Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Sylvester Stallone” with a minor in “Dick Dastardly”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult takes you on a relaxing road trip with Death Race 2000!
In the distant future, the year 2000, the United States is a totalitarian regime overseen by the charming but sinister ‘Mr. President’. In order to satisfy the violent masses, a new sport is invented: The Death Race, a nationwide road rally in which the winner is not determined by who finishes first, but who kills the most people along the way! Can the up-and-coming challengers overthrow the reigning champion Frankenstein, or will saboteurs ruin the race for good and restore democracy? This week Supercult brings you a Cross Country Road Wreck with Death Race 2000!
Released in 1975, Death Race 2000 is a cult action film based on the short story “The Racer” by Ib Melchior. Though the film retains the basic premise from the original source material, the characters and events are all different and the plot of the film can roughly be summed up as a mixture of Mad Max and Hanna Babera’s Wacky Racers. Filled with colorful yet bloodthirsty characters with names like as Matilda the Hun, Nero the Hero, and Herman the German, Death Race 2000 proudly proclaims itself as a low-budget popcorn movie with absolutely no f&*#‘s left to give.
The film stars Simone Griffeth as Annie Smith, Sylvester Stallone, a year before starring in the first Rocky movie, as Machine Gun Joe and David Carradine, as Frankenstein, who is known for his role as Bill in the Kill Bill films and as the star of the long running TV show Kung Fu.
The role of Frankenstein was originally offered to Peter Fonda, who turned it down because he considered the movie too ridiculous for words. Meanwhile Carradine explained why he took the Frankenstein role, saying, “I started that picture two weeks after I walked off the Kung Fu (1972) set, and that was essentially my image, the ‘Kung Fu’ character, and a lot of people still believe I’m that guy. The idea actually was: No. 1, if you walk off a television series, you better do a movie right away or you might never get to do one. And the second thing was to do something right away that would create the image of a monster to get rid of the image of that little Chinese guy that I’d been playing for four years. And, you know, it did kick-start my movie career.”
Both Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine did much of their own driving. In addition, producer Roger Corman drove in scenes that were shot on public streets, since the custom-built cars used in the movie were not street legal and the film’s stunt drivers did not want to be caught driving them by the police. That being said, the cars didn’t work most of the time, and had to be pushed down hills in order to get them to move. Moreover, the cameras used to film the cars were undercranked in order to perpetuate the illusion that they were moving faster.
The Director, Paul Bartel, known mostly for his prolific acting career as side characters in everything from The Usual Suspects to Escape from L.A, has a cameo as Frankenstein’s doctor, while the producer is none other than the Baron of B-films Roger Corman. Corman, on top of being associated with two Supercult Classics (Dead Heat and the 1984 Fantastic Four film), has directed and produced a slew of fantastic films with titles like, “Dinocroc vs Supergator”, “She Gods of Shark Reef”, “Attack of the Crab Monsters”, “Piranhaconda”, and the ever popular, “A Bucket of Blood”. Apparently Roger Corman decided one day that he wanted to make a futuristic action sports film that would take advantage of the advance publicity of Rollerball released in June of 1975 and before the year was out he had cranked out this glittering gem of a catastrophe!
Filmed on the modest budget of $300,000 and grossing about $5 million at the boxoffice, Death Race 2000 has long been regarded as a cult hit and often viewed as superior to Rollerball, another dystopian si-fi sports film made in the same year. Death Race 2000 was such a solid concept for a film that it garnered a comic book series and a film remake entitled simply Death Race in 2008 directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring Jason Statham. The remake then spawned two more direct-to-DVD sequels titled Death Race 2: Frankenstein Lives and Death Race 3: Inferno. That’s some Lethal Weapon level longevity right there…
Death Race 2000 has a 6.2 on IMDB and an impressive 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and a total body count of 33. The late Roger Ebert gave the film zero stars in his review, deriding its violence and lamenting its appeal to small children, however, during a review of The Fast and the Furious, Ebert contradicts his previous review naming Death Race 2000 among movies that make a “great tradition of summer drive-in movies” that expose a “summer exploitation mentality in a clever way.” In other words it’s a movie so bad AND so good, that it made Roger Ebert perform the world’s slowest double take over the course of 26 years.
Buckle up and pump the gas Supercultsits! Across town the traffic is MURDER! The Supercult show is proud to present, Death Race 2000!