Death Race 2000 is a “B-movie” from 1975, directed by Paul Bartel and co-produced by “B-legend” Roger Corman (IMDB.com), where the future of America is inhabited with people infatuated by a cross-country blood-driven race from coast to coast in the United States. In this race, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s staying alive and racking up road-kill points along the way — and winning.
The film is classified as “action/sci-fi/sport”, but pulls more laughs from the audience than anything else. The year in the film is 2000, and really shows how people foresaw the future in 1975; as a bleak, violence-craving, adrenaline-fueled audience watches racers use their cars like Greek gladiators, fighting each other along the way to their destination and racking up bonus points along the way by killing pedestrians (elderly and children provide the most points). It appears to be a mixture of “Cannonball Run”, “The Road Warrior”, and Stephen King’s “The Running Man” (if it was parodied as such).
David Carradine portrays “Frankenstein”, the champion and everyone’s favorite racer who has apparently had every part of his body destroyed and replaced somehow. Think of him as the Jackie Chan of murder-racing. He wears a mask to hide his hideous burns and scars from a previous race.
His greatest rival is “Machine-Gun Joe”, played by Sylvester Stallone of all people. His claim to fame are the points he’s amassed from killing pedestrians and his car, which is equipped with a machine-gun on either side of the front, with a 3-foot blade in the middle.
The race starts with Machine-Gun Joe “sodomizing” a race employee with his car’s blade. Blatantly fake blood is shown on the blade as he speeds off. At one point, Frankenstein chooses to run over several orderlies from a hospital staff who, moments earlier, strategically placed 12 elderly people in his way. They are fans of the infamous Frankenstein and wanted to help boost his points by placing the “fish-in-a-barrel” point-orgy in the middle of the road.
Later in the film, there is gratuitous nudity, and a horribly choreographed fight scene between Carradine (of “Kung-Fu” fame) and Stallone (“Rocky”) that seemed to be in slow-motion. Alas, it was not.
The movie is littered with cheese. There’s euthanasia day at the hospital, the hand-grenade, and endless propaganda referring to the French’s air force attacking the U.S. There’s so much cheese in this film that your sides will split from laughter and constipation at once!
As ridiculous as this film may seem, if you think about it, how far away are we from truly seeing such a sport come to fruition? Our world is seemingly progressing more and more into an anti-social and violent by the decade. Today, we have gone from football and boxing being the most violent sports accepted by the masses, to ultimate cage fighting, where men bludgeon each other with knees, elbows, etc. Even NASCAR has gone back to allowing the drivers to “rub” (bump) each other in hopes to bring more “action” to dizzying and mind-numbing miles driven in a circle. And of course, there are the extreme sports as well. The film also provides a bit of political consciousness referring to a totalitarian government running the future United States. It also shows the constant presence of the media in our society. The “coverage” of the race throughout the film brings to mind the reality shows of today.
Overall as a film of substantial quality, it would barely show up on the radar. However, as B-movies go, this one is a doozy. Even with all the cheesy violence, such as a navigator having his head run over by one of the other drivers, the horrible fight scene, and the very poor acting throughout, this film still finds a way to keep you entertained. It’s fun, if nothing else. If you want a quality film, see “Braveheart”, if you want to see the worst B-movie ever, see “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (often shown on the classic show, “Elvira”), or “Attack of the Zombies”. If you want to simply have fun and enjoy a night of guilty pleasure, check out “Death Race 2000″.
On the plus side, this movie, even though it’s genre-labeling can be misleading, is a fine example of a cultural/political cake filled with a dark humor filling, resulting in a delicious, late-night snack of Twinkie-indulgence! (Phillips, “B” movies)
Phillips, W. (2009). Film, An Introduction, 4th Ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s. Boston.
Internet Movie Database. (1975). Death Race 2000.