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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Comedy > Cars > Death Race 2000 - Special Edition (Disney DVD)

Death Race 2000 – Special Edition (1975/Buena Vista Edition)


Picture: B –     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: B-



The richness and greatness of films of the 1970s was so great, that even B-movies could sometimes surprise and be fine films.  This even applies to a long time B—movie producer like Roger Corman, who had been at it for a while.  One of the best films he ever backed was Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 (1975), which serves as a wacky satire of the future, one of the most interesting descendents of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) like Murder In A Blue World (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and one of the better entries in the “death and sport as genocide” cycle in the genre at the time.


The story is about The United States of America in the year 2000, which now has a fascist leader as president and the two parties have merged with the help of corporations to be The Bipartisan Party.  Like Norman Jewison’s Rollerball the same year, a deadly sport where people take the violence as part of the fun has been devised.  Here, it involves special race cars designed to kill and mow anyone in their way.  The title activity involves running over as many people as possible to build points and win the game in a cross-country race that will be televised live throughout and non-stop.  Both the violence and the coverage seemed like a wild idea at the time, but with 24-hour broadcasting, more acceptance of violence in the society and the self-hating celebrated ugliness we know as “reality” TV.  Sadly, the world has caught up too much with the film.


It is obvious the viewing audience in the film is encouraged to enjoy the killings, but the relation to a audience watching the actual film in a theater or at home is more ambiguous, with the film being so over the top (typical of Corman productions) that it is done as a joke.  The film has an R-rating, but is not as outright violent as most films we see now, though some of the moments are still shocking here and there and some of that comes more from political incorrectness than graphicness.  There is also more matter-of-fact nudity typical of the time that is actually mature as compared to most films that offer nudity and imitation sex now.  Still, there was enough of all to get the film banned in many places worldwide.


Specifically here, the film features a racer named Frankenstein (David Carradine) who has earned that name from having so many artificial body parts and implants from his many races.  He has competitors including a gangster type with machine guns galore (Sylvester Stallone a year before the first Rocky), a gladiator type (Martin Kove) and two separate female drivers (Mary Woronov as Calamity Jane and Roberta Collins as Matilda The Hun) to get to the finish line with the most carnage in their way.  Though the film has some limits due to its intended silliness, it has great bold moments all the way to the climax and some of it is not as funny as it once was since too much of it has come true.  It is a minor classic and deserves the fine treatment it gets in this new DVD edition.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is a new transfer that shows off the great Metrocolor the film originated in.  For a low-budget film, Tak Fujimoto’s cinematography looks terrific and he went on to shoot films like Jonathan Demme’s The Silence Of The Lambs (1991, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and both the costumes and cars are fun.  The way color is used and the kind of color used is a plus and the new transfer shows it off to best effect.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is fine for its age and sounds like a new transfer as well, something I hope we see more in these Corman/Disney reissues.  It has not always been the case in the first batch, but this sure works well here.  Also, some visual errors have been corrected form the original release print eliminating some bloopers.


Extras include the original theatrical trailer, a new featurette about the film and a terrific audio commentary by Corman and Woronov.  Though it may be rough in a few places, Death Race 2000 is a classic of the “death sport cycle” of Science Fiction cinema and is one of the key films of Corman’s producing career.  Now, they are talking about remaking it, but I doubt it will be as good as this original.  Next, maybe we’ll see the 1978 motorcycle recycle Deathsport or Bartel’s next racecar deathsport film Cannonball! on DVD and how they endure.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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