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“Invitation to Dance - It’s a Dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the Dark. Especially in the Dark. May I have the pleasure?” --- Stephen King ::::::::::: MY CRITERIA FOR DISCUSSION ENCOMPASSES THE HORROR GENRE AND BEYOND, SO I USE THE TERM "NIGHTMARE MOVIES". SPOILERS CAN OCCUR WITH OR WITHOUT WARNING. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Death Race 2000

July 29th 2008 04:13
Death Race 2000 movie poster
High time for a little deadly light relief, so here’s New World Pictures’ grindhouse cult classic, Death Race 2000 (1975), a boob-boomtastic schlockfest with tongue squirming wildly in cheek, produced by the legendary Roger Corman, directed by the late Paul Bartel, and starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone.

Death Race 2000 starting line
The racers rearing to put pedal to metal
The year is 2000 and America is now the United Provinces, a fascist police state. The Transcontinental Road Race has been running for twenty years ever since the catastrophic highway pile-up of ’79, which sent the public into a bloodlust for a similar-styled sport. Mr. President (Sandy McCallum) panders to the people with the gladiatorial-styled cross-country road wreck “reality tv” race, where points are scored for mowing down bystanders (10 points for women, 40 for teenagers, 70 for babies and 100 points for the elderly), and crazed fans throw themselves in front of the competitors’ cars which are equipped with anti-personnel weaponry such as bayonets.
Death Race 2000 Don Steele
The Real Don Steele as Junior Bruce

Junior Bruce (The Real Don Steele) is the televised commentator addressing the nation and ramping up the interest … and heeeeere are the five racers; Frankentein (David Carradine), three-time winner, half man-half-machine after years of horrific accidents, Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone), Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov), Nero the Hero (Martin Kove) and Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins). Each driver has their own opposite-sex navigator (keep your eye out for a pre-Love Boat Gopher).
Death Race 2000 David Carradine
David Carradine as Frankenstein
And they’re off!!! Roaring down the race-track to the screams of the crowd and out onto the lonely highways as they make their way across the country to California in a three-part race. But there’ll be tears and blood spilled before bedtime. There’s the Resistance, led by Thomasina Paine (Harriet Medin), whose revolutionary machinations aim to interrupt the race, kill the competition, and make their voice known to Mr. President and the rest of the country.
Death Race 2000 Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone as Machine Gun Joe
Who will make it over the finish line? And what will be left of them? Will sexy Resistance agent Annie (Simone Griffeth), granddaughter of Thomasina, successfully infiltrate the race and complete her undercover mission? Will Frankenstein reveal his true self and true nature? Will Machine Gun Joe remain playing second fiddle to Frankenstein?

Death Race 2000 Mary Woronov
Mary Woronov as Calamity Jane
Death Race 2000 Simone Griffeth
Simone Griffeth as Annie
Similar in theme to Rollerball (1975), but entirely different in tone, Death Race 2000 is sensational hoot-out-loud fun; part horror, part sci-fi, all satire! Shot very inventively on a low-budget and paced as fast as the cars it’s a 78-odd minute rollicking, cartoon-violent carmageddon extravaganza, not to be taken seriously in the slightest (the bad taste gallows humour of the euthanasia day scene is highly memorable). Peter Fonda turned down the role of Frankenstein saying it was too ridiculous for words; enter David Carradine who was so enthusiastic he said he’d have done it for free.
Death Race 2000 Leslie MacRae and Martin Kove
Nero the Hero (Martin Kove) and his navigator Cleopatra (Leslie MacRae)
Sylvester Stallone, a year out from Rocky, is hilarious as the machine gun-toting Joe, as is cult favourite Paul Bartel regular Mary Woronov as taunting, leggy Jane. But hot props go to Simone Griffeth in her catsuit as Frankenstein’s navigator Annie. Gee, I'm sure rally navigators' contours aren't like that in real life, if you get my burnin’ rubber drift.
Death Race 2000 Calamity Jane's car
The designs of the souped-up race cars are fantastic (none of which were street legal, so producer Corman had to drive them on the real street sequences as the stunt drivers feared being caught by police). You can tell Frankenstein’s modifications disguise a Corvette Stingray, while under other cars’ bodies were a Volkswagen, a Fiat Spider and a Karmann-Ghia. The dynamite-looking yellow “Sterling” wedge that Frankenstein and Annie drive off in after their wedding is a Richard Oaks Nova kit-car which was available during the mid-70s (hot damn, I want one of those!)
Death Race 2000 massage time
Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins) and Calamity Jane are interviewed by Grace Pander (Joyce Jameson)
Death Race 2000 was referenced in Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007) and is currently being re-made (yeah, that’d be right), directed by high-brow "B-movie" director Paul W.S. Anderson, and stars Jason (not nearly as good an actor as he’d like to think he is) Statham and Ian (slumming it) McShane. The plot has been changed considerably and it appears the only character cross-over is Machine-Gun Joe.
Death Race 2000 Frankenstein's car

Death Race 2000 David Carradine and Simone Griffeth
While Frankenstein and Annie relax in their room
The remake is playing for serious keeps, so it’s a different game altogether. The original is lurid, wacky and superb guffaw material, like a tripped-out boys-own adventure, but with voluptuous women sporting tom-boy attitude, the perfect weekend fare, so grab a case of beer, big buckets of salty popcorn and a couple of extra large hooters, half a dozen mates, and the biggest screen you can throw the action on … and you’re ready, set, go!

