Sunday, April 1, 2012

Death Race 2000 (1975)

Car racing mayhem from 1975. Often hilarious (intentionally so) campy cult science fiction classic set in (obviously) the year 2000. It's all for television ratings as five racing teams try to run down citizens for points on the "Transcontinental Road Race". David Carradine, in his first post-Kung Fu role plays "Frankenstein", a supposedly disfigured two-time winner of the  race. The lovely Simone Griffeth plays his navigator. Sylvester Stallone, in a pre-Rocky role, plays his chief rival Machine Gun Jo Viterbo. There are also several attractive ladies who don't mind taking their tops off now and then (it's the 70s after all). While there is a good bit of violent death, the special effects are such that it never gets too disturbing (the blood just doesn't look like blood). Produced by B-movie master Roger Corman and directed by Paul Bartel (who also takes a humorous turn as Frankenstein's doctor). Nice cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. Overall a great little movie (it's fairly short), and one of my all-time faves.

It's the future!
David Carradine and Simone Griffeth.

There were a couple of sequels (or prequels as the case may), imaginatively title Death Race and Death Race 2, made in 2008 and 2010. They were both set in (and confined to) the notorious prison Terminal Island and were pretty much the same movie. The first one with Jason Statham and Joan Allen is the better of the two. The second (which is actually the prequel to the 2008, both being confusingly the prequel to the 1975 movie which was set in 2000) shows how the Frankenstein character comes to be. Up-to-date with much more realistic gory special effects, and grittier, with rap music and such, they are fun enough but lack charm and have very little to do with the original Death Race 2000. 

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