In the near future, a nasty cross-country car race is one of the most watched sporting events. Frankenstein (David Carradine, The Long Riders), a grotesquely scarred racer, is a fan favorite. Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone, Rocky) is his nemesis. Drivers get extra point for killing pedestrians. In the meantime, rebel rousers conspire to overthrow the totalitarian regime.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Camp is a dead art form. Today’s film industry has positively lost its sense of humor. You either get dark and gritty, or snarky and stupid. But there was a time when camp was the butter and bread of the movie industry. Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 is an ancient artifact from times long gone that effectively blends gore, action and social satire. And it uses its small budget smartly.
Although there is no indication that Death Race 2000 wants to be anything more than mindless entertainment (this is, after all, a Roger Corman production), it does make some interesting points about politics, religion and pop culture. It also anticipates the future emergence of the monster called reality TV.
For such a low-budget film, it looks pretty good. The production design is delightfully daffy. Tak Fujimoto’s camera work is terrific (he is better known for shooting Jonathan Demmne’s mainstream hits Something Wild, Married to the Mob and The Silence of the Lambs). Celebrated sound designer Ben Burtt (Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark) created the sound effects. I loved the matte work too.
Carradine and Sly are hilarious (Stallone allegedly wrote most of his own dialogue) — the success of the film led to better and bigger things. Blink and you’ll miss directors Lewis Teague (Cujo), Charles B. Griffith (Up from the Depths), and John Landis (An American Werewolf in London). With Mary Woronov (Silent Night, Bloody Night), Roberta Collins (Caged Heat), and Simone Griffeth.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
This is a fun B-movie. Grab the popcorn and enjoy. Death Race 2000 was remade in 2008. Color, 80 minutes, Rated R.
Followed by Deathsport (1978)