Death Race 2000


1h 19m 1975

Brief Synopsis

Racers compete in a brutal cross-country race, with points scored for killing pedestrians.

Film Details

Also Known As
course à la mort de l'an 2000
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Action
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1975
Production Company
New World Pictures
Distribution Company
New Horizons Picture Corp.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)

Synopsis

In the future, a cruel cross-country car race takes place in which the contestents get points for running down pedestrians. But during this particular race, the champion has a change of heart as he is pursued by his rivals and a there is a conspiracy to stop the competition.

Photo Collections

Death Race 2000 - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for Roger Corman's Death Race 2000 (1975). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.

Film Details

Also Known As
course à la mort de l'an 2000
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Action
Sci-Fi
Release Date
1975
Production Company
New World Pictures
Distribution Company
New Horizons Picture Corp.

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 19m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)

Articles

The Gist (Death Race 2000) - THE GIST


In a genre too often bloated with pretension, B-movie impresario Roger Corman and his team of drive-in auteurs turned in a free-wheeling political burlesque wrapped inside a greasy circus of T&A. You got your satire in my exploitation flick-no, you got your exploitation flick in my satire! Said to be futuristic, but not too unlike our own world, Death Race 2000 (1975) mixes pulp and politics with drunken glee. A gory hit-n-run fulmination, a sci-fi parable about dehumanization, a scathing libel against a TV-addled culture amused by the sufferings of others, or just a popcorn freakshow to pass a lazy Saturday afternoon-you name it, Death Race 2000's got it.

Even today, drivers still sardonically joke about running over pedestrians for points. Not many B-pictures have that kind of lasting pop cultural resonance-then again, Death Race 2000 is not your average B-picture.

SYNOPSIS: Fear the future: A grim place ruled by the cruel law of winner take all. It's an every-man-for-himself sort of unfairground, where the smallest and most vulnerable can count on no special protection. Nowhere is this more evident than the country's favorite sport, the Trans-Continental Road Race. As the President himself proudly boasts, it is a contest that upholds the grand American tradition of no holds barred! Racers compete not just to be first across the amber waves of ruin and purple mountain travesties, but to earn points by killing pedestrians in their path. It is a brutal past-time, with body counts bringing the murderers fame and fortune.

The racers gather at the starting point: colorful characters like Nero the Hero (Martin Kove), Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins), and Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov). The always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride "Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone) rails angrily against the champ, Frankenstein (David Carradine). More a legend than a man, Frankenstein is the product of Swiss engineers whose bionic limbs and replacement body parts keep him going after each crash. Underneath his leather face mask, Frankenstein hides a secret: he is in fact legend, not man. There are no brilliant surgeons. After each wreck, a new "Frankenstein" is recruited and sent out in costume to play the role, proving that the lives of the racers are no more valued than those of the hapless souls they score en route.

Anti-Race revolutionaries lay traps worthy of Wile E. Coyote, and one of their number (Simone Griffeth) goes undercover as Frankenstein's new navigator, plotting to sabotage the race. Little does she know that the fabled racer at her side has his own historic ambitions...

Death Race 2000 could easily have been stitched together by Swiss scientists, using modern technology to precision engineer a perfect exploitation film. Veering dizzily from piquant satire to absurdist farce to biting social critique, with plenty of gratuitous nudity and head-bursting gore, all at a breakneck pace, the film never gives the viewer a chance not to be entertained. Generations of filmmakers would be influenced to follow suit: 1981's The Road Warrior, 1985's Doctor Who serial Vengeance on Varos, 1987's The Running Man, 2001's Series 7: The Contenders, 2006's Idiocracy are but a sampler of the apocalyptic sci-fi satires taking an obvious inspiration from Death Race 2000. Not to mention the most bald-faced copy of all, the upcoming Death Race 3000 by director Paul W. S. Anderson with star Jason Statham. Not bad for a movie shot in only 17 days.

David Carradine had just finished his three-year tour of duty on TV's Kung Fu. That experience had brought him popularity and success, but also a troubled reputation, and it was now over. His future was uncertain, and he felt torn between gratitude and resentment towards his own public image. It was as if the role of Frankenstein had been written especially for him, a chance to rewrite his own legend. Frankenstein's delicious complexity and moral ambiguity depends on the audience's familiarity with Carradine as a heroic figure, seemingly now cast as a callous killer indifferent to the suffering of innocents. Villain and hero wrapped in one, Carradine's Frankenstein keeps the audience guessing to the end.

Meanwhile, Sylvester Stallone approaches his role as Machine Gun Joe with a cartoonishly exaggerated villainy. He chews the scenery so thoroughly it's a wonder the other actors don't slip on all the drool. It is an over-the-top performance Sly would tap again, decades later, as the baddie in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003). He asked for and won the right to rewrite his dialog in his own style. Between takes, Stallone hunkered off to the quiet corners of the set to work on writing a boxing picture he had in mind. Death Race 3000 was Stallone's third movie, and he was paid $1,000 a week for it. Post-Rocky (1976), the man would be worth $10 million per film; Corman had an uncanny knack to discover young talent just before it broke big.

As Calamity Jane, Mary Woronov appears in one of her first Hollywood gigs (she had previously acted in Oliver Stone's Seizure (1974) and three films for director Theodore Gershuny). She was used to a different kind of acting experience in Andy Warhol's improvised productions. Within a short span, she went from the performance art of Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable to making exploitation flicks for Roger Corman, but she didn't see this as such a contradiction. "Warhol and Corman had a very similar mentality," says Woronov, "I call Roger Corman the Andy Warhol of the West Coast, for me anyway." It marked the first collaboration between Woronov and director Paul Bartel, who discovered kindred spirits in one another. The two would work together on numerous films over the following years, most notably their indie hit Eating Raoul (1982).

Corman and Bartel assembled an equally impressive roster of talent behind the cameras. Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto had already cut his Corman teeth on the women-in-prison flick Caged Heat (1974). Fujimoto took a leaf from the books of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965) and Edgar G. Ulmer's Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), maximizing production value on his tight budget by casting striking works of modern architecture as futuristic cityscapes. Within a few years, Fujimoto would be on the photography staff of Star Wars (1977), and eventually would become the award-winning Director of Photography for the likes of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993), The Sixth Sense (1999) and other major Hollywood hits. That Corman sure could pick 'em.

This was the calling card of New World, and every other outfit Corman lent his name to over the years. He was not alone in making impoverished exploitation pictures, but he was rare in taking such things seriously as films. Even the lowliest grindhouse flick could be distinguished and ennobled, because the audience doesn't care how much a movie cost, just how much fun it is. So movies like Death Race 2000 linger as enduring examples of that grand American tradition of no holds barred.

