Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Death Sport (1978)

Roger Corman's bad sequel to Death Race 2000

The voice-over that opens this terrible follow-up to the cult hit Death Race 2000 (starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone) informs us that we are now in a future set 1000 years after the Neutron Wars, where what passes for civilization holes up in hip, psychedelic domed cities.

Surrounding these cities is the "range," a kind of urbane wasteland. When the narrator finally shuts up we see a loin-clothed David Carradine jumping around and muttering things like "sand in the wind, keep moving" to himself until he's pummeled unconscious by a bunch of extras wearing motorcycle helmets.

Carradine is Kaz Oshay, a notorious "range guide," and the guys in the helmets are the henchmen of Lord Zirpola (David McLean), a terminally ill, repressive ruler who wants to capture Oshay because he is a brave and popular opponent of Zirpola's regime. While in the clink Oshay trades "I love you's (which, in this more sensible society, is expressed as "our union is limited") with Deneer (Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings), who looks as though she might have wandered off the set of "Charlie's Angels." Oshay and Deneer escape from the clink and go off in search of Deneer's daughter - who was abducted by mutants - while dodging, and getting in frequent skirmishes with, Zirpola's right-hand man Ankar Moor (Richard Lynch).

B-movie king Roger Corman produced this movie and bears his characteristic “I-could-care-less” signatures: a soundtrack (featuring guitar riff’s by Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia) produced entirely on a single cheap synthesizer, props that look like they just happened to be lying around the set, performances by actors who don't seem to be quite sure whether the camera is rolling.

Still, there are a few things to like. Whenever one of the henchman's motorcycles goes through a tunnel, for instance, it makes a noise indistinguishable to a tie-fighter's in Star Wars - seeing as Death Sport came out only a year after Star Wars, and seeing as how the earlier movