It's 2001 and the best we can do is a rotund gay fella who won't keep his drawers on. Whatever happened to the bright vision of the future put forth in Death Race 2000 (1975, 78 minutes)!? This nearly 30-year-old flick makes "Survivor" look just plain silly. The tribe has TRULY spoken when you're a road pizza with extra cheese. That's entertainment! And it came from none other than B-producer Roger Corman who sent directors Paul Bartel and Chuck Griffith off to excrete this gruesome road picture partially inspired by both Ernest "Cannonball" Baker and Ol' Scratch himself. Once the flick hit screens it never stopped running where it remains on the road today among the greatest B-pictures of all time.
The movie: Think Cannonball Run with a body count. Five fearless drivers -- Frankenstein, Machine-Gun Joe, Calamity Jane, Matilda the Hun and Nero the Hero -- race from coast to coast mowing down pedestrians on a point system (with geriatrics and infants being the most valuable). The year is 2000 and much of the world is under U.S. control by the revered and feared Mr. President (Sandy McCallum). It's he who sanctions this vile spectacle and it's his people who can't get enough of the carnage. David Caradine plays the masked Frankenstein who's the honored and scarred veteran of the race. Then unknown Sly Stallone is his machine-gun toting nemesis. Terrorism mars the event when abolitionists begin sabotaging the bizarro vehicles in nasty ways. Nero buys it. As does Matilda the luscious Nazi. But it's not all run and gun, as the drivers stop overnight for rubdowns and to diddle each other senseless. Stallone shows hints of his potential for volcanic displays of on-screen rage. While skinny Grasshopper looks a bit foolish in his zippered, black-leather jumpsuit, which seems more appropriate to a S&M bar than a raceway. CineSchlockers will remember that director Paul Bartel followed this film with Cannonball also starring Mr. Caradine in the title role along with much of the same cast including the cantastic Mary Woronov.
Notables: Eight breasts. 33 corpses. Loogie hocking. Bull fighting. Talking car (without David Hasselhoff). Head crushing. Slow dancing. Multiple explosions. Violin busting. Plane crash. Gratuitous oil slick. Assassination.
Quotables: Matilda disses Calamity Jane's ride, "Whoever named your car The Bull was only half right!" Commentator mourns racer's loss, "She was a great, dear friend of mine. I shall remember her forever howling down that freeway in the sky -- knocking down the angels." Mr. President hates them dirty frogs, "It is no coincidence, my dear children, that the word sabotage was invented by the French!" Impassioned speech by Death Race host, "You can't call off the race! The American people won't stand for it! The race is a symbol of everything we hold dear! Our American way of life! Sure it's violent! That's the way we love it! VIOLENT! VIOLENT! VIOLENT!!!"
Time codes: Director's cameo (3:22) Pre-Rambo Stallone blasts away with his machine gun (7:22). Delicious massage-table cat fight (26:50). The old Looney Tunes "phony tunnel" gag (45:00). Literal definition of "hand grenade" (1:10:10).
Audio/Video: Clean fullframe transfer. Dolby Digital 2.0 track roars with the race cars and explosions.
Extras: Brief video interview with Roger Corman by Leonard Maltin hitting some bullet points of the film's development. Trailer vault featuring this film plus Eat My Dust, Big Bad Mama, Grand Theft Auto and The Big Doll House. Motion-video menus. No printed insert or liner notes were present in DVD provided for review.
Final thought: High-octane carnage hardly imaginable even today. A yet unequalled mix of killer cars, black humor and bodacious broads. Highly Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.