Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone, Mary Woronov, Simone Griffeth
Directed by Paul Bartel
Distributed by Shout! Factory
So yeah, remember that horrific Paul W.S. Anderson remake that tried to show us “who shits on the sidewalk”? Well this is not it. In fact, it’s the farthest thing from that steaming pile of shit possible. What we have here, folks, is Shout! Factory’s very first release in its Roger Corman Collection, and if this is any indication of how Shout! is planning on treating his films, then brothers and sisters, we are in for quite a treat.
Not sure if you need a plot crunch but for the uninitiated out there:
Death Race 2000 takes place, you guessed it, in the year 2000 and tells the story of a legendary driver named Frankenstein (Carradine) who takes part in a three-day long transcontinental death race in which the more innocent bystanders that you kill, the more points you get. Old Frank has won this race before and is still the odds-on favorite. Of course he has a slew of equally as murderous and maniacal opponents gunning to take him down such as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Stallone) and a fine cast of other miscreants that includes Martin Kove and Mary Woronov. That’s really s all you need to know, but there’s also a subplot involving the assassination of the President.
You may not even notice the subplot amidst the mindless carnage and bare breasts because you’re going to be having so much fun, but make no mistake — Death Race 2000 also has a lot to say for such a sick little movie. There’s plenty of socio-political satire to go around, and it’s still just as biting and hilarious as it was back in 1975.
Yes, the flick has its shortcomings due to budget constraints, but Corman is the master of doing a lot with a little, and Death Race 2000 is but one shining example of the filmmaker’s know-how.
Speaking of shining examples … I’ve watched DR2000 dozens and dozens of times; yet, after seeing the amazing job Shout! Factory has done with the restoration of this flick, I feel like I’ve just watched it for the first time ever. The picture quality is pristine with eye-popping color and an amazing amount of depth. Things get a little hazy during the indoor scenes, but given the movie’s age and budget, we can assure you — you will be floored.
Now on to the special features. Honestly, there’s so much stuff included here it’s hard to figure out where to begin. First off we get two commentary tracks. The first is a port from the previous DVD release with Roger Corman and Mary Woronov. To say it’s entertaining is a bit of an understatement, and we’re thrilled to have it back. The second commentary track is brand new and features assistant director Lewis Teague and editor Tina Hirsch. While good in and of itself, things stay a bit too much on the technical side of the fence. Still, given the candidness of the Corman/Woronov effort, this one plays as a perfect complement.
With the commentaries out of the way, it’s time to head into the featurettes and interviews. Wow. Just wow. There’s so much content both old and new. Playing the Game: Looking Back at “Death Race 2000” is your standard making-of doc, and Designing Dystopia! is a quick look at the film’s sets, costumes, and of course cars. While interesting, both play a bit flat, and given the fun of this entire project, that’s a little (and I do mean a little) on the disappointing side. The real fun to be had comes from all of the interviews Shout! Factory has waiting for us.
Everyone is heard from, from Corman himself to the film’s composer, Paul Chiharato, to costume designer Jane Ruhm to even original author Ib Melchior, who apparently digs on the movie even more than his story. Everyone’s super candid, and they all talk about the film with a great amount of love and respect for it. The interviews are finally capped off with a short but heartfelt interview with Carradine himself. Really, really good stuff, but … it ain’t over yet!
Finally we have the theatrical trailer with commentary by filmmaker John Landis, a plethora of New World picture trailers that will compel you to start popping popcorn stat, and to cherry top the entire package, a collectible twelve-page booklet that is brimming with content.
This is without question one of the absolute must have Blu-ray packages of the entire year. It honestly does not get much better than this. There’s just no stone left unturned, and the treatment and love that Shout! Factory has poured into this release officially raises the bar for every re-release to come. Start your engines, and order yourself a copy below like yesterday. You’ll be so happy that you did.
5 out of 5
5 out of 5