“Death Race 2000” is a cult classic that was made by cult film maker Paul Bartel; some feel that this film is superior to the film “Rollerball”, which came out around the same time as this and features a dystopian setting. It stars David Carradine, Simone Griffeth, Sandy McCallum, and a pre “Rocky” Sylvester Stallone as “Machine-Gun” Joe Viterbo.
The film is about racers who try to earn the most points by hitting people in their cars, with a different amount of points being awarded depending upon who the racers hit. Babies and the physically challenged are two types; hitting these two types will also give the racer more points. The race is broadcasted through homes throughout the United States. The whole idea for the races was thought up by the American dictator known as “Mister President”. It features racing characters who are just replaced (sort of like on soap operas) once the current racer has reached the end of the line.
Some of the characters include Frankenstein, Matilda the Hun, Calamity Jane, Herman the German, Nero the Hero, and “Machine-Gun” Joe Viterbo. Joe is dressed like a gangster from a James Cagney movie, Frankenstein is dressed in a helmet and body suit to cover his large injuries, and Herman the German & Matilda the Hun are Nazis. Not only do these characters have great names, but they have great costumes to match. Joining these racers are their navigators who help them through the course, telling them where the best place to go is.
This is a film that is a B movie, but that does not mean that it is bad, not by any stretch. It has cheesy characters and dialogue, but it does not matter. The idea that there is a show (essentially a reality show) in the future that has racers going across the country running different kinds of people for points that is watched by just about everyone, is interesting. I have always been fascinated by people enjoying watching a show with people killing each other. At the time this movie came out, the United States having people kill each other for sport was not done to death like it has been now.
However, this is a film that is not to be taken too seriously, and really only to be watched for the humor that is evident in some of the comedic scenes and the hilarious commentary provided by the “Real” Don Steele, he provides many one liners throughout the film that will keep you laughing. It’s great to watch too, all these racers with their ability to carry a character and be a driver, all at the same time.
The film holds up pretty well, for being over forty years old now. When you want to see the origin for all of these films being made about dystopian worlds made up of bloodthirsty people wanting to watch real people kill each other on their tvs, this was one of the first. And one of the best.