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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Chicken in a basket?" "No, they're Chicken in a Casket!", August 12, 2006
This review is from: Death Race 2000 - Special Edition (DVD)
So these are the words of Calamity Jane, a contender in Roger Corman's low budget farce, "Death Race 2000." It is interesting that Amazon paired Corman's film with Norman Jewison's "Rollerball" and for good reason: one movie is pure satire and played strictly for laughs while the latter is a far more serious and somber commentary on the media, America's love affair with violence steeped in what we call "sport," and the cult of celebrity. Both films explore these themes quite differently, yet both are entertaining as they are disturbing.

As a black comedy, "Death Race 2000" is more or less a cheaply made exploitation flick (budgeted at approximately $300,000), that never pretends for an instant to be anything more than a satire of the future and a parody of "Rollerball"--a far more ambitious, absorbing and expensive film.

Corman's film depicts a "game"--the Transcontinental Death Race--designed to cater to society's need to channel its aggression and hostile impulses as sort of a 21st century equivalent of the Roman circus offering spectators both entertainment and a catharsis in its more manic and kinetic moments.

Yes, the film is crazy--from the attack on Frankenstein by the French Air Force to Thomasina Paine (hilarious!) and her revolutionaries' thwarted attempts to assassinate "Mr. President" and end the Transcontinental Death Race once and for all. While the special effects in Corman's film are decidedly low-rent, save for some interesting matte paintings injected at the beginning of the film, the cars themselves, customized by car designer James Powers, are both creative and imaginative. The film, for the most part is amusing and very funny. The "Real Don Steele" is terrific as the commentator with one-liners that will leave you laughing.

While Carradine's "Frankenstein" looks utterly ridiculous in a plastic helmet and a vinyl body suit, a pre-Rocky, Sylvester Stallone steals the show and seems far more comfortable in the role of "Machine-Gun Joe Viturbo." Stallone would be a household name a year later with "Rocky" released in 1976. Before he assumed his US Senate seat representing his home state of Iowa, a bespectacled Fred Grandy, preceding his "Love Boat" debut on ABC, also manages some laughs as "Herman the German."

This DVD release with its extras and commentary is a vast improvement over the Digital Multimedia release that looks like it was pirated-off someone's VHS copy recorded in EP mode. For Corman fans, this would appear to be the release to shoot for. And according to IMBD, Corman is presently working on a big budgeted sequel due out sometime in 2008.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 31, 2010 2:08:18 PM PDT
thanks for mentioning the inclusion of a commentary track which, at least on the movies i like,amazon no longer mentions.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2014 5:11:12 PM PDT
Bill Jackson says:
I watched this movie on Netflix a few days ago on a lark. I expected to turn it off after 20 minutes but I loved it. OK, it's not some literary and/or cinematic masterpiece. It was never meant to be that. It's campy as hell. It's silly. It's weird. But it has the one element that kept me watching: it's FUN. It's like nothing I've ever seen before. I can't put my finger on it, but there's some real genius going on here.
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