Here's the original trailer:

Here's the euthanasia scene:

And for comparison here's the trailer to the yawn-inducing re-fit:

(Though I have to say driver Case (Natalie Martinez) and Grimm navigator (Sharlene Royer) are suitably dynamite!)


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22 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by JohnDoe

July 29th 2008 07:48
Still so much fun. I can smell the burning rubber trash from here...Death Race is bad, loud and irresponsible!

Comment by Bryn

July 29th 2008 08:46
You said it JD! I'd forgotten how much fun it was. And how hot the burning rubber and the smokin' women were!

Comment by Bethany

July 29th 2008 20:04
The original has been officially added to my netflix queue, I haven't seen that one yet. The euthanasia scene sold me on it.

They're taking the remake waaaaay too seriously, I think. I hate saying this, but I think Michael Bay could handle the remake of this movie. If you told him to take it seriously.

Comment by Cibbuano

July 29th 2008 22:55
hee hee! This is wild! What's NOT to love about this movie. I've gotta see it - adding it to my Amazon wishlist now!

Great review Bryn. Do you own this one?

Comment by Bryn

July 30th 2008 00:43
Bethany, I agree, dare I say it ... But the point is not to take the concept seriously. There are too many other similar themed movies that do. Could MIchael Bay deliver a super-trash satire?? Maybe that's what he's being trying to do all along ...

Cibby, actually no, I borrowed this one, but I think it had a region 4 release so start hunting ...

Comment by Cibbuano

July 30th 2008 03:31
michael bay doesn't have what it takes. Too much glitz and editing.

Who released the DVD in Australia?

Comment by Bryn

July 30th 2008 04:23
Cibby, yeah, you're right, Michael Bay is too slick.
As for the DVD;
Really Long Link
I haven't checked the site, not sure if it's still available.

Comment by Ahmed

July 30th 2008 05:00
haha, wow, the euthenasia scene has to be my faveourite scene of all time, and I haven't even seen the damn movie.

Comment by Damo

July 30th 2008 09:35
I have always looked for this at the video shop but never found it.

It is a must see before I die.
Euthanasia day hehehe.

You must have better shops in Sydney..

Comment by JohnDoe

July 30th 2008 09:42
I picked up my version from JB HiFi a few years ago and it cost a whole $3.95! Granted its a pan n scan cheapo job, but that seemed to add to the trashy delight!

Comment by Damo

July 30th 2008 10:19
Cool JD
I'll check it out.

Comment by Jason King

July 30th 2008 20:30
I never saw the original but got massively excited watching the trailer for the new one in a cinema recently. Bring on carnage and Mad Max styled fun!!

Comment by Bethany

July 30th 2008 22:06
My really catty point was that if Michael Bay took it seriously it'd turn out as a great parody of itself, but he is too slick. I was just being snarky, really.

Comment by Cibbuano

July 30th 2008 22:35
JD, $3.95? What a deal... on Amazon, it seems to go for much more...

Comment by Bryn

July 31st 2008 00:07
Cibby, the edition I borrowed isn't pan and scan, just full screen, I'm sure it wasn't shot in 1.33:1 ratio though, so hunt down a widescreen ...

Bethany, as long as Ben Stiller doesn't remake it.

Comment by Cibbuano

November 11th 2008 11:12
just released in Australia by Umbrella... I watched it tonight - with glee and squeals of delight!

Comment by Bryn

November 11th 2008 21:56
Yeah, hilarious huh? Much squealing indeed ... Are you gonna check out the remake? I'll probably give it a whirl on DVD further down the beaten track ...

Comment by Cibbuano

November 11th 2008 22:07
the trailer for the remake looks like too much shaky CGI and muted colours. Couldn't care less... part of the thrill of Corman productions is to see how far they can stretch the small budget...

Comment by S-Caltezza

September 8th 2009 11:46
That Death Race remake was better than the original.

Comment by Bryn

September 25th 2009 12:03
S-Caltezza, each to their own I guess.

Comment by ReverseFlash

April 5th 2010 15:55
I saw Death Race 2000 so many years ago and I loved it. I was so upset when my VCR destroyed the tape. Saw the remake last night and I liked it also. I know the director said that it was a remake, but I see it as more of a "remakequel." The one thing I didn't like was that the Death Race took place in prison, but then I remembered that the Carradine Frankenstein ended the races. And it's possible that somewhere along the way, he ends up in prison. So that's why I'm calling it a Remakequel.

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