Death Race 2000
In the year 2000 hit and run driving is no longer a felony. It's the national sport!
Year of Release: 1975
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Running Time: 78 minutes (1:18)
Director: Paul Bartel
David Carradine ... Frankenstein
Simone Griffeth ... Annie Smith
Sylvester Stallone ... Machine Gun Joe Viterbo
Mary Woronov ... Calamity Jane
Roberta Collins ... Matilda the Hun
Martin Kove ... Nero the Hero
Louisa Moritz ... Myra
Don Steele ... Junior Bruce
Joyce Jameson ... Grace Pander
Carle Bensen ... Harold
Sandy McCallum ... Mr. President
Paul L. Ehrmann ... Special Agent
Harriet Medin ... Thomasina Paine
Fred Grandy ... Herman the German
William Shephard ... Pete
Leslie McRay ... Cleopatra
John Landis ... Mechanic
Paul Bartel ... Frankenstein's Doctor (uncredited)
Lewis Teague ... Toreador (uncredited)
Welcome to the year 2000, now a place plagued by a lack of morals and political unrest. The only thing that society looks forward to is the three-day Transcontinental Death Race, a high-speed competition that is won by the driver who collects the most points by killing spectators and pedestrians. But this year the drivers have something to worry about other than getting killed by rival contestants: there is a group of anti-race activists trying to stop the race for good. The games all-time champion, Frankenstein (David Carradine), takes on such colorful characters as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone), Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov), Nero The Hero (Martin Kove) and Matilda The Hun (Roberta Collins) in this dark comedy-science fiction classic directed by Paul Bartel ( Eating Raoul).
Death Race 2000, the movie that reminds us that no matter how much time passes, serial killers still make the panties drop. Lindsay Lohan loves this movie. Her lawyers will likely advise her to plead insanity on this one, but if I know Lindsay like I think I do, she'll go for the Carradine defense. It's completely air tight. All she's gotta do is convince the judge that she HAS to run over people, because it's for the greater good. Try to stay with me on this one, it may seem insane, but I'm going somewhere. She's only gotta kill enough people to score the necessary points to win. Sometimes the surgeon has to cut to cure, you follow? Then when she wins an gets up on stage to shake Obama's hand... BAM! In a final act that will long be remembered in the annals of mankind, she will have avenged fellow hit and run artist Amanda Bynes. Obama really should have just helped Amanda out when she asked nicely, but he go'n get it now, cause vehicular menaces to society look out for their own, and when they swallow their pride to the point that they're willing to let the president help them out, and the president doesn't? Shit gets real, real quick. Then, and only then, can she get the world to truly understand her situation. At least I think that was the point of the movie, I get distracted sometimes when there's this many breasts. In any event, I'm sure everything will work out fine for Lindsay, and if you adhere to the lessons Roger Corman, The King of the Drive-In, has graciously decided to impart unto us in this, Death Race 2000, I'm sure everything will work out fine for you as well. First, an you'd think this would be pretty obvious, but it just goes to show that there are some people for whom nothing is obvious; If you're part of a pit crew an you can't restrain yourself from ridiculing your extremely surly driver, do keep in mind that most cars have a reverse feature. Second an third, as this one's a two parter, some people are just too stupid to live. Who goes out in public on the day of the trans continental death race? The race whose scoring system is based heavily upon who can get the most sets of dentition embedded in the grille of their racer. These people deserve to die. Period.
