Starring David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sylvester Stallone, Mary Woronov, Roberta Collins, and Martin Kove
Directed By: Paul Bartel
Studio: Disney/ Buena Vista
Buy on Amazon.com link
I remember watching this movie when I was just a little kid. It scared the hell out of me, but I remember that I couldn’t turn away. There was something about this movie that stood out for me…it had an element of cool that caught my attention and wouldn’t let me go. So here it is, twenty or so odd years later and I find the same thing happening to me once again.
Death Race 2000 is set in the year 2000 in an America that resembles Nazi Germany more than it does the U.S. An annual race, the Death Race, has gripped the American public much like the gladiator rings of the Roman Age had. Every year, a handful of contestants gather with their own unique vehicles to compete in a race that runs from New York City to New L.A. There are two rules to this race…to survive and to score the most points. Scoring points is every motorists dream. All you have to do is run over pedestrians. The lowest amount of points comes from men and women while you can score the most by hitting infants, children, and senior citizens. Anyone on or near the roads is fair game. To the winner go fame, fortune, respect, and the chance to meet Mr. President, ruler of the new America.
There seems to be no clear-cut hero at the beginning of the movie. All of the characters seem to be out for no one but themselves. Frankenstein drives the coolest man and seems to be the most vicious. He is a multi-winner/survivor of the Death Race and has made himself comfortable with Mr. President. Machine Gun Joe Viterbo is like a Mafioso in a cool car. His hatred for Frankenstein fuels his every move. Calamity Jane is a throwback to the outlaw cowboy/girl of days long since passed. Matilda the Hun represents the Aryan Race with her Blitzkrieg mobile, and Nero the Hero is a representative of the Roman era. Each and every one of these characters wants nothing more than to win the Death Race for their own reasons.
As I mentioned before, at first there is no clear-cut hero, but as the movie progresses, you begin to realize that there is more than meets the eye with Frankenstein. Many view him as Mr. President’s right hand man and as a pieced together monster who is half man half machine, thus the nickname Frankenstein. As time passes, you begin to realize that Frankenstein has his own agenda. Winning is all that he knows and all that he lives for, but he wants to be set free from all that he knows. Frankenstein’s navigator, Annie Smith, has been set to do something of the same nature, her and her Grandmother want to set America free from the oppression that has fallen the nation due to Mr. President and to abolish the Death Race, a senseless act of violence against innocent citizens and a foolishly celebrated pastime. Annie and her group of rebels plans to get to Mr. President by capturing Frankenstein and using him as collateral in order to bring peace to the nation. Annie goes undercover as Frankenstein’s navigator and the plan is set in motion. What Annie didn’t expect was the unpredictability and mysterious nature of the man named Frankenstein. Annie and Frankenstein begin to fall for each other and naturally, this throws a wrench in their plans. It is not until Frankenstein discovers Annie’s plan that the true heroic nature of Frankenstein is revealed. The two work together to eliminate Mr. President and to set the country in a different, more desirable direction.
There are two things that stand out in Death Race 2000. First, it seems at first that the movie is almost cartoony in nature even though the movie is certainly not geared towards kids. The themes of the vehicles are extravagant almost to the point of ridiculousness. The characters are just as outlandish as the vehicles and seem to be ripped from the pages of comic books. Second is the satirical nature of Death Race 2000. The film glorifies violence to the point of funny. Scoring point for hitting pedestrians would seem hard to swallow for some, but in this movie it’s meant to make a point and to get a chuckle. The hero is a murderer but he is the less of all evils. In most movies, the character of Frankenstein would be considered the villain without second thought. In Death Race he is the only hope of a nation that has driven off course and down the wrong path. Death Race 2000 is almost prophetic. The glorification of death and murder is very prevalent in just about everything in modern culture from movies and video games to the daily paper and the nightly news. The only difference really is that we don’t drive around in cool death mobiles.
So, what would anyone who has been over saturated with modern kill kill death death movies get out of Death Race 2000? I would say one hell of a good time and a few laughs. Death Race 2000 is chock full of memorable characters, cool death scenes with a twist, and something that most B-movies lack, a really strong story. The movie flows flawlessly with very few dull moments and you even get to see some booty to boot. Maxim magazine rated Death Race 2000 as the #1 coolest B-Movie of all time and it’s kinda hard to compete with the Toxic Avenger, but it’s close if not a tie for the #1 spot in my mind. If you like cult movies and you want to see some big name movie stars earn their badges in the minor leagues, then go now and pick up Death Race 2000 stat.
Original Theatrical Trailer,
commentary by Roger Corman,
Playing the Game: A look back at Death Race 2000
Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Sound
Favorite Scenes: Frankenstein and his badass monster mobile and the pedestrian point system.
Running Time: 78 minutes