Death Race 2000 – Blu-ray
Director: Paul Bartel
Cast: David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone, Mary Woronov
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Now I know this film isn’t a horror movie, but it does have a guy named Frankenstein in it. Nah, that’s not it, let me start over.
Now I know this film isn’t a horror movie, but it was produced by Roger Corman, who’s made more movies, horror and otherwise, than you can count. Ok, according to IMDb they can be counted, and that number reaches a staggering 389 films. No, that’s still not right.
Oh wait, I’ve got it. Now I know this film isn’t a horror movie, but it is one of the coolest, grooviest, weirdest, funniest, and most satirical movies ever made. So horror or not, I’m going to talk about this awesome flick, here’s hoping you stick around to find out how this Death Race ends.
Yeah, that’s good. But I digress, so let’s continue.
Death Race 2000 takes place in the far flung futuristic year of…well what do you think? That’s right; the year 2000! Yeah, this film was made in 1975, so I can forgive it that little of unfortunate dating. Anyway, into the dystopian future world comes the only national pastime left, the Death Race, which is a cross-country race from New York to Californian. Running, that is driving, this race is a cast of colorful characters like Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (played by a very young Sylvester Stallone), Matilda the Hun, Calamity Jane, Nero the Hero, and the star of the show in every sense, Frankenstein (played by David Carradine, fresh off of his Kung Fu TV show glory). Good ol’ Frank earned his name after being the sole survivor of a multicar pileup in the 90s. Since then he’s been patched up and put back together countless times. New arms, new legs, and pretty much new everything else, and Frankenstein keeps coming back to drive the Death Race he loves so much.
But as dangerous and deadly as this road rally is for the racers, it is even more so for any pedestrian unlucky enough to cross these drivers’ paths. This is because not only is hit-and-run no longer a crime, its part of the sport. Racers gain extra points for hitting and killing innocents all along the way. Not only that, but different people are worth different points. Young, healthy men are worth the least, women are more points, the elderly are still more, and children are worth even more than that.
As a satirical commentary on America’s love affair with both cars and violence, Death Race 2000 is right on the money. As a fun, goofy flick filed with blood, nudity, and lots of cool looking cars and a few neat car crashes, this movie excels. Forget the very forgettable 2008 remake, if you’ve never seen the original Death Race 2000, then you’ve missed out on one of the most classic of all cult classics.
Thankfully SHOUT! FACTOR has recently begun releasing many of Roger Corman’s coolest films that the epic producer had brought out over his almost sixty-year filmmaking career. Unlike some companies who are content to knock out a barely restored movie on a bare bones disc, SHOUT! has pulled out all the stops to make this a must have movie in any cinephile’s collection. Not only does this Blu-ray make the movie look and sound better than it ever has before, but they have also packed it with a heaping helping of extras. There are two audio commentaries, one with the assistant director and the editor, and the other with produced Corman and actress Mary Moronov, who plays Calamity Jane in the film. There are the usual trailers, poster and sill galleries, but there are also seven featurettes and interviews with Corman, the composer, the author who wrote the original story the movie was based on, and plenty of others, not the least of which is the late star, David Carradine. Then there are the little things that so many BDs and DVDs forget, but that this disc so right, such as a twelve page booklet that’s include in the package. When’s the last time you’ve seen that?
In all ways, this new Blu-ray is a winner. Great movie, great extras, and great presentation that ranges form the disc’s packaging to how the movies looks and sounds in your home theater. I highly recommend this definitive edition of this classic cult movie.