Producer: Roger Corman, Jim Weatherill
Director: Paul Bartel
Screenplay: Robert Thom, Charles Griffith, Ib Melchior
Cinematography: Tak Fujimoto
Film Editing: Tina Hirsch
Art Direction: Beala Neel, Robin Royce
Music: Paul Chihara
Cast: David Carradine (Frankenstein), Simone Griffeth (Annie Smith), Sylvester Stallone (Machine Gun Joe Viterbo), Mary Woronov (Calamity Jane), Roberta Collins (Matilda the Hun), Martin Kove (Nero the Hero).
C-84m.

by David Kalat

The Gist (Death Race 2000) - The Gist

The Gist (Death Race 2000) - THE GIST

In a genre too often bloated with pretension, B-movie impresario Roger Corman and his team of drive-in auteurs turned in a free-wheeling political burlesque wrapped inside a greasy circus of T&A. You got your satire in my exploitation flick-no, you got your exploitation flick in my satire! Said to be futuristic, but not too unlike our own world, Death Race 2000 (1975) mixes pulp and politics with drunken glee. A gory hit-n-run fulmination, a sci-fi parable about dehumanization, a scathing libel against a TV-addled culture amused by the sufferings of others, or just a popcorn freakshow to pass a lazy Saturday afternoon-you name it, Death Race 2000's got it. Even today, drivers still sardonically joke about running over pedestrians for points. Not many B-pictures have that kind of lasting pop cultural resonance-then again, Death Race 2000 is not your average B-picture. SYNOPSIS: Fear the future: A grim place ruled by the cruel law of winner take all. It's an every-man-for-himself sort of unfairground, where the smallest and most vulnerable can count on no special protection. Nowhere is this more evident than the country's favorite sport, the Trans-Continental Road Race. As the President himself proudly boasts, it is a contest that upholds the grand American tradition of no holds barred! Racers compete not just to be first across the amber waves of ruin and purple mountain travesties, but to earn points by killing pedestrians in their path. It is a brutal past-time, with body counts bringing the murderers fame and fortune. The racers gather at the starting point: colorful characters like Nero the Hero (Martin Kove), Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins), and Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov). The always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride "Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone) rails angrily against the champ, Frankenstein (David Carradine). More a legend than a man, Frankenstein is the product of Swiss engineers whose bionic limbs and replacement body parts keep him going after each crash. Underneath his leather face mask, Frankenstein hides a secret: he is in fact legend, not man. There are no brilliant surgeons. After each wreck, a new "Frankenstein" is recruited and sent out in costume to play the role, proving that the lives of the racers are no more valued than those of the hapless souls they score en route. Anti-Race revolutionaries lay traps worthy of Wile E. Coyote, and one of their number (Simone Griffeth) goes undercover as Frankenstein's new navigator, plotting to sabotage the race. Little does she know that the fabled racer at her side has his own historic ambitions... Death Race 2000 could easily have been stitched together by Swiss scientists, using modern technology to precision engineer a perfect exploitation film. Veering dizzily from piquant satire to absurdist farce to biting social critique, with plenty of gratuitous nudity and head-bursting gore, all at a breakneck pace, the film never gives the viewer a chance not to be entertained. Generations of filmmakers would be influenced to follow suit: 1981's The Road Warrior, 1985's Doctor Who serial Vengeance on Varos, 1987's The Running Man, 2001's Series 7: The Contenders, 2006's Idiocracy are but a sampler of the apocalyptic sci-fi satires taking an obvious inspiration from Death Race 2000. Not to mention the most bald-faced copy of all, the upcoming Death Race 3000 by director Paul W. S. Anderson with star Jason Statham. Not bad for a movie shot in only 17 days. David Carradine had just finished his three-year tour of duty on TV's Kung Fu. That experience had brought him popularity and success, but also a troubled reputation, and it was now over. His future was uncertain, and he felt torn between gratitude and resentment towards his own public image. It was as if the role of Frankenstein had been written especially for him, a chance to rewrite his own legend. Frankenstein's delicious complexity and moral ambiguity depends on the audience's familiarity with Carradine as a heroic figure, seemingly now cast as a callous killer indifferent to the suffering of innocents. Villain and hero wrapped in one, Carradine's Frankenstein keeps the audience guessing to the end. Meanwhile, Sylvester Stallone approaches his role as Machine Gun Joe with a cartoonishly exaggerated villainy. He chews the scenery so thoroughly it's a wonder the other actors don't slip on all the drool. It is an over-the-top performance Sly would tap again, decades later, as the baddie in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003). He asked for and won the right to rewrite his dialog in his own style. Between takes, Stallone hunkered off to the quiet corners of the set to work on writing a boxing picture he had in mind. Death Race 3000 was Stallone's third movie, and he was paid $1,000 a week for it. Post-Rocky (1976), the man would be worth $10 million per film; Corman had an uncanny knack to discover young talent just before it broke big. As Calamity Jane, Mary Woronov appears in one of her first Hollywood gigs (she had previously acted in Oliver Stone's Seizure (1974) and three films for director Theodore Gershuny). She was used to a different kind of acting experience in Andy Warhol's improvised productions. Within a short span, she went from the performance art of Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable to making exploitation flicks for Roger Corman, but she didn't see this as such a contradiction. "Warhol and Corman had a very similar mentality," says Woronov, "I call Roger Corman the Andy Warhol of the West Coast, for me anyway." It marked the first collaboration between Woronov and director Paul Bartel, who discovered kindred spirits in one another. The two would work together on numerous films over the following years, most notably their indie hit Eating Raoul (1982). Corman and Bartel assembled an equally impressive roster of talent behind the cameras. Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto had already cut his Corman teeth on the women-in-prison flick Caged Heat (1974). Fujimoto took a leaf from the books of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965) and Edgar G. Ulmer's Beyond the Time Barrier (1960), maximizing production value on his tight budget by casting striking works of modern architecture as futuristic cityscapes. Within a few years, Fujimoto would be on the photography staff of Star Wars (1977), and eventually would become the award-winning Director of Photography for the likes of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993), The Sixth Sense (1999) and other major Hollywood hits. That Corman sure could pick 'em. This was the calling card of New World, and every other outfit Corman lent his name to over the years. He was not alone in making impoverished exploitation pictures, but he was rare in taking such things seriously as films. Even the lowliest grindhouse flick could be distinguished and ennobled, because the audience doesn't care how much a movie cost, just how much fun it is. So movies like Death Race 2000 linger as enduring examples of that grand American tradition of no holds barred. Producer: Roger Corman, Jim Weatherill Director: Paul Bartel Screenplay: Robert Thom, Charles Griffith, Ib Melchior Cinematography: Tak Fujimoto Film Editing: Tina Hirsch Art Direction: Beala Neel, Robin Royce Music: Paul Chihara Cast: David Carradine (Frankenstein), Simone Griffeth (Annie Smith), Sylvester Stallone (Machine Gun Joe Viterbo), Mary Woronov (Calamity Jane), Roberta Collins (Matilda the Hun), Martin Kove (Nero the Hero). C-84m. by David Kalat

Insider Info (Death Race 2000) - BEHIND THE SCENES


His name is Willie Connors, but to the world he is simply the Racer. As the reigning champion of the Trans-Continental Road Race, he drives a souped-up speed devil dubbed "The Bull," decorated to match. Winning the race involves more than mere speed-drivers rack up points for running over pedestrians.

