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DVD Shopping Bag: Death Race 2000 Blu-ray
Roger Corman's Cult Classics
By Robert T. Trate
June 22, 2010
David Carradine in Roger Corman’s Cult Classic Death Race 2000
© Shout Factory/Bob Trate
This week the DVD Shopping Bag is a little light. There aren’t a ton of releases hitting the shelves but thankfully Shout! Factory is releasing a cult classic on Blu-ray. Death Race 2000 (1975) was produced by Roger Corman and directed by Paul Bartel. The film stars David Carradine and an up and coming actor named Sylvester Stallone. Carradine plays the greatest racer of all time, Frankenstein. The driving force in his life is the race. The media has put the perfect spin on his exploits making Frankenstein a national hero. He is personal friends with the president of the United Providences of America, a relationship which is beneficial as the president uses the race to give the masses exactly what they want.
The race is everything as Corman and Bartel supply a colorful crew of characters to keep both the masses on screen and in the theater entertained. Each car has a two man crew, a driver and a navigator. Much like professional wrestling there are heroes, villains and gorgeous ladies in these crews. The cars themselves also have unique attributes and names. Yet Corman doesn’t just focus on the drivers, the media personalities also play important parts to the story as well. Their purpose is to spin the race so that the government can keep feeding the people the lies they want them to hear.
Oddly enough at the center of this film there is a love story. Though strange and twisted Frankenstein and his new navigator, Annie (Simone Griffeth), get down and dirty a few times but find they have some common ground. Frankenstein isn’t open with what his intentions are but he learns about hers quickly enough.
Make no mistakes about it this is a fun film. It is dark, twisted, satirical and funny. Carradine is plays both the hero and the mysterious villain at the same time. This world is so dark it seems fitting that a man named Frankenstein should be its hero.
Yes, there was a remake in 2008, but without the crazy cars I couldn’t bring myself to see it. In watching the original again, I marveled at the late Carradine’s performance. I wondered what ever happened to the gorgeous Simone Griffeth (see the Blu-ray’s booklet for details) and loved how over the top Stallone was. The film is fun with its $1.98 special effects and cheesy matte paintings. This film was so much fun that I can’t understand why they didn’t bring the same over the top professional wresting/ mixed with NASCAR to the remake. I saw the trailer and thought the whole prison setting was a little too real. Death Race 2000 circa 1975 took chances. It took low budget film making to the edge and back again. This is probably the reason why people have been discovering this film for the last 35 years.
Death Race 2000 on Blu-ray looks as if you are seeing the master print for the first time. There isn’t a mark on the film. Oddly enough the picture quality is so clear one can easily see the lines that separate the credits from one another. Natural light is a huge factor in picture quality for Blu-rays. The more natural light in a film the better it will look. There are a few hotel scenes in the movie and the colors pop but not nearly as well as the driving scenes on the highway. The Monster, Frankenstein’s car, is a brilliant collection of teeth, scales and spikes that in 1080p looks alive and becomes a character in the film.
There are tons of special features on the Blu-ray including interviews with Carradine and Corman. A commentary by Corman is a must for fans of the film. A documentary has been assembled for the Blu-ray, just under twelve minutes, it too is a must see for new and old fans of Death Race 2000.
To be honest films like this usually get a special edition release when a remake transpires. Rarely are they ever given this kind of special treatment let alone be on Blu-ray. It has been two years since the remake and this version is just coming out now. The quality and care that went into this Blu-ray can only be matched by a Criterion Collection DVD or Blu-ray. Special thanks go out to Shout! Factory for taking this cult film and giving it the royal treatment it deserves. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t stop here as they are about to release Corman’s the Forbidden World and Galaxy of Terror with the same treatment.
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