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Masterpiece Cinema - Death Race 2000

 article about Sylvester Stallone


Death Race 2000

Starring David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone.

Written by Ib Melchior (story), Robert Thom, Charles B. Griffith.

Directed by Paul Bartel.

Genre: Sci-Fi / Action / Comedy

Released: 1975

Running time: 79 mins.

Rated: R (American rating)

IMDb link: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0072856/


For years, Id been hearing about a movie by the name of Death Race
2000. The first time I heard about it was when I was a kid. I read
about a rumour that Sylvester Stallone had once appeared in a porn
film. The truth of the matter was that it was simply a nude scene (and
not much of a nude scene, at that) in a B-grade action film. That
B-grade action film was, of course, Death Race 2000.

Years
passed, and every now and then Id hear murmurs of the film, but nothing
more than that. Then Kill Bill came out, and suddenly everybody was
David Carradine-crazy, realizing the immense gravitas that the former
Kung Fu actor exudes in every scene in which he appears. It was no
doubt because of the Carradine-craziness that I managed to find a copy
of Death Race 2000 in the discount bin at my local DVD vendor. I knew I
had to see it.

Carradine plays the main character in Death Race
2000, a guy by the name of Frankenstein (no, not that Frankenstein). In
fact, the car that he drives in this film is the car he drives in Kill
Bill or at least, its the same model. But Im getting ahead of myself.


Death Race 2000 tells the story ofuha death racein the year 2000. And
it really is pretty much as simple as that. In the future (or, at
least, what was the future in 1975, and is now the past; I love when
that happens) America is ruled by a dictator known only as Mr
President, who keeps the population entertained by holding an annual,
cross-country car race. But as is the way in post-apocalyptic futures,
the car race is a bloodthirsty one, with the drivers aiming to run down
pedestrians so as to gain points. By some bizarre twist of logic, its
the pedestrians that are easier to run down that you get the most
points for (like the young, and the elderly). What do I know? Its not
like Ive engineered any fatalist vehicular competitions lately. I guess
these things are best left to the professionals.

Carradines
character Frankenstein is the carry-over champion, a driver whos been
injured in so many races that he keeps his face hidden behind a mask,
the majority of his limbs having been replaced by artificial ones. I
thought how much of a rip-off his look, attitude and back-story was of
Darth Vader, until I remembered that Star Wars didnt open for another
two years after Death Race 2000. Take that, George Lucas! You hack!


Stallone plays another racer by the name of Machine-Gun Joe Viterbo, a
clich mobster-type. God knows how the massage scene hes in has taken on
the urban legend status it has; maybe its because there are also naked
ladies in the sceneor maybe its just because people are dumb and are
willing to believe anything (*cough*US elections*cough*). Anyway, its
interesting and fun seeing a fresh-faced Stallone playing such a
two-dimensional bad guy. And when he and Carradine go
head-to-headwellits even more fun.

Death Race 2000 is by no
means a good film. There are huge plot-holes in it, characters make
logic jumps that just bewilder you, and the message seems to get
muddled in amongst all the 'rock em-sock em' violence.

Still,
its still a very enjoyable movie, combining social satire with some
great stunt driving and a healthy portion of 1970s-exploitation-film
cheese. If that sounds like something youre in the mood for, I highly
recommend you race down to your local video store and rent yourself a
copy. Remember, if you hit any old ladies along the way, its a hundred
points. Only seventy for kids.

Next week: Something even racier...



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