When Connors plows his Bull through an unsuspecting crowd, the bloodbath blots his windshield. Stepping from the car to survey his gargantuan score, he expects to be accosted by fans. Instead, this rare interaction with the public is biting-a young woman cradles the corpse of a murdered child in her arms, and calls him "butcher." Connors drives off, confused. It had never occurred to him to think of his scores as people, and now that her harsh word rings in his ears, his enthusiasm for the race rapidly dwindles. If the bodies of the dead are anything other than numbers on a scoreboard, how can he continue to play this bloody sport?

This is the plot of a short story by Ib Melchior, first published in the October 1956 issue of Escapade magazine. It was the first work of science-fiction ever written by Melchior, who would go on to be among the leading lights of the genre. Many years earlier (we can be precise if you want-it was in 1939), young Ib was a guest at the Indianapolis 500, seated in the same box as the racers' wives. A fiery crash incinerated one of the drivers. Ib sat helplessly as the dead racer's widow recoiled in shock while the crowd roared with delight at having experienced such exciting horror firsthand. Melchior realized the sickening truth, that the sport was premised on the possibility of witnessing death. The Racer did little but exaggerate reality slightly.

Given a decade or so to percolate, The Racer started to exhibit more prescience than before. As the culture grew increasingly coarse, vulgar, and casually violent, the idea of a future in which human life was dismissed for the purposes of entertainment was not so outrageous.

Even the names chosen by Melchior took on unintended significance: in the 1960s, any reader coming across Willie Connors at the helm of "The Bull" could not help but think of the legendary racist Bull Connors, the poster boy for state-sponsored violence. Throughout the Civil Rights era, his name would be synonymous with the dehumanization of others, even if this connection was nothing but coincidental.

In the pitch of the Civil Rights struggle, dystopian fiction had started to take on a new significance in American culture. Previously, dystopian writing had happily confined itself to depictions of totalitarianism in the Nazi-occupied Europe of the past or the Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe of the then-present. Cold War audiences could enjoy the reassurance that We were superior to Them. Come the late 1960s, the democratic West looked discomfitingly like its enemies. Assassinations, political violence, abuses of power, misguided wars, the depletion of natural resources, an economy on the brink of collapse-enough of that, and the writers of speculative fiction recast dystopia as our collective, perhaps inevitable, fate.

According to the architects of movie Armageddon, people were destined to be eaten as soylent green, enslaved on a planet of the apes, or killed for sport in rollerball rinks. It was in this climate that Roger Corman felt compelled to adapt The Racer for the screen. Corman had a knack for jumping on bandwagons even before the wagons had their wheels fitted. This is the man who would get Carnosaur to theaters weeks before Jurassic Park (both 1993). Asked if Death Race 2000 was a knock-off of Rollerball (1975), Corman simply replies that his film was in theaters first, by a good two months-which is both technically true, and not an answer to the question.

Director Paul Bartel is more candid when he admits, "It was very important to [Roger] to be the David against the studio Goliath, and to come up with a cheap version that could be marketed along the same lines as some megaproduction."

Getting Death Race 2000 out ahead of the competition was no easy task, though. It had a troubled gestation. The short story is more short than a story-it is a premise and a few incidents, but not enough for the basis of an entire movie. Corman initially took it upon himself to flesh the idea into a movie treatment, but was unhappy with the result. He turned to writer Robert Thom, an Emmy-winning writer with a knack for outrageous social satire. His script for AIP's 1968 Wild in the Streets had helped earn that low-budget B-picture an Oscar® nomination. Thom followed his satirist's instincts and produced an absurdist script that Corman flatly rejected.

Here is where the story gets muddled. In his autobiography, Corman claims he was inspired by the likes of Dr. Strangelove (1964), always intending Death Race to evince madcap wit. Not one of Corman's collaborators agree. Only recently has Corman started to admit that, in fact, he had stubbornly insisted that the film be played straight, and had resisted all attempts to emphasize its comic aspects. Dissatisfied with Thom's farcical approach, Corman handed the project to his longtime screenwriter Chuck Griffith. As the writer of many of Corman's most successful horror comedies, Griffith knew well how to sell his often humorless boss on the idea. Griffith painstakingly rewrote Death Race 2000 to maintain the ironic touch but not go so far as to alienate Corman. The thing went through multiple drafts, with much back-and-forth with a cantankerous Corman. The producer even threatened to abandon the project altogether, until he was reminded that he'd already invested more than five thousand dollars in it, which meant the spendthrift was committed. Beverly Gray put a few crowning ideas into the mix, and reluctantly Corman agreed to shoot it as a comic thriller.

Paul Bartel was a young director with but one feature film on his resume, but that film was the cult classic Private Parts (1972), produced by Corman's brother Gene. Having handled second-unit photography for New World Pictures on Big Bad Mama (1974), Bartel had proven his worth to Corman. For $5,000, Bartel would get a chance to direct his second feature-a fee that just happened to match what Corman was spending on the creation of the custom race cars featured in the film.

Bartel had heard the siren song of filmmaking since childhood. He attended UCLA's film school before taking a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Center for Experimental Film in Rome. His career would encompass directing, writing, and acting, with a recurrent emphasis on scathing satire. Not even Hollywood was especially welcoming of an openly gay man in the 1970s, so Bartel naturally gravitated to the underground world of independent cinema, a subculture that embraced his dry wit and keen visual style.

Bartel was especially attracted to the black humor of Death Race 2000, but found himself perpetually locking horns with Corman over that very aspect. On the set, Bartel found an unexpected ally in star David Carradine, who colluded with the director to shoot certain scenes in direct defiance of their producer. During post-production, Corman shut Bartel out and recut the picture to emphasize its nudity and gore at the expense of the arch humor favored by Bartel.

