Saturday, 17 January 2015

Death Race 2000 (1975)

If you were to watch only one Roger Corman film in your life, Death Race 2000 is the one I would recommend.  It's from right in the middle of the best decade of his career, and deftly combines his willingness to tap into counter-culture and anti-establishment themes with his pragmatic eye for what puts butts in seats (i.e. sex and violence).  The end result is an experience as wild and anarchic as the race it depicts, that will more than once leave you saying "did they really just go there?".

In 1979 a massive economic collapse afflicts the USA.  Twenty-one years later it is an authoritarian state run on the principle of "minority privilege": a massive, legislatively mandated gap between the haves and have nots.  The latter group are kept quiescent by a combination of false promises, bombastic jingoism, and televised blood sports.

The greatest of those blood sports is the Transcontinental Road Race, a three day event in which racers compete not just to be the first to cross the country, but also to accumulate points by intentionally running over any bystanders they might see.  "Over 75s of either sex," we are told, "remain the biggest score at 100 points each."

The five racers in this year's race include Matilda the Hun, with her "lovable Nazi navigator Herman", wise guy-esque 'Machinegun' Joe DiTurbo (a very young Sylvester Stallone), and the surgically reconstructed champion and national hero, Frankenstein.

Unknown to the authorities or the racers, however, a grass roots resistance movement plans to disrupt this year's event and put an end to the barbaric race forever.  They've infiltrated one of their number into the race as Frankenstein's navigator.  They intend to kidnap him and hold him hostage until the race is abolished.

Frankenstein, on the other hand, has his own agenda, one that means he'll stop at nothing to win the race.  The results are going to be explosive for all concerned.

This is great, though resolutely inappropriate, fun.  See it if you have a taste for the mad and the bad.

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