Now I know that Death Race 2000 isn’t a horror film per say, but The Coroner’s Report is about having fun in the genre. People who like horror movies like Death Race. It’s our kind of fucked up. As for the “why now” question of reviewing a 35 year old flick, well that’s an easy one – Shout! Factory just released it on Blu-ray as part of the “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” line. We’ll be covering a lot of these titles (hopefully all of them and on Blu-ray too!) and even giving some coverage to just how awesome it is to finally be getting these releases. Not to tease you too much, but one film I’ve been clamoring for is not only coming to DVD, it’s coming to Blu-ray.
But for now, we’re talking Death Race. This has little to do with the recent Jason Statham remake (which is a guilty pleasure of mine). What stays is a dystopian future with a violent race and some tricked out cars – but the remake has nothing on the original, in terms of WTF Factor. There is no corrupt prison system, but rather a corrupt country. The President himself is in charge of the Death Race and the riders are heroes, not convicts. Points are awarded for winning the race, but also for running people over. In the midst of this, Frankenstein seeks another victory, though he’ll have to beat out not just his rival racers, but an underground rebellion against the race itself.
While most of the kills are quick and don’t involve an alarming amount of gore (some do), there are thirty-four onscreen deaths. Yeah. That’s a shit-ton.
Plenty of people are run down, a bunch are killed in explosions, and a few cars fly over a cliff. In the awesome section, we get a car-mounted-knife to the dick, car-mounted-horns to the stomach, a screeching tire to the balls, and someones head gets run over.
The three Bs: beefcakes, boobs, and bush. Also butts. So four Bs. Yeah. Anyway, a decent amount, though nothing titillating. Just plain, straight up nudity.
Nothing new here – women are worse drivers than men. KA-POWIE. But no, seriously. One of the female drivers, in a wide open field, executes a six point turn which results in her hitting a landmine. There are a dozen different ways she could have just driven away, but nope. Blammo.
Two friends of mine attempted to watch Death Race 2000 with me. One left after just a few movie, stating “This movie is fucked up.” I had just finished explaining the point scoring system and the Hospital Euthanasia Day. The second was in and out, but made it to the end, at which point he announced “This is ridiculous. Do they know it’s ridiculous?”
Yes, this movie is ridiculous – which is why it has lasted so long. It’s the perfect B-movie (well, almost) and is just the kind of weird you like to watch. I’m sure if you’re a fan of ‘altered state viewing’ this movie would blow your mind right out of your cranium.
The acting is pretty awful, the story is ridiculous, and just everything about it is off the wall insane. You will laugh, though, and maybe even appreciate some of the political and social/media commentary, which is somehow more insightful now than it was 35 years ago. Which is easy, because 35 years ago it really wasn’t insightful, it was just strange. But it did feature Sylvester Stallone before he was an Oscar Winner, so that’s… completely unrelated. But I wanted to mention it.
This film approaches the horrific conditions of the far, far future (the year two thousaaaaaa-aaaand!) with brightly lit scenes, clean rooms, and fiberglass cars shaped like bulls, lizards, and German Rockets. If you’ve never seen this flick, its worth a watch if you’re into the genre. If you’re a fan of the movie, you might want to just go ahead and buy this disc.
Shout! Factory has done a great job putting this together. In terms of picture, I’m certain it’s as good of a print as you’re likely to find. The original isn’t winning any awards for cinematography, so you’ll find a few action scenes a bit grainy, but overall the picture is as sharp as it could ever be. The sound is sharp and in terms of extras, the disc is packed full of it. Just to name a few, there is an interview with David Carradine, audio commentary with Roger Corman, a second commentary with a bunch of people, a retrospective, a costume designer interview, a death car retrospective, a short on the production design, and interviews with the author and the composer. That’s not even all, but hey, lets leave a few surprises for you. One of my favorite features, though, isn’t even on the disc – it’s on the sleeve. The reverse of the sleeve, to be exact. You get your choice of DVD covers – I went with the flip side, which is a cool international painted poster.
Bottom line, if you’re a fan of Death Race you need this release – if you’re a fan of camp, you should watch this movie. This is about as good as a presentation as one could hope for. The disc is Grade A, and the movie, viewed in cult context is…