The controversy over the tone actually helped the film tremendously, because between them, the warring parties struck a perfect balance between over the top farce and serious sci-fi social commentary. Had the film wobbled too far over the line into either the serious or comic sides, the result would have been diminished-as the filmmakers unhappily discovered in the years to come. In 1976, Bartel directed Cannonball! as a sort of revised second edition of Death Race 2000, but with a more obvious tendency toward parody. Bartel brought back star David Carradine, along with appearances by fellow Death Race alums Mary Woronov and Sylvester Stallone, for yet another "Trans-American outlaw road race" yarn. Trying too hard to be funny and failing, this film has been justly forgotten.

In 1978, Roger Corman hired director Allan Arkush to make Deathsport, a film so closely modeled on Death Race that Corman felt morally obliged to pay Ib Melchior again as acknowledgment of the debt to The Racer. Once more, David Carradine starred, but this time Corman convinced Arkush to shoot the thing straight, with none of that fey jesting Corman so disliked from Bartel. This concoction was no more effective or popular than Bartel's Cannonball!. The real deal, Death Race 2000 was a huge hit, one of the biggest successes of Corman's storied career, and one of the few films of the underrated Bartel to be well-remembered today. It cost somewhere between $300,000 (according to Roger) and $480,000 (according to Paul) to make, and brought in just shy of $5 million in ticket sales.

When Ib Melchior became one of those ticket buyers in 1975, his initial response was one of shock and horror: "My God!" he exclaimed, "What have they done to my story? Then I started laughing, and by the time the film was over I thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen."

by David Kalat

Sources:
Paul Bartel, Another Evening With David Carradine, Take One July 1978.
Roger Corman, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Delta Publishing.
Roger Corman and Mary Woronov, commentary track on the Buena Vista Death Race 2000 DVD.
Beverly Gray, Roger Corman, Thunder's Mouth Press.
Justin Gustainis, ,i>Paul Bartel, www.filmreference.com.
Ib Melchior, The Racer, reprinted in Science Fiction Classics: The Stories That Morphed Into Movies, TV Books LLC.
Tom Rainone, Still Drunk as Hell with David Carradine, Psychotronic Number 5.
Cynthia Rose, Interview with Mary Woronov, Psychotronic Number 27.
Robert Skotak, Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination, Midnight Marquee Press.
Tom Weaver, Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes, McFarland Press.
When Two Tribes go to War: A History of Video Game Controversy, www.gamespot.com.