The follow up portion for this is, why are there always people trying to protect these imbeciles? This is how natural selection WORKS. As long as there are well intentioned bleeding hearts putting "do not eat" labels on Ginsu knives an forcing birth control advertisers to point out that the pills don't protect against HIV, these morons are going to not only continue to roam the earth, but they're going to OVERRUN US. If they'd just lay off with this nonsense for 20 years or so, this problem would completely solve itself. Call me callous if you like, but you've obviously never been in line at the grocery store an seen someone lacking sufficient funds have to choose between beer an baby formula. It's never a difficult decision. But what I'd like to discuss is something of a sadder nature. I refer of course, to the star of the movie, David Carradine, and his untimely death at the hands of... whatever it was he had around his neck while he was rubbing his rhubarb. The worst thing about it is that the signs were all there for anyone to see. Just look at the way he's dressed in this movie. The man looks like Darth Vader visiting an S&M club for fuck's sake. The guy's dressed in a gimp suit here, and no one finds this odd. I suppose given how the rest of the drivers in the movie are dressed, maybe it doesn't quite stand out the way it would normally, but still. You'd think SOMEONE would have noticed that he needed a choker to shoot his sex scenes with Simone Griffeth. Now I'd never imply that the King of the Drive-In, Roger Corman knew about this an did nothing to stop it. He's generally working on five movies at once an he can only do so much. But I think someone knew about this problem Dave had an never intervened, just to avoid being called a buzz kill. An I hope that person is suffering from debilitating guilt right now. I suppose I'm as much to blame as anyone else, I didn't see it either. Or maybe I did an just let it go. Maybe I figured he knew what he was doing an that everything would be fine. But wherever Dave is now, I hope they've got a camera hidden in his bedroom and are keeping a close eye on him so this doesn't happen again. We miss ya big guy.
The movie begins with a pair of news correspondents in what appears to be Oceania, doing introductions for the five greatest vehicular manslaughterers that Air Strip One has to offer. It seems the world has fallen into such a state that the country has finally realized that baseball is excruciating to watch, and that people need more action in their entertainment. These five drivers supply that action. We've got Frankenstein, a man that's been blown up an maimed to the point that he's been through more medical procedures an transplants to stay on the starting lineup than Dick Cheney. Matilda the Hun, who's no Ilse: She Wolf of the SS, but still pretty hot and equally anti-semetic in her Nazi regalia. Nero the Hero, who you know is one of the baddest asses of them all when you realize he's played by the heel from Karate Kid that tells his students to "sweep the leg." Calamity Jane, the spit fire cowgirl that likes to go Buffalo Bill on people when they're not lookin'. An "Machine Gun" Joe, the Paisan that hates Frankenstein so much that he whips out his tommygun an unloads a belt full of ammo into Frank's fan base before the race even starts. From here it's just a matter of Big Brother coming over the telescreen an reminding everyone what a swell guy he is for making this race possible, an they're off, Roger Corman style. No build up, no bullshit. Bad news for Big Brother though, cause there's a resistance group that thinks the race is barbaric an that running over people for fun is uncouth and uncivilized, an they've got one of their own masquerading as Frankenstein's navigator. The navigator is basically the person that tells the driver where to go an boffs them when they're not driving. It's kinda like husband/wife truck driving teams, but with attractive people. So his navigator (Annie) figures that since she's gonna have to sit an spin she'd kinda like to see what he looks like under his gimp suit. Turns out he's not mutilated beyond recognition an really only suffers from bad 70s hair. So while this is happening, Machine Gun (we'll call him Sly) is scoring the first points by mowing down a hapless road worker an getting his bug guard all covered with Chef Boyardee colored viscera. Elsewhere, Jane's cornered a matador that seems to have gotten lost on his way to Pamplona an when he tries to take the bull by the horns he gets the ole antler enema. Then Frank an Annie head towards "outside time" at a nearby old folks home an pretty quick there's so many airborne nurses an orderlies that R. Kelly drops by an starts belting out "I Believe I can Fly."
