Death Race 2000 (1975)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Death Race 2000 is a fun, campy classic, drawing genuine thrills from its mindless ultra-violence.

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Movie Info

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. In the not-so-distant future, the United States 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. 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 (Simone Griffeth) into Frankenstein's race car as his navigator. 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. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Rating:
R
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Classics , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
New World Pictures

Cast

David Carradine
as Frankenstein
Sylvester Stallone
as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo
Simone Griffeth
as Annie Smith
Mary Woronov
as Calamity Jane
Roberta Collins
as Mathilda The Hun
Martin Kove
as Nero the Hero
Don Steele
as Junior Bruce
Joyce Jameson
as Grace Pander
Paul Laurence
as Special Agent
Harriet Medin
as Thomasina Paine
Bill Morey
as Deacon
Fred Grandy
as Herman the German
Sandy Ignon
as FBI Agent
Roger Rook
as Radio Operator
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Critic Reviews for Death Race 2000

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (5)

Behold the power of cheese!

Full Review… | June 16, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | June 16, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

The story, about a road race in the not-too-distant future for which the drivers are given points for running down pedestrians, becomes an elaborate and telling fantasy about our peculiar popular entertainments. Fine work carved from minimal materials.

Full Review… | March 28, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Script, from an Ib Melchior story, makes its satirical points economically, and director Paul Bartel keeps the film moving quickly.

Full Review… | March 28, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

Overall the movie isn't as synchromeshed as it might be; the rivalry between champions Carradine and Stallone isn't very interesting, and some of the gags aren't sick or funny enough. But it's a great audience film.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

In the end, it reveals itself to have nothing to say beyond the superficial about government or rebellion. And in the absence of such a statement, it becomes what it seems to have mocked -- a spectacle glorifying the car is an instrument of violence.

Full Review… | May 8, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Death Race 2000

 

   
   

Super Reviewer

½

Mr. President: The drivers are ready, the world is watching. Once more, I give you what you want. "A Cross Country Road Wreck!" Death Race 2000 is another Roger Corman produced film. It has a pretty good cult following and why, I don't really know. It's also another dystopian film that uses sporting events to control the masses and also to spread the love of violence. The dialogue is beyond bad, the acting(besides Carradine is awful), and the movie is just down right stupid. I can see why some people would have fun with it and I did for about 20 minutes, but as it ran on, the fun diminished for me more each second. Luckily the movie only comes in at an hour and nineteen minutes, which allows the film to have easy watchability. As with any Corman produced film you know what he's selling. He's going to rip-off other movies, he's going to show breasts, it's going to be bloody, and it's going to be bad. For some reason though, a lot of people actually think this is a good movie. In Corman standards, it's a lot better than most, but it's also less fun than most in my mind. I wouldn't go as far as to say I hated the movie completely. It had its moments and there were some funny parts. I still didn't like it though.

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

½

This is the pinnacle of Roger Corman's exploitative, bombastic serial films and of them all, this is for sure the most entertaining. Corman made his money capitalizing on making films similar to ones already made or in production, and this film is no different. It doesn't show, but this film found publicity by copying the concept for "Rollerball" and for some reason has gained a cult following unlike its inspiration. The film is set in a dystopian 2000, where racers go transcontinental on a killing spree and rack up points in an almost "Hunger Games" like scenario, except without the emotional tumult but all the reality show gravitas. Though there are some gratuitous uses of blood, gore, and nudity, there's intrinsic value to this film. It spawned its own following leading to a poorly made remake and several sequels. Though it's not a terrible film it is cheaply made, reflected in the principal photography mostly being of the road where much of the film takes place and the same warehouse being used as a set for various hotel rooms. Besides the sets being downright hokey, the acting comes is stilted time and again, as the supporting characters come off as shady and over the top. One of the drivers, in this dystopian setting, is a Nazi, in this world glorified to reflect the changing values of the society, but it does not come into play more than a goofy German accent and a swastika on her helmet. The navigators, who ride with the drivers to tell them the fastest routes, are usually there to enliven the script, but often just become extra bodies to murder along the road. The best part about this film is the lead drivers, who are portrayed by exploitation fixation David Carradine as the complex and murderous Frankenstein, and Sylvester Stallone still acting as an unknown in this film. Still, even with the ripening thanks to old age, this film does not have the amazing script or original concept to be memorable. It does have some twists and turns, especially with Frankenstein's character and his plot against the rest of the drivers, but it's so offhandedly mentioned and not grown enough over time, keeping it relegated to the Corman oeuvre.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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