Insider Info (Death Race 2000) - BEHIND THE SCENES

His name is Willie Connors, but to the world he is simply the Racer. As the reigning champion of the Trans-Continental Road Race, he drives a souped-up speed devil dubbed "The Bull," decorated to match. Winning the race involves more than mere speed-drivers rack up points for running over pedestrians. When Connors plows his Bull through an unsuspecting crowd, the bloodbath blots his windshield. Stepping from the car to survey his gargantuan score, he expects to be accosted by fans. Instead, this rare interaction with the public is biting-a young woman cradles the corpse of a murdered child in her arms, and calls him "butcher." Connors drives off, confused. It had never occurred to him to think of his scores as people, and now that her harsh word rings in his ears, his enthusiasm for the race rapidly dwindles. If the bodies of the dead are anything other than numbers on a scoreboard, how can he continue to play this bloody sport? This is the plot of a short story by Ib Melchior, first published in the October 1956 issue of Escapade magazine. It was the first work of science-fiction ever written by Melchior, who would go on to be among the leading lights of the genre. Many years earlier (we can be precise if you want-it was in 1939), young Ib was a guest at the Indianapolis 500, seated in the same box as the racers' wives. A fiery crash incinerated one of the drivers. Ib sat helplessly as the dead racer's widow recoiled in shock while the crowd roared with delight at having experienced such exciting horror firsthand. Melchior realized the sickening truth, that the sport was premised on the possibility of witnessing death. The Racer did little but exaggerate reality slightly. Given a decade or so to percolate, The Racer started to exhibit more prescience than before. As the culture grew increasingly coarse, vulgar, and casually violent, the idea of a future in which human life was dismissed for the purposes of entertainment was not so outrageous. Even the names chosen by Melchior took on unintended significance: in the 1960s, any reader coming across Willie Connors at the helm of "The Bull" could not help but think of the legendary racist Bull Connors, the poster boy for state-sponsored violence. Throughout the Civil Rights era, his name would be synonymous with the dehumanization of others, even if this connection was nothing but coincidental. In the pitch of the Civil Rights struggle, dystopian fiction had started to take on a new significance in American culture. Previously, dystopian writing had happily confined itself to depictions of totalitarianism in the Nazi-occupied Europe of the past or the Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe of the then-present. Cold War audiences could enjoy the reassurance that We were superior to Them. Come the late 1960s, the democratic West looked discomfitingly like its enemies. Assassinations, political violence, abuses of power, misguided wars, the depletion of natural resources, an economy on the brink of collapse-enough of that, and the writers of speculative fiction recast dystopia as our collective, perhaps inevitable, fate. According to the architects of movie Armageddon, people were destined to be eaten as soylent green, enslaved on a planet of the apes, or killed for sport in rollerball rinks. It was in this climate that Roger Corman felt compelled to adapt The Racer for the screen. Corman had a knack for jumping on bandwagons even before the wagons had their wheels fitted. This is the man who would get Carnosaur to theaters weeks before Jurassic Park (both 1993). Asked if Death Race 2000 was a knock-off of Rollerball (1975), Corman simply replies that his film was in theaters first, by a good two months-which is both technically true, and not an answer to the question. Director Paul Bartel is more candid when he admits, "It was very important to [Roger] to be the David against the studio Goliath, and to come up with a cheap version that could be marketed along the same lines as some megaproduction." Getting Death Race 2000 out ahead of the competition was no easy task, though. It had a troubled gestation. The short story is more short than a story-it is a premise and a few incidents, but not enough for the basis of an entire movie. Corman initially took it upon himself to flesh the idea into a movie treatment, but was unhappy with the result. He turned to writer Robert Thom, an Emmy-winning writer with a knack for outrageous social satire. His script for AIP's 1968 Wild in the Streets had helped earn that low-budget B-picture an Oscar® nomination. Thom followed his satirist's instincts and produced an absurdist script that Corman flatly rejected. Here is where the story gets muddled. In his autobiography, Corman claims he was inspired by the likes of Dr. Strangelove (1964), always intending Death Race to evince madcap wit. Not one of Corman's collaborators agree. Only recently has Corman started to admit that, in fact, he had stubbornly insisted that the film be played straight, and had resisted all attempts to emphasize its comic aspects. Dissatisfied with Thom's farcical approach, Corman handed the project to his longtime screenwriter Chuck Griffith. As the writer of many of Corman's most successful horror comedies, Griffith knew well how to sell his often humorless boss on the idea. Griffith painstakingly rewrote Death Race 2000 to maintain the ironic touch but not go so far as to alienate Corman. The thing went through multiple drafts, with much back-and-forth with a cantankerous Corman. The producer even threatened to abandon the project altogether, until he was reminded that he'd already invested more than five thousand dollars in it, which meant the spendthrift was committed. Beverly Gray put a few crowning ideas into the mix, and reluctantly Corman agreed to shoot it as a comic thriller. Paul Bartel was a young director with but one feature film on his resume, but that film was the cult classic Private Parts (1972), produced by Corman's brother Gene. Having handled second-unit photography for New World Pictures on Big Bad Mama (1974), Bartel had proven his worth to Corman. For $5,000, Bartel would get a chance to direct his second feature-a fee that just happened to match what Corman was spending on the creation of the custom race cars featured in the film. Bartel had heard the siren song of filmmaking since childhood. He attended UCLA's film school before taking a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Center for Experimental Film in Rome. His career would encompass directing, writing, and acting, with a recurrent emphasis on scathing satire. Not even Hollywood was especially welcoming of an openly gay man in the 1970s, so Bartel naturally gravitated to the underground world of independent cinema, a subculture that embraced his dry wit and keen visual style. Bartel was especially attracted to the black humor of Death Race 2000, but found himself perpetually locking horns with Corman over that very aspect. On the set, Bartel found an unexpected ally in star David Carradine, who colluded with the director to shoot certain scenes in direct defiance of their producer. During post-production, Corman shut Bartel out and recut the picture to emphasize its nudity and gore at the expense of the arch humor favored by Bartel. The controversy over the tone actually helped the film tremendously, because between them, the warring parties struck a perfect balance between over the top farce and serious sci-fi social commentary. Had the film wobbled too far over the line into either the serious or comic sides, the result would have been diminished-as the filmmakers unhappily discovered in the years to come. In 1976, Bartel directed Cannonball! as a sort of revised second edition of Death Race 2000, but with a more obvious tendency toward parody. Bartel brought back star David Carradine, along with appearances by fellow Death Race alums Mary Woronov and Sylvester Stallone, for yet another "Trans-American outlaw road race" yarn. Trying too hard to be funny and failing, this film has been justly forgotten. In 1978, Roger Corman hired director Allan Arkush to make Deathsport, a film so closely modeled on Death Race that Corman felt morally obliged to pay Ib Melchior again as acknowledgment of the debt to The Racer. Once more, David Carradine starred, but this time Corman convinced Arkush to shoot the thing straight, with none of that fey jesting Corman so disliked from Bartel. This concoction was no more effective or popular than Bartel's Cannonball!. The real deal, Death Race 2000 was a huge hit, one of the biggest successes of Corman's storied career, and one of the few films of the underrated Bartel to be well-remembered today. It cost somewhere between $300,000 (according to Roger) and $480,000 (according to Paul) to make, and brought in just shy of $5 million in ticket sales. When Ib Melchior became one of those ticket buyers in 1975, his initial response was one of shock and horror: "My God!" he exclaimed, "What have they done to my story? Then I started laughing, and by the time the film was over I thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen." by David Kalat Sources: Paul Bartel, Another Evening With David Carradine, Take One July 1978. Roger Corman, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Delta Publishing. Roger Corman and Mary Woronov, commentary track on the Buena Vista Death Race 2000 DVD. Beverly Gray, Roger Corman, Thunder's Mouth Press. Justin Gustainis, ,i>Paul Bartel, www.filmreference.com. Ib Melchior, The Racer, reprinted in Science Fiction Classics: The Stories That Morphed Into Movies, TV Books LLC. Tom Rainone, Still Drunk as Hell with David Carradine, Psychotronic Number 5. Cynthia Rose, Interview with Mary Woronov, Psychotronic Number 27. Robert Skotak, Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination, Midnight Marquee Press. Tom Weaver, Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes, McFarland Press. When Two Tribes go to War: A History of Video Game Controversy, www.gamespot.com.

In the Know (Death Race 2000) - TRIVIA


"You can't drive it," they tried to tell him. "You'll be arrested." Roger Corman looked at the car in question. It had once been a humble rear-engine VW, a Herbie, junked at auction, stripped to the frame, and reconstructed by the film's designers with a fiberglass shell decorated to look like an alligator. It had no license tag, no headlights, no bumpers-but it had fangs and fins and garish paint. It was a movie prop, and a terrific one at that, but it was not street legal, and the stunt men refused to take the wheel.

Not that they excused themselves from speeding the things on the back roads and race tracks earlier in the shoot-if 45 mph can be called speeding. But for this shot, Roger Corman wanted Frankenstein's car to shoot down a city boulevard at top speed. It was not the sort of thing a professional would do and expect to keep his license. "The hell with it," grumbled Corman, and crawled into the vehicle himself. Frankenstein's full-body leather fetish outfit meant anybody could play his role at times like these, safely concealed behind a mask and cape. Corman waited for a break in traffic, and gunned the engine. As luck would have it, another film company was in town that day, attended by a cluster of traffic cops, and Corman's brazen disregard for protocol didn't even turn a single head. The shot is the film.

Corman loved those cars. Mary Woronov suspects the main reason Roger even made the film was to have an excuse to play with life-size Hot Wheels. While he and his writing team wrangled how to transform Ib Melchior's short story into a workable script, Corman had some sketches drawn up of the various cars-and it was from these drawings alone he got production financing, from equally car-happy bankers. Boys love their toys.

Ironically, the whole thing was set in motion by Melchior's revulsion at attending a car race in which a driver was killed, but it was this tension between conflicting attitudes and interests that gives the film its unique kick. The film speaks out of both sides of its mouth, condemning violence while exploiting it, reveling in the very culture it critiques. Director Paul Bartel recognized this tension in the script, and insisted that at the end of the film Frankenstein should drive over a pesky reporter asking imprudent questions. Corman objected adamantly. To his eye, such an ending invalidated the message of the movie. Bartel and Corman fought over this last scene extensively, finally agreeing on a compromise scene that proposed that the FBI would gun the reporter down, leaving Frankenstein not directly responsible for this final death. Bartel grumbled about the idea, convinced that a movie about running people over should conclude with running a person over. After so many disagreements about the tone of the film, though, Bartel felt he needed to give Corman this one. On the day of the shoot, David Carradine talked his director into shooting both versions, just for fun's sake. No sooner had they gotten the original version in the can then the difficult star suddenly decided he didn't want to work any more that day-and with a wink and a nod, the star and director called it a day, never having shot the scene their producer expected. Corman was furious, but it was too late to change.

