Death Race 2000: Trailer
Death Race 2000: Euthanasia Day
Death Race 2000: Bullfight Scene
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In the not so distant future, the United States Of America has become a totalitarian regime overseen by the charming but sinister Mr. President (Sandy McCallum), who, in order to satisfy the masses' need for entertainment (and to quench their thirst for violence), has created a new national sport, the Death Race. A nationwide road rally in which the winner is not determined by who finishes first, but by who scores the most points along the way by running over hapless pedestrians. The politicians give the people what they want and have wanted since roman times. Bread and circus's. In this case a very violent road race to watch.
Aspiring champions 'Machine Gun' Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone), Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov), Nero the Hero (Martin Kove), and Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins) are all looking to take the top honors away from Frankenstein (David Carradine), a half-man/half-machine who has been built to be the best racer on Earth and can outrun and outkill anyone on the circuit. However, not everyone likes the Death Race, and revolutionary leader Thomasina Paine (Harriet Medin) wants to sabotage the event in the name of restoring democracy; her plan is to foil Frankenstein's expected victory by smuggling her daughter Annie Smith (Simone Griffeth) into Frankenstein's race car as his navigator. Thomasina Paine is the ancestor of the revolutionary Thomas Paine.
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Cult hero Paul Bartel directed this low-budget satire in which America's passion for cars, violence, and sporting events are finally brought together in one convenient package, Death Race 2000. Roger Corman wrote the original treatment of the film, which was serious in tone, but thought it was not right and, in his words, was kind of vile. He decided the dark material of the story would be better served by making the movie into a comedy and had Robert Thom rewrite the treatment.
This movie shows many of the things that reality shows now have, minus the death of course. But who knows what we will have in the future of some futuristic fascist government. We could have a reality show that does have death in it. Our television shows seem to be going in that direction. Soon the present populace will tire of shows like: Road Rules (1994), The Amazing Race (2001) and Survivor (2000).
Featuring David Carradine at the height of his Kung Fu fame and Sylvester Stallone a year before Rocky, Death Race 2000 was a major drive-in hit in 1975; Bartel and Carradine teamed up for another road race movie, Cannonball, a year later, and a semi-sequel, Death Sport, appeared in 1978. Death Race 2000 is perhaps the best cross country road race produced, or at least by my reckoning.
Several of the custom cars featured in the movie were later sold to car museums for considerably more than it cost to build them. The racetrack used for the opening track and grandstand scenes is the Ontario Motor Speedway near Los Angeles. Several of the cars in the movie are re-bodied Volkswagens, including a VW Karmann-Ghia (Matilda's Buzz Bomb). The white Resistance Army car that chases Frankenstein very briefly before crashing and blowing up is a 1965 or 1966 Ford Mustang. Nero's car was based on a Fiat 850 Spider, and Frankenstein's on a Chevrolet Corvette.
Mary Woronov, who plays Calamity Jane, did not know how to drive a car, so a stunt driver did all the actual driving for her in the movie. For close-ups, Woronov sat in a car towed behind a truck with a camera crew riding in it.
The role of Frankenstein was originally offered to Peter Fonda, who considered the movie too ridiculous for words. But then why did he do such movies as Futureworld (1976) and Race with the Devil (1975). Which weren't any more believable.
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.
Explaining why he took the Frankenstein role, David Carradine says, "I started that picture two weeks after I walked off the Kung Fu (1972-1975) 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."
- Miscellaneous: In the theatrical version and all video versions up to the "Roger Corman's Classics" release, there were some errors that have since been corrected. Traffic has been cropped from the shot when Machine Gun Joe runs over the man hanging the "Frankenstein" banner on the street (which previously made nonsense of the earlier newscast of "citizens staying off the streets"). A crew member previously visible when Joe runs down the fisherman has also been cropped out.
- Continuity: Although the movie refers to the country as the "United Provinces of America", a banner can be seen near the start of the movie as Machine Gun Joe pulls into the raceway that says "United States".
- Continuity: During their last stop at Albuquerque, near the last scene before resuming the race, while talking to Frankenstein, Annie slips off a stocking. Then, after the camera goes from Frankenstein back to her, she is again taking off the same stocking.
- Continuity: When the "bullfighter" challenges Calamity Jane, there is a quick close-up of a spinning wheel whose rim different than those on Jane's car.
- Errors in geography: The opening sequence occurs at "New York Memorial Raceway" yet mountains can be seen reflected in the glass on the grandstands. (Scene was filmed at Ontario Motor Speedway in California.)
- Factual errors: The plane holds just one bomb but nonetheless multiple explosions occur when it attacks.