In still another location, Nero's attempt at making human speed bumps out of a Boy Scout troop hasn't panned out so he has to cut his losses an try to salvage the time he's lost on a family having a picnic. Or at least it looks like a family picnic, only when he parks on top of the baby, what must be either a man in drag or Joanie Laurer blows up the plastic baby bomb an Nero goes to the big Roman orgy in the sky. Then the head of the resistance breaks in over the airwaves like in They Live an tells the masses they've got this race by the cajones an it's just a matter of time before they bring it to a screeching halt. Back over with Sly, he spots a couple guys hanging up a Frankenstein banner an he runs over the nearest guy like an elderly woman at the front of the line on Black Friday. At this point, they call the race for the day so all the drivers an navigators can lay around nekkid showing off their assets while they're pampered by masseuses. Then Sly has to sock his navigator for talkin' to Frankenstein while he was off talkin' to Annie. Then Frank an Annie go back to their room an waltz until that gets boring an he gives her the Frankenweenie. The next morning, the race resumes after a blessing by the future Pope, only Frank doesn't like his preachy attitude an has to circle back an turn him into the Arch DIED-ocese. Now Sly's mega pissed cause he's kind of a chunkhead an never thought of trying something that underhanded. After further review, Frank is in fact given the points for killing the future Pope, which turns Sly into a seething cauldron of Italian rage an he has to turn some greasers into oversized hood ornaments to calm down. Back over on Frank's route, la resistance has setup a trap for him. But he just sails over it an gets real mad when he sees a guy wearing the same gimp suit he's in an has to run him over to avoid any possible humiliation. Can you imagine how it'd look if he showed up at the finish line wearing the same outfit as somebody else? Not gonna happen. An Frank knows something's up but Annie plays dumb, which is about as much of a stretch as Calista Flockhart in spandex. So he makes her drive for awhile to see if her heart's really in this thing. When she deliberately swerves to miss Ron Howard, Frank knows she's phony an makes her tell him where the resistance compound is an from there she just spills her guts about the whole plan. Seems the other guy in the gimp suit was supposed to replace Frank an give an ultimatum to the president at the race's conclusion. Either abolish the race, or the old lady in charge of the resistance does a strip tease.
Elsewhere, Sly decides to take the route Annie suggested to him the night before an it seems she may have misled him about some things. Like that the bridge was completed. So Sly asks a bumpkin how to get back the freeway, only the bumpkin thinks he's Frankenstein an Sly has to drive down the creek after the hayseed until he's sleeping with the fishes. Ironically, they were on his own stringer that he wasn't about to let go of. Back on the road, Jane's having a little car trouble an she's got her navigator under it taking a looksee, only about that time Matilda comes along an leaves a skid mark across his face an Jane comes unglued an tries to catch up to Matilda so she can start circling the station wagons. But just ahead those zany, Wile E. Coyote-esque resistance guys have setup a phony detour through what looks like a railroad tunnel, but it's really more of a cardboard mockup, an Matilda takes the road less traveled until she reunites with the big Gestapo in the sky. That evening, what's left of the contestants sit at the dinner table with Big Brother's #2 that looks a lot like Fez from That 70's Show an Fez tells 'em they're all being big babies an that it's no big deal that their competitors are being picked off like Ham on a Jewish pizza. So president Big Brother goes on the air an tells everyone that it's those dirty Frenchmen sabotaging their beloved race an ruining their economy an spitting when they talk that're to blame for Oceania being a big toilet an that they should all hate them. Then Sly gets fed up an finds Annie at Frank's car an puts the strangulation on her until Frank shows up an as if this movie wasn't surreal enough, we now have to watch Rocky get beaten up by David Carradine while bad 70s club music plays in the background. So Frank an Annie go back to their room an Frank tells Annie the big secret, which is that he's basically the Dread Pirate Roberts an that every race there's a new Frankenstein cause the old one keeps dying of horrendous bodily trauma. So the next morning, on the last day of the race Sly hears his own pit crew heckling his eye bandage an pops Machine Gun Kelly into reverse an caves their groins in with his rear bumper until they can sing like Tiny Tim. Up ahead on the track, some more resistance dorks have setup a land mine for Jane an try to steer her into it, only they hit like dessicated elderly women with the flu an she sends them all careening off the hillside an stops just short of the mine. But when she positions herself to turn around, she hits it an her Bullmobile gets B-B-Q'd. So we're down to Frankenstein, Sly and a lot of cartoonish resistance forces to determine who is a bad enough dude to meet the president at the finish line.