For Carradine and Bartel to have colluded so effectively was a bit of a surprise, given how rocky their relationship started. In the early days of the production, Bartel saw Carradine as a spoiled star. They locked horns repeatedly, until Bartel had enough and decided to fire him and recast the role with Lee Majors. Humbled, Carradine fell in line, and the two bonded over their shared appreciation of George Gershwin!

One evening, to blow off steam, Bartel sat at an old upright piano and clinked out a Gershwin tune. Carradine started dancing tenderly...and in that one mad moment, director and star found the magic to film one of the most memorable scenes of the film, as Frankenstein dances half-naked save for a leather mask, romantically entranced by a woman he knows is plotting his death.

Killer cars and Gershwin-the crazy pavement of Death Race 2000 encompassed a wide variety of passions and inspirations, with a little something for everyone.

The film was a significant commercial success right away, prompting Corman to consider adapting it into a television series. Meanwhile, an attempt to turn it into a video game misfired. In 1976, software company Exidy put out an arcade game in which players maneuvered a crudely drawn car over even more crudely rendered "gremlins." The screen was little more than white blips on a black field, but with the addition of a little screaming sound effect as a tiny cross appeared to mark the kill, the game earned a notoriety for fostering violence. Ironically, the game was not originally designed to have anything to do with Death Race 2000, but when the Chicago Coin Machine Company failed to pay their bills on time, Exidy rechristened "Demolition Derby" in honor of the hit movie. There was an outcry, protests, complaints, and eventually the game was banned. Nowadays, the use of hit-and-runs as video game fodder is routine, and appears in games rated no higher than T for Teen-a sign that the film may indeed have foreseen the gradual degradation of human life.

by David Kalat

Sources:
Paul Bartel, Another Evening With David Carradine, Take One July 1978.
Roger Corman, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Delta Publishing.
Roger Corman and Mary Woronov, commentary track on the Buena Vista Death Race 2000 DVD.
Beverly Gray, Roger Corman, Thunder's Mouth Press.
Justin Gustainis, ,i>Paul Bartel, www.filmreference.com.
Ib Melchior, The Racer, reprinted in Science Fiction Classics: The Stories That Morphed Into Movies, TV Books LLC.
Tom Rainone, Still Drunk as Hell with David Carradine, Psychotronic Number 5.
Cynthia Rose, Interview with Mary Woronov, Psychotronic Number 27.
Robert Skotak, Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination, Midnight Marquee Press.
Tom Weaver, Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes, McFarland Press.
When Two Tribes go to War: A History of Video Game Controversy, www.gamespot.com.

In the Know (Death Race 2000) - TRIVIA

"You can't drive it," they tried to tell him. "You'll be arrested." Roger Corman looked at the car in question. It had once been a humble rear-engine VW, a Herbie, junked at auction, stripped to the frame, and reconstructed by the film's designers with a fiberglass shell decorated to look like an alligator. It had no license tag, no headlights, no bumpers-but it had fangs and fins and garish paint. It was a movie prop, and a terrific one at that, but it was not street legal, and the stunt men refused to take the wheel. Not that they excused themselves from speeding the things on the back roads and race tracks earlier in the shoot-if 45 mph can be called speeding. But for this shot, Roger Corman wanted Frankenstein's car to shoot down a city boulevard at top speed. It was not the sort of thing a professional would do and expect to keep his license. "The hell with it," grumbled Corman, and crawled into the vehicle himself. Frankenstein's full-body leather fetish outfit meant anybody could play his role at times like these, safely concealed behind a mask and cape. Corman waited for a break in traffic, and gunned the engine. As luck would have it, another film company was in town that day, attended by a cluster of traffic cops, and Corman's brazen disregard for protocol didn't even turn a single head. The shot is the film. Corman loved those cars. Mary Woronov suspects the main reason Roger even made the film was to have an excuse to play with life-size Hot Wheels. While he and his writing team wrangled how to transform Ib Melchior's short story into a workable script, Corman had some sketches drawn up of the various cars-and it was from these drawings alone he got production financing, from equally car-happy bankers. Boys love their toys. Ironically, the whole thing was set in motion by Melchior's revulsion at attending a car race in which a driver was killed, but it was this tension between conflicting attitudes and interests that gives the film its unique kick. The film speaks out of both sides of its mouth, condemning violence while exploiting it, reveling in the very culture it critiques. Director Paul Bartel recognized this tension in the script, and insisted that at the end of the film Frankenstein should drive over a pesky reporter asking imprudent questions. Corman objected adamantly. To his eye, such an ending invalidated the message of the movie. Bartel and Corman fought over this last scene extensively, finally agreeing on a compromise scene that proposed that the FBI would gun the reporter down, leaving Frankenstein not directly responsible for this final death. Bartel grumbled about the idea, convinced that a movie about running people over should conclude with running a person over. After so many disagreements about the tone of the film, though, Bartel felt he needed to give Corman this one. On the day of the shoot, David Carradine talked his director into shooting both versions, just for fun's sake. No sooner had they gotten the original version in the can then the difficult star suddenly decided he didn't want to work any more that day-and with a wink and a nod, the star and director called it a day, never having shot the scene their producer expected. Corman was furious, but it was too late to change. For Carradine and Bartel to have colluded so effectively was a bit of a surprise, given how rocky their relationship started. In the early days of the production, Bartel saw Carradine as a spoiled star. They locked horns repeatedly, until Bartel had enough and decided to fire him and recast the role with Lee Majors. Humbled, Carradine fell in line, and the two bonded over their shared appreciation of George Gershwin! One evening, to blow off steam, Bartel sat at an old upright piano and clinked out a Gershwin tune. Carradine started dancing tenderly...and in that one mad moment, director and star found the magic to film one of the most memorable scenes of the film, as Frankenstein dances half-naked save for a leather mask, romantically entranced by a woman he knows is plotting his death. Killer cars and Gershwin-the crazy pavement of Death Race 2000 encompassed a wide variety of passions and inspirations, with a little something for everyone. The film was a significant commercial success right away, prompting Corman to consider adapting it into a television series. Meanwhile, an attempt to turn it into a video game misfired. In 1976, software company Exidy put out an arcade game in which players maneuvered a crudely drawn car over even more crudely rendered "gremlins." The screen was little more than white blips on a black field, but with the addition of a little screaming sound effect as a tiny cross appeared to mark the kill, the game earned a notoriety for fostering violence. Ironically, the game was not originally designed to have anything to do with Death Race 2000, but when the Chicago Coin Machine Company failed to pay their bills on time, Exidy rechristened "Demolition Derby" in honor of the hit movie. There was an outcry, protests, complaints, and eventually the game was banned. Nowadays, the use of hit-and-runs as video game fodder is routine, and appears in games rated no higher than T for Teen-a sign that the film may indeed have foreseen the gradual degradation of human life. by David Kalat Sources: Paul Bartel, Another Evening With David Carradine, Take One July 1978. Roger Corman, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Delta Publishing. Roger Corman and Mary Woronov, commentary track on the Buena Vista Death Race 2000 DVD. Beverly Gray, Roger Corman, Thunder's Mouth Press. Justin Gustainis, ,i>Paul Bartel, www.filmreference.com. Ib Melchior, The Racer, reprinted in Science Fiction Classics: The Stories That Morphed Into Movies, TV Books LLC. Tom Rainone, Still Drunk as Hell with David Carradine, Psychotronic Number 5. Cynthia Rose, Interview with Mary Woronov, Psychotronic Number 27. Robert Skotak, Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination, Midnight Marquee Press. Tom Weaver, Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes, McFarland Press. When Two Tribes go to War: A History of Video Game Controversy, www.gamespot.com.

