Oh, how I love Roger Corman movies! The original Death Race 2000 is no exception – in fact, it’s one of my faves. I saw it way after the fact, but it zoomed into drive-ins and grindhouse theaters in 1975, and has only gotten better with age as we see how its perceptive potshots at politicians and the mindless masses hungry for entertainment have come to pass in more ways than one.
Produced by Corman and helmed by dark-comedy mastermind Paul Bartel, the revved up sci-fi satire’s cast was led to the finish line by David Carradine as Frankenstein, Mary Woronov, Roberta Collins, and a pre-fame Sylvester Stallone. Corman has taken the wheel of the franchise once again with Death Race 2050. I have interviewed Corman several times over the years, but not lately so it was my pleasure to sit and talk with the grand gentleman about the new movie, which will be released on Blu-ray combo pack, DVD, and digital HD on January 17, 2017.
“I think it’s the originality of the concept. You don’t often get something that is completely original” said Corman of the plot that has kept audiences interested for 42 years. “In the original Death Race 2000 it was a comedy/action film in which the drivers were driving trucks from New York to New Los Angeles in the year 2000. They were scored on how fast they could drive, how many cars they could knock off the road, and most importantly, how many pedestrians they could kill. That was such a startling concept that led to all kind of jokes, like, 20 points for the little old lady at the crosswalk!”
“Death Race deals with the concept of violence as entertainment, you can go back to the Roman gladiatorial games or bring up things like mixed martial arts, which are really violent, as well as boxing, pro football, and so forth. I think that’s been with us forever, so the concept is universal. With this update, I thought of bringing the spectators into the picture, rather than just being observers. Now when I came up with that idea I thought, ‘This is really good, but you can’t take it too seriously’ so it becomes something of a satirical, political comedy but above all, it’s a car race.”
As for this latest round of drivers and their inventive cars…
“The cars have all new designs to fit the characters. For instance, Frankenstein’s car has been re-designed for the 21st century, and so the other cars represent advances in technology too. For instance, one car is a self-driving car just like the ones being today in the real world. Another car is driven by one of my favorite characters, Tammy the Terrorist, who is the leader of a cult. In it, terror is a religion and her car flings various explosive devices at people as she’s driving along. Another car is driven by a rap singer and the speakers are built into the car so her music plays as she drives. So, the whole concept of the cars has been changed so that each one mirrors the personality of the driver.”
From the Press Release:
A delirious blend of high-octane action, razor-sharp political satire and full-throttle mayhem, Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 arrives on Blu-ray™ combo pack, DVD and Digital HD January 17, 2017, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The highly anticipated reboot of the cult classic Death Race 2000, the Universal 1440 Entertainment original production straps viewers into the driver’s seat of the ultimate auto showdown, a blood-splattered no-holds-barred virtual-reality show that gleefully pits hardened road warriors against each other — and their audience. Exclusive bonus features reveal how filmmakers transformed the deadliest competition on wheels into a hair-raising, savagely funny game of life or death.
Legendary filmmaking icon, Roger Corman, is back with his most outrageous film yet in this sensational, action-packed and darkly humorous reboot of the original Death Race 2000! It’s the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman (Malcolm McDowell). The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who’s half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy.
Produced by Roger Corman, the king of cult classics, Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 stars Manu Bennett (The Hobbit) as Frankenstein and Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) as the Chairman. The cast also features Burt Grinstead (“NCIS”), Marci Miller (Viper), Folake Olowofoyeku (The Beaver), Anessa Ramsey (Footloose), Yancy Butler (Hard Target) and Charlie Farrell (Cantar).
- The Making of 2050 – This featurette goes behind the scenes of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 to explore why, over four decades later, the original Death Race 2000 has been remade, including what made this project appealing to cast and crew, what changes have been made, and what fans of the original will still love. Discover the movie magic behind the deaths, stunts and of course — the cars! Includes interviews with stars, director G.J. Echternkamp and Corman himself.
- Cars! Cars! Cars! – Go on the set with the drivers of Death Race 2050 as they introduce their one-of-a-kind killing machines: Frankenstein and his Monster, Perfectus and his Piece of Art, Tammy and the Tank, Minerva and her Sound Box and ABE.
- The Look of 2050 – An insider look at how the film’s visual style came together, including how shooting in Peru helped set the tone of the picture and how the costumes became stars in and of themselves.