Monstervision's Joe Bob Briggs Looks At
Death Race 2000
It’s the year 2000, twenty-five years in the future, and the Orwellian government that runs the world channels America’s aggressions into a sadistic transcontinental race in which racecar drivers get extra points for killing pedestrians, bystanders and each other. This 1975 low-budget movie is better than some of Roger Corman’s other flicks, at least partly because the two leading racers are played by David Carradine and a young Sly Stallone. Carradine’s character is called Frankenstein because so many body parts have been replaced in past Death Races. The most vicious of his three biggest rivals is Machine Gun Joe (Stallone), who runs over his own pit crew at the start of the race for extra points.
Frankenstein is secretly a member of a radical underground group that wants to end the annual Death Race by blowing up all the entrants, one by one. Though Rollerball had better special effects, many fans prefer “Death Race 2000” for it’s nonstop action script.
Like Corman’s Carnosaur, “Death Race” came out the same year as a similar movie (Rollerball) in order to piggyback it’s big-budget publicity.
The nasty-looking “Death Race” cars were designed and built by James Powers.
Director was Paul Bartel.
Producer Roger Corman came out with a semi-sequel three years later called Deathsport (1978), also starring Carradine. This one has motorcycles with riders wielding light-sabers (Star Wars was still playing in some theaters). It’s set in the year 2078, and has the Ranger Guides (Mad Max Highway Patrol/Texas Rangers on motorcycles) opposed by a vicious gang called the Statesmen. It bears more resemblance to Corman’s 1960s “Hell’s Angels” movies than to Death Race 2000.
Safari 3000 (1982)
Despite the title, this one’s set in the present. Carradine plays an ex-Hollywood stuntman who finds himself in an international race across darkest Africa. It starts with Carradine racing down a road. A helicopter lands. Christopher Lee and Hamilton Camp get out, wearing giant Darth Vader helmets, and try to hire him as their driver in the race. And that’s pretty much one of the highlights of the movie, which just sort of meanders around for 91 minutes to fill time until the credits come up at the end. At one point they hit a chicken with the car and a tribal judge rises out of the floor of a hut (a scene later used in the Dan Aykroyd film “Nothing But Trouble”), demanding that they pay for the loss, though Carradine notices that the accident victim appears to be a frozen chicken tossed into the road for them to hit. At one point, smiling natives pull Carradine’s car to the finish line in an unintentionally disturbing image. Thus ends Safari 3000, available on video but not DVD.
Somewhere along the line, Carradine picks up hitch-hiker Stockard Channing, and Ian Yule rounds out the main supporting cast. You can say two things for this movie, it’s in focus and in color.
There have been no further sequels, though I suppose you could say that the Lee and Camp characters bear an uncanny resemblance to the Paul Williams and Pat McCormick duo in all three Smokey & The Bandit movies (1977-83). Come to think of it, Carradine also starred in the drive-in movie “Cannonball” as a racer who is killed when a beer can rolls under the brake pedal just as he runs out of bridge on a highway under construction – no relation to the big-budget movie Cannonball Run, which just happened to come out around the same time.
Weekly World MonsterVision ... Week of December 8, 1997
ROAD RALLY IN THE JUNGLE
What is it about road movies and David Carradine? He kept the pedal to the metal in both Cannonball and Death Race 2000 and here he is behind the wheel once again in Safari 3000. This time around he plays an ex-Hollywood stuntman who teams up with Playboy photographer Stockard Channing on a trans-African auto race. The film is directed by Harry Hurwitz, the man responsible for the cult favorite, The Projectionist, and features Christopher Lee in a supporting role. It's 100% Weird!
By the way, you may remember Hamilton Camp from the TNT MonsterVision 100% Weird movie Arena, not to be confused with Roger Corman’s flick The Arena, which was filmed in Russia and set in a sadistic/sexy future.
Safari 3000 (1982)
Monday, December 8 at 12:00 pm, on TNT
Now here’s Joe Bob Briggs with today’s feature attraction Death Race 2000:
(From Joe Bob's Ultimate B Movie Guide)
This is the best cross-country road-race movie--and the most
violent, and the funniest--despite the efforts of many crash-and-burn
specialists to come up with a better one. It is also one of the most
successful pictures ever produced by New World Pictures, Roger Corman's
studio. Set in the near future, where the favorite national sport is the
annual race in which hot-rodders try to kill as many pedestrians as
possible on their way from New York to L.A., it combines science fiction,
satire, skewed social commentary, and a great climactic race to the death
with good-guy David Carradine and bad-guy Sylvester Stallone the only two
racers left alive on the home stretch.
© 2000 Joe Bob Briggs. All Rights
Reserved. Not an AOL Time-Warner Company in this lifetime.
Stallone never made a sequel to Deathrace 2000, but have you met his Judge Dredd?
"Death Race 2000" is available on video and on DVD
David Carradine is currently starring in a couple of "Kill Bill" sequels to Pulp Fiction, and hosting the TV-series Wild West Tech
Elvis has left the building, and he took Joe Bob with him.