Genre: Action, sport
Director: Paul Bartel
Running Time: 79 mins
Budget: $300, 000 (est)
Released: 27 April 1975
In the year 2000, five competitors compete in the world’s most brutal game, Death Race, where the object is to eliminate the competition and kill pedestrians for points.
Well after watching Paul WS Anderson‘s Death Race which came out last year I discovered that there was an original film made in 1975 starring David Carradine. After watching the film I can safely say that it has nothing in common with the recent adaptation with the exception that both main characters are called Frankenstein (played by Mr. Carradine in Death Race 2000 and Jason Statham in Death Race).
Since the film was released about thirty-four years ago I had already braced myself for what I would be seeing. I approached the film differently than I normally would. One thing that I had to bear in mind was that there’d be a complete lack of CGI as well as decent special effects, and indeed I was correct. Right from the get-go, the title DEATH RACE 2000 seems to be drawn from coloured pencil or even crayon, it looked quite ghastly in all honestly. Since the film is set in the ‘future’ year 2000, the creators felt the need to insert a hand drawn future city (in only one scene just after the beginning thankfully) that looked utterly artificial, I’m pretty sure that even back in ’75 it looked pretty rubbish.
The film is refered to as a ‘cult science fiction film’ although in my opinion, having a couple lame crayon-like backgrounds in a film that consists of predominantly dusty open road scenes does not qualify as ‘science-fiction’, and Death Race 2000 is no Mad Max either. Do not expect the awesome armoured vehicles of Death Race or the heavy firepower either, several of the vehicles in Death Race 2000 are re-bodied Volkswagens, with Frankenstein’s car being modeled on a Chevrolet Corvette, the cars are ridiculously colourful and the shapes are over the top and impractical, specially for a game where the object is to destroy your opposition and not die. This film and its cars reminded me a lot of the 1960’s anime series Speed Racer, and that’s not a good thing.
Some of the racing scenes are mildly entertaining, but the use of overly red blood that splatters out of the pedestrians pretty much killed this film for me and with the exception of David Carradine, the acting is cheesy and laughable and that includes Mr. Stallone’s performance as Machine Gun Joe, who only uses a Tommy Gun once in the movie to spray death into the crowd except no one runs away or even dies for that matter.
So what can you expect from Death Race 2000? Repetitive driving scenes, stupid ‘Resistance Movement’ subplot, female degradation (in one scene, rather than talking with his navigator Stallone feels compelled to punch her in the face), poor acting and an ending that completely falls apart at the seams. Approach this ‘cult classic’ at your own peril, I found it to be utterly ridiculous, and let’s bear in mind that there are plenty of great ’70s films, so it’s not that the film sucked because it’s old, it sucked because it’s a poorly constructed, over the top mess.