In 2017, Roger Corman made a sequel to his 1975 classic, Death Race 2000. After that Jason Statham action-movie re-make, this one returned to the roots of what made the first film great. Here’s a review from B&S About Movies.
Death Race 2050 (2017)
August 5, 2020 by R.D Francis
So, we all know the backstory on how we ended up with 1975’s Death Race 2000, right: How, long before Corman dreamed up the DR: 2050 version, the first “sequel” to Death Race 2000 was actually 1978’s Deathsport. And the reason Corman made either film was because he wanted a “futuristic action sports film”*+ in the drive-ins to take advantage of the publicity surrounding 1975’s Rollerball starring James Caan (oddly enough, of Red Line 7000). And that Corman optioned “The Racer,” a dark, short story by Ib Melchoir about the Transcontinental Road Race (The Angry Red Planet, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Planet of Vampires**). And under the satirical thumb of Paul Bartel, stripped away all of the dread that made Rollerball great and, instead, gave us a live-action version of Hanna-Barbera’s ’60s cartoon, The Wacky Racers?
What you may not know: After working with Universal Studios on a deal to license The Fast & the Furious title for their burgeoning action franchise, Corman and Universal came together again as result of the studio also turning Corman’s Death Race 2000 into a theatrical reboot and profitable, direct to home-video franchise. (At one time the project was at Paramount with Tom Cruise producing and starring: we got Days of Thunder, instead.)
The idea for the 2050 sequel came to fruition when an Italian journalist interviewing Corman commented The Hunger Games shared a similar (camp) cinematic style, as well as the social and political themes explored in Death Race 2000. So Corman reached out to Universal, who produced Paul W. S. Anderson’s 2008 remake, with a plan to bring back the dark, sociopolitical satire of the original — and the killing of pedestrians. Universal was on board: the studio co-produced the film that became Death Race 2050 with Corman’s New World for the home video streaming market.
As is the case with most “sequels” (see Escape from New York vs. Escape from L.A., The Evil Dead vs. Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and Phantasm vs. Phantasm II), Corman took no chances and stuck to the architecture of the 1975 film, albeit with higher quality, CGI-enhanced production values.
It’s the year 2050 and America is controlled by the United Corporations of America, a corporate government ruled by The Chairman (a pseudo-Donald Trump well-played by the always awesome Malcolm McDowell; it’s all about the hair). As with the world of Rollerball in the year 2018: the government has devised The Death Race: a violent, bloody road race that runs from Old New York to New Los Angeles as a form of brainwashing entertainment — and as a form of population control: drivers score points for killing pedestrians and any travels stupid enough to be on the road during the game. And the “Jonathan E.” of the game — the half-man half-machine Frankenstein (a very good Manu Bennett, who you know as Azog the Defiler in the Hobbit film trilogy) — is thrust into political intrigue by his rebel spy navigator.
Is it loud . . . but stupid? Is it uber cheesy (more so than the original) . . . but tasty? It is it campy and crazy? Do we get the delight of Yancy Butler instead of the brood of Jennifer Lawrence? Is it as frantically unhinged as anything Allan Arkush, Paul Bartel, and Joe Dante put together for Roger Corman? YES to all! It’s a pure ’70s drive-in exploitation homage to the movies that we love here at B&S About Movies.
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