Yea or Nay (Death Race 2000) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "DEATH RACE 2000"


"Script, from an Ib Melchior story, makes its satirical points economically, and director Paul Bartel keeps the film moving quickly. Almost all of the film takes place on the road, with carnage and crashes occurring like clockwork."
- Variety

"Death Race 2000 seems to have been willed into existence by the disturbed daydreams of bored teenagers, and it ends with the crowd-pleasing destruction of illegitimate authority. A gonzo social satire cunningly disguised as a wacky car comedy with a sensibility pitched somewhere between Russ Meyer, Mad Magazine, the TV Batman, and John Waters, Rock 'n' Roll High School [1979] actor Paul Bartel directs with tongue-in-cheek elan, eking every last bit of sick humor out of the film's deranged premise."
- Nathan Rabin, The Onion A.V. Club

"Fine work carved from minimalist materials."
~Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"Approximating the experience of playing Mad Libs and discovering you've been inserting dirty nouns and verbs into George Orwell's 1984, Death Race is a maladroit but exuberantly gamey mix of social commentary and blue-collar goofiness."
~Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine

"This is the best cross-country road-race movie-and the most violent, and the funniest-despite the efforts of many crash-and-burn specialists to come up with a better one."
~Joe Bob Briggs, Joe Bob's Ultimate B Movie Guide

"This cartoonish fantasy-comedy remains a popular favorite while its serious and expensive model, Rollerball [1975], is forgotten."
~Michael Weldon, Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film

"The perfect example of a 'corporation' movie...Corman's involvement doubtless accounts for the general vigour and the careful attention to exploitation values; Bartel was probably behind most of the quirky incidental humour and the unexpected casting...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."
- Tony Rayns, The TimeOut Film Guide

"An all-time masterpiece of trash cinema, Death Race 2000 roars across the screen in a spray of axle grease and human blood...Director Bartel is known for his subversive streak, and the film is littered with satirical sideswipes and political asides (we open on a brass band playing 'The Star Spangled Banner', an American flag waving triumphantly in the breeze, before cutting to a group of Matilda's fans waving swastikas). The production values are higher than the average Corman creation, but still display his unwavering talent for squeezing the juice out of every penny. Tak Fujimoto's remarkable low-level photography adds pace and genuine artistic flair."
- Tom Huddleston, FilmExposed (www.filmexposed.com)

"It's cheesy. It's overwrought. The effects are ridiculous. The plot is idiotic. And it's great. Death Race 2000, simply put, lives up (down) to its righteous title and reputation."
- David Johnson, DVD Verdict

Compiled by David Kalat

Yea or Nay (Death Race 2000) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "DEATH RACE 2000"

"Script, from an Ib Melchior story, makes its satirical points economically, and director Paul Bartel keeps the film moving quickly. Almost all of the film takes place on the road, with carnage and crashes occurring like clockwork." - Variety "Death Race 2000 seems to have been willed into existence by the disturbed daydreams of bored teenagers, and it ends with the crowd-pleasing destruction of illegitimate authority. A gonzo social satire cunningly disguised as a wacky car comedy with a sensibility pitched somewhere between Russ Meyer, Mad Magazine, the TV Batman, and John Waters, Rock 'n' Roll High School [1979] actor Paul Bartel directs with tongue-in-cheek elan, eking every last bit of sick humor out of the film's deranged premise." - Nathan Rabin, The Onion A.V. Club "Fine work carved from minimalist materials." ~Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader "Approximating the experience of playing Mad Libs and discovering you've been inserting dirty nouns and verbs into George Orwell's 1984, Death Race is a maladroit but exuberantly gamey mix of social commentary and blue-collar goofiness." ~Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine "This is the best cross-country road-race movie-and the most violent, and the funniest-despite the efforts of many crash-and-burn specialists to come up with a better one." ~Joe Bob Briggs, Joe Bob's Ultimate B Movie Guide "This cartoonish fantasy-comedy remains a popular favorite while its serious and expensive model, Rollerball [1975], is forgotten." ~Michael Weldon, Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film "The perfect example of a 'corporation' movie...Corman's involvement doubtless accounts for the general vigour and the careful attention to exploitation values; Bartel was probably behind most of the quirky incidental humour and the unexpected casting...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." - Tony Rayns, The TimeOut Film Guide "An all-time masterpiece of trash cinema, Death Race 2000 roars across the screen in a spray of axle grease and human blood...Director Bartel is known for his subversive streak, and the film is littered with satirical sideswipes and political asides (we open on a brass band playing 'The Star Spangled Banner', an American flag waving triumphantly in the breeze, before cutting to a group of Matilda's fans waving swastikas). The production values are higher than the average Corman creation, but still display his unwavering talent for squeezing the juice out of every penny. Tak Fujimoto's remarkable low-level photography adds pace and genuine artistic flair." - Tom Huddleston, FilmExposed (www.filmexposed.com) "It's cheesy. It's overwrought. The effects are ridiculous. The plot is idiotic. And it's great. Death Race 2000, simply put, lives up (down) to its righteous title and reputation." - David Johnson, DVD Verdict Compiled by David Kalat

Quote It! (Death Race 2000) - QUOTES FROM "DEATH RACE 2000"


JUNIOR BRUCE (Don Steele): And here he comes-Machine Gun Joe! Loved by thousands, hated by millions!

