EVERYTHING about Death Race 2000 is over-the-top and unrealistic – the violence, the costumes, the acting, and especially the cars. Imagine a live-action Wacky Races written by George Orwell and directed by Hannibal Lecter and you’re getting warm.
In the future, a fascist regime run by Mr President (Sandy McCallum) holds power over the population. The citizens are kept satisfied through gory gladiatorial games like the Transcontinental Road Race, a three-day, coast-to-coast murder rally where points are scored not just for speed but for the number of pedestrians killed.
The scoring system is easy to follow: women are worth 10 points more than men in all age brackets, teenagers are worth 40 points, toddlers under 12 are worth 70. The big score, however, is anyone over 75, worth a big 100 points.
Five racers take part in the rally, each with a navigator/sex partner, and a car that matches their ideology.
Mysterious hero Frankenstein (David Carradine) is the government’s champion and a national icon. Supposedly part-human and part-machine, rebuilt after numerous prangs, he wears an S&M mask to hide his disfigurement. He drives ‘The Monster’, an alligator-themed ’68 Vee-Dub with a modified Corvette body, powered by a flat-six Corvair.
Frankenstein’s arch-rival, ‘Machine Gun’ Joe Viterbo – played by Sly Stallone, who gives an hilarious performance as the perennial runner-up – runs a black rod with a machete on the bonnet and mounted machine guns.
Matilda the Hun is a Nazi who commandeers ‘The Buzz Bomb’, a Karmann Ghia shaped like a V-1 bomb; cowgirl Calamity Jane’s ride is fitted with bull’s horns; while the toga-wearing Nero the Hero drives ‘The Lion’, a cat-shaped Fiat 850 Spider.
They all hop in their buggies and start mowing ’em down, stopping at various checkpoints so the filmmakers can squeeze in a few gratuitous sexual interludes. Meanwhile, a posse of militant grassroots activists is trying to bring down Mr President’s regime by bumping off the racers.
The cars were created by a team led by legendary builder Dick Dean, and included Dean Jeffries.
As you may have already gathered, a black sense of humour, a strong stomach and an ability to suspend disbelief will come in handy when viewing Death Race 2000. It’s Volks culture gone mad – Herbie Goes Bananas has got nothing on this!
As a satirical statement against violence, Death Race 2000 is a failure. But as a camp classic full of cheap thrills and mindless carnage, it’s a winner. Uppity film scribe Roger Ebert gave it zero stars, calling it “unnecessarily gratuitous in both nudity and violence”. Sounds like a positive review to us!
A bunch of kooked-out VW kit cars, most notably ‘The Monster,’ a modified Shala-Vette
COOL FLICK FACT:
In 2011, ‘The Monster’ popped up for sale at Volo Auto Museum, Illinois. This piece of B-movie history cost just US$20K.