Death Race 2000 (1975) — Cartoonish car carnage

“You know Myra, some people might think you’re cute. But me, I think you’re one very large baked potato.”

Justin’s rating: Mutant Reviewers are only worth 20 points, FYI

Justin’s review: We’ve all been there. Sitting in a car with your fellow mates, you see a jogger on the side of the road. Or a flock of Starbucks-drinking businessmen. Or a Nazi Pride parade. And everyone yells something to the effect of, “35 points! 5 more for the dog!”

Are we, in contemporary America, sadistic and heartless? Well, yes, but we’re also influenced by a movie that most of us have never seen: Death Race 2000.

One of Sylvester Stallone’s first movies, Death Race 2000 is set in a 1984-style dystopia where the masses are entertained by a transcontinental road race in which the drivers are awarded points for brutally killing any unfortunate people on the road. The head contender, a mysterious bionic man known only as Frankenstein, is caught up in a rebellion of sorts.

And there you go — two hours of very fast cars and very bad dialogue. Plus a gratuitous nude scene somewhere in the middle.

In a way, I understand why this movie was made. The ’70s was such a horrible decade, particularly in the arena of fashion sense, that our American audiences needed a vision of an even more fashion-negligent future to make them feel at peace. Of course, Death Race 2000’s idea of futuristic vehicles are ’70s cars with cardboard fangs, knives, and blades glued on. Really, you can’t get much cheesier, but you can’t get much bloodier either.

Machine-Gun Joe (Sly Stallone) and his rival Frankenstein (David Carradine) are models of bad acting; Sly overacts and David goes for the Terminator school of talking. When they’re speaking, the general feeling in the room is, “Shut up and get to running more people over.” The most famous part of the movie, killing pedestrians for points, is only explored through the first 45 minutes. Red paint is used liberally, but the satire even more so, especially when a retirement home wheels out some of the elderly for “Euthenasia Day” as the cars bear down. Light-handed social commentary, this is not.

I guess the slyness of this film is that in commenting on the bloodthirstiness of our culture, it creates a movie that is slaking our own bloodthirstiness. So it’s the kind of movie that if you watch it, you’re going to need to haul away some acquired shame afterward.

Didja notice?

  • The older you are, the more points you’re worth (ouch)
  • The President is called “Mr. President” and lives in another country
  • The one announcer who calls everyone her “good friend”
  • Horrible matte painting in the beginning that’s supposed to be the race stadium

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