Death Race 2000

Starring: David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone
Universal Pictures UK
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 18 September 2006

In the totalitarian future setting of the year 2000, Mr President has given the people the national sport of the Transcontinental Road Race. The five main contenders are Calamity Jane Kelly - Queen of the Road - in The Bull ("My fans can wish me all the luck they like; if my luck with my lovers gets any better I'll miss the race entirely."); Swastika Sweetheart - Matilda The Hun ("Whoever named your car The Bull was only half right."); Nero The Hero - in The Lion; Machine Gun Joe ("Loved by thousands, hated by millions.); and the people's favourite, Frankenstein, who wears a half-mask to hide his horrific injuries. In this race hit and run isn't a crime, it's a national sport. There's 10 points for women, 40 points for teenagers, 70 points for toddlers under 12, and 100 points for the over 70s. But the race isn't the only concern for the drivers. Mrs Payne, leader of the Army of Resistance against Mr president's state rule, tries to scupper the race. As the drivers begin to fall, Frankenstein has to beware the extreme violence of Machine Gun Joe, the scheming of his own navigator, and the attempt to kill him - in order to achieve his own ultimate objective...

This is a film that can be appreciated on different levels, in a similar way to the camp 60s series of Batman. Although this is an 18 certificate, kids would appreciate the idea of racing drivers running over people for points (certainly they would see more violence on many computer games), but when you view this as an adult you realise the whole concept is very much tongue-in-cheek.

There's some terrific black humour which is as humorous now as it would have been then. More so, in fact, because it has a great sense of nostalgia attached. Euthanasia Day at the Geriatrics Hospital is a wonderfully sick idea, especially when Frankenstein steers around them and knocks down all the watching nurses instead.

There's more one-liners than you can steer a car at. Even Mr President gets in on the act when he announces that he suspects the treacherous French of the sabotage of the great race and national economy, and adds that the word sabotage was invented by the French.

At the time of this film's release, David Carradine (Frankenstein) was the star of the piece, being well-known already for playing Caine, the lead in the popular Kung Fu series; but only a year or so later Sylvester Stallone's (Machine Gun Joe) career skyrocketed with Rocky. For contractual reasons, Stallone's name couldn't be placed above Carradine's in subsequent marketing, so they have since received joint star billing for the film.

The budget for Death Race 2000 was around the $300,000 mark, which was pitifully low for the time. However, surprisingly, there are no real shortcomings translated to the screen. Shakespeare it's not, but it's quirky, it's fun, and it's unarguably one of the best products to come out of the Roger Corman stable. This is an adult, live-action Wacky Races. Enjoy it in the spirit it was meant.

Extras include an Interview with Producer Roger Corman, Trailers, Posters Gallery, and Biographies.

Ty Power

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