Text book Drive-In movie, and a lot of fun. Of course, with Corman, you already expect that before even going in. What you may not expect if you're not looking at a DVD cover that's desperate to sell copies to people who've never heard of it, are big name stars. Their stars were a lot smaller then, but big names none the less. Corman's probably never made a masterpiece, and probably never will, but that's alright. Even the bad Corman movies have some redeeming value when you consider what they were going up against during their respective release dates. And the good ones are always a lot of fun. For me, Corman's prime was the late 70s an early 80s, with the particularly bad stuff being produced in the black an white era. But in my estimation, not much in general that was made that long ago was very good, so I don't attribute movies like The Wasp Woman to Corman being a bad film maker. I tend to think of all movies from that time period as being a little slow if for no reason other than the fact that, movies were still a fairly new medium at that time. There are some who would say that in 50 years they should have (or did, depending on the point of view) had their shit together, but I'm not one of those. Corman, perhaps, more than anyone, adapted well stylistically as time went by. So when I look at his movies from the 50s, usually with Mystery Science Theater silhouettes, an laugh at them, it's not a slight on Corman himself. Fact is, I'd rather watch these than say, Citizen Kane. Cause not only is Kane old, it's stuffy, drab and uninteresting. While a lot of other film makers from that time would try desperately to pad their movies, Corman generally released shorter ones with the crap the other film makers would insert filtered out. 78 minutes. Try to keep them below 78 minutes, he would say. And to this day, all the movies I've seen of his that hover around that time, don't feel like they're missing anything. They're short, but they're still complete. And the last thing I wanna mention about Corman, is that he was ordained as the King of the Drive-In by none other than Joe Bob Briggs and was the recipient of the highly coveted "hubbie" award for Drive-In excellence back in 1982. Enough said.
But anyway, this movie's interesting in that its plot is referenced by scores upon scores of people, many of whom probably don't even realize they're doing so. I'm sure at some point in everyone's lives they've been driving with someone who made a reference to scoring points for hitting someone. It may be interesting to ask, the next time that happens, if they know the source material or not. Don't get me wrong, it's not truly obscure, but I suspect it's one of those movies everyone references, but that most haven't actually seen. So here's the breakdown. The plot is certainly amusing. The premise is taken a bit from Rollerball where the future's a shit hole an everyone in it is a deviant. And of course, bloodthirsty. Nothing new to anyone that's ever attended a Raiders game I suppose, but pretty sick just the same. So while it's not real original, it's interesting, it's fun, and it takes itself just seriously enough to keep out of the comedy zone, while still being funny at the right times. The shooting locations are okay, although the cities could stand to have been in a more advanced state of decay, with more abandoned vehicles an things like that. Which isn't tough to achieve, all you really need to do is shoot in Detroit an you can pull that off rather easily. So the shooting locations are adequate, but not particularly impressive. The acting, is great. Not what you'd expect from most of Corman's stuff, and I didn't feel like anyone in the movie was bad. Some of the characters are just strange, but the sometimes over the top acting of said characters matches up with what that character is about.
The newscaster that seems to have a pulsating boner anytime a hit takes place, for instance. He's a little over the top, but with the way his dialogue is written, it doesn't come off as bad, or wrong. Among the actors in the movie that interest me, which is quite a few, you've got, of course, John Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, who don't need their significance spelled out for anyone. But you've also got Paul Bartel (directed this and Eating Raoul, and acted in Escape from L.A., Gremlins 2, Munchies, Chopping Mall, White Dog and Piranha), Mary Woronov (Watchers II, Warlock, Chopping Mall, Terrorvision, Night of the Comet, Eating Raoul and Silent Night, Bloody Night), Roberta Collins (Eaten Alive 1977), Martin Kove (Crocodile II, Rambo II), Louisa Moritz (Up in Smoke), Don Steele (Gremlins) and Joyce Jameson (Tales of Terror). Not to mention John Landis an Lewis Teague in a couple bit parts. They've both directed some great horror movies as well. So the acting is top notch, with a myriad of recognizable faces. The special effects... well they're not picture perfect. The explosions are all great, but when I made reference to Chef Boyardee in Sly's bug guard earlier, that's not entirely a joke. The blood just didn't seem to come across as intended. There's also one short scene that, I won't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure the cars were remote control miniatures. The scene was short enough that I'm not totally convinced, so there's that, an I'm not about to rewind to verify it. That said, there really isn't a great deal of blood, so it's not all that important. The soundtrack is okay for the time period. Generally speaking it's painful to listen to, but when considered in the era it was shot, it really isn't problematic. Just be advised it reeks of the 70s. Overall, no masterpiece, but a lot of fun. One of Corman's best. Check it out if you're not reading this from a laptop in a Starbucks.