smarmy Mr. President. Moreover, this movie offers a wealth of choice sidesplitting campy and occasionally downright bizarre moments: skinny Carradine giving brawny Stallone a severe clobbering, a heated catfight between Matilda the Hun and Calamity Jane, Calamity Jane facing off with a matador, a devout female admirer willingly sacrificing herself for Frankenstein, a bunch of greasers playing a dangerous game of chicken, and Viterbo mowing down his own pit crew. Tak Fujimoto's bright cinematography gives the picture an impressive polished look. Paul Chihara's funky jazzoid score hits the right-on groovy spot. Plus you gotta love a film with the astonishing audacity to kill off both a priest and the President of the United States. Totally worthy of its substantial cult status.
Delicious trashy and politically incorrect cult-classic! Action-packed, dated B-movie sci-fi schlock with crazy vintage car designs! And it also has several bloody/splattery road-kills and occasional sleazy nudity scenes. Hilarious concept too: a race were you can score the most points by roadkilling children and senior citizens! Black comedy, political satire, road-movie nonsense, great fun! If you haven't seen this one yet, then seek it out and have a laugh with Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine acting cool as ever. The recent "Death Race" (2008, that started out under the working title "Death Race 3000") is quite a bit of adrenaline- & testosterone-fueled fun too, but should not be looked at as a re-make of this film. It's more like a homage/wink to video racing games, really, nothing more.
Determines how long you live in this nationally televised futuristic auto-race that sees drivers running down pedestrians for points before they take the checker flag. They don't make' em like this anymore just look at the recent remake. This Roger Corman produced cheapie is stellar b-grade entertainment from to start to finish with its daringly inventive concept, despite its minimalist framing. A hilarious pitch-black and deranged satire (everyone has a taste for violence!) where nobody is safe from the onslaught --- fans, militants, politics, media and the participants come to blows. Watching it, it is easy to see why it's hailed as a cult favourite, because it truly hit's the mark with blazing force and snappy remarks. Along for the brutally roaring cross-country race in their gimmicky sports cars is an assortment of colorfully spicy personalities delivered by a terrific cast; David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone, Simone Griffeth, Roberta Collins, Mary Woronov and Martin Kove. Director Paul Bartel (yep the actor) does a pleasing, economical job with his low-budget resources, as comic-book madness is ensured with its flashy pace, murderously unpleasant streak (where it doesn't shy away from some graphic aftermaths) and exploitative tongue-in-cheek script. The playful score is fitting too. It's in bad taste, but so much fun.
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