MACHINE GUN JOE (Sylvester Stallone): You want Frankenstein? I'll give you Frankenstein! (firing machine gun at crowd)

FRANKENSTEIN (David Carradine, as he removes his mask to reveal an unblemished face, not the disfigured wreck expected): What did you expect? Another pretty face?

HAROLD (Carle Bensen): As always, how fast you move determines how long you live.

GRACE PANDER (Joyce Jameson): Frankenstein, a dear friend of mine, Frankenstein, tell me how it feels when, at that electric instant, at 200 miles an hour, life and death coexist at the moment of scoring!
FRANKENSTEIN: If you stand at the middle of Route 66 tomorrow morning at eight o'clock, then you can answer that question for yourself.

MATILDA THE HUN (Roberta Collins): Well, what does she expect? You leave your navigator lying around, naturally somebody is going to run over him.

JUNIOR: All right, all right, and yes-sirree! A clean hit! A perfect hit! And no pain for the target. Too bad the guy was only thirty-eight; just two years older, he'd have been worth three times the points.

MYRA (Louisa Moritz): Hey, didja hear the news? Mr. President says it was the French who knocked off Nero and Matilda.
FRANKENSTEIN: Watch out for the Crepe Suzettes.

MACHINE GUN JOE: You know Myra, some people might think you're cute. But me, I think you're one very large baked potato.

ANNIE (Simone Griffeth): Come on, Joe. All's fair in love and war.
MACHINE GUN JOE: I'm glad you said that, Annie, because what we got going here ain't exactly love.

JUNIOR BRUCE: Sure it's violent, but that's the way we love it-violent, violent, violent. And that's why we love you!

CLEOPATRA (Leslie McRae): It isn't my fault everyone scored before us. You should have gone after that boy scout camp like I told you!
NERO THE HERO (Martin Kove): I tried the goddamn boy scout camp. You know how fast those boy scouts move?
CLEOPATRA: Now here's something more your speed.
NERO THE HERO: That'll be at least 200 points!
CLEOPATRA: If they scatter, go for the baby and the mother.

JUNIOR: Well America, there you have it, Frankenstein has just been attacked by the French Air Force and he's whipped their derrieres!

Compiled by David Kalat

Quote It! (Death Race 2000) - QUOTES FROM "DEATH RACE 2000"

JUNIOR BRUCE (Don Steele): And here he comes-Machine Gun Joe! Loved by thousands, hated by millions! MACHINE GUN JOE (Sylvester Stallone): You want Frankenstein? I'll give you Frankenstein! (firing machine gun at crowd) FRANKENSTEIN (David Carradine, as he removes his mask to reveal an unblemished face, not the disfigured wreck expected): What did you expect? Another pretty face? HAROLD (Carle Bensen): As always, how fast you move determines how long you live. GRACE PANDER (Joyce Jameson): Frankenstein, a dear friend of mine, Frankenstein, tell me how it feels when, at that electric instant, at 200 miles an hour, life and death coexist at the moment of scoring! FRANKENSTEIN: If you stand at the middle of Route 66 tomorrow morning at eight o'clock, then you can answer that question for yourself. MATILDA THE HUN (Roberta Collins): Well, what does she expect? You leave your navigator lying around, naturally somebody is going to run over him. JUNIOR: All right, all right, and yes-sirree! A clean hit! A perfect hit! And no pain for the target. Too bad the guy was only thirty-eight; just two years older, he'd have been worth three times the points. MYRA (Louisa Moritz): Hey, didja hear the news? Mr. President says it was the French who knocked off Nero and Matilda. FRANKENSTEIN: Watch out for the Crepe Suzettes. MACHINE GUN JOE: You know Myra, some people might think you're cute. But me, I think you're one very large baked potato. ANNIE (Simone Griffeth): Come on, Joe. All's fair in love and war. MACHINE GUN JOE: I'm glad you said that, Annie, because what we got going here ain't exactly love. JUNIOR BRUCE: Sure it's violent, but that's the way we love it-violent, violent, violent. And that's why we love you! CLEOPATRA (Leslie McRae): It isn't my fault everyone scored before us. You should have gone after that boy scout camp like I told you! NERO THE HERO (Martin Kove): I tried the goddamn boy scout camp. You know how fast those boy scouts move? CLEOPATRA: Now here's something more your speed. NERO THE HERO: That'll be at least 200 points! CLEOPATRA: If they scatter, go for the baby and the mother. JUNIOR: Well America, there you have it, Frankenstein has just been attacked by the French Air Force and he's whipped their derrieres! Compiled by David Kalat

Quotes

You know Myra, some people might think you're cute. But me, I think you're one very large baked potato.
- Joe
Chrysler!
- Junior
As the cars roar into Pennsylvania, the cradle of liberty, it seems apparent that our citizens are staying off the streets, which may make scoring particularly difficult, even with this year's rule changes. To recap those revisions: women are still worth 10 points more than men in all age brackets, but teenagers now rack up 40 points, and toddlers under 12 now rate a big 70 points. The big score: anyone, any sex, over 75 years old has been upped to 100 points.
- Harold
Whoever named your car the Bull... was only half right!
- Matilda the Hun
Well, what does she expect? You leave your navigator lying around, naturally somebody is going to run over him.
- Matilda the Hun

Trivia

The speech mannerisms of the character Harold parody those of Howard Cosell.

According to Roger Corman, several of the custom cars featured in the movie were later sold to car museums for considerably more than it cost to build them.

The film retains only the basic premises of the original short story by Ib Melchior ; the characters and incidents are all different. The story focuses on just one mechanic and driver, and one anti-racer. In particular, it does not include the President or the special driver Frankenstein.

The racetrack used for the opening track and grandstand scenes is the Ontario Motor Speedway near Los Angeles - a copy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway..

The car in which President Frankenstein and Annie drive away in after their wedding is a Richard Oaks Nova kit-car, actually based on the Volkswagen Beetle chassis (but obviously not the body). These were available in kit form for many years starting in the mid-1970s.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1975

Released in United States 1983

Released in United States September 1996

Formerly distributed by New World Pictures.

dubbed

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1975

Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (A "B-Movie" Marathon) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)

Released in United States September 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Corman's Children" September 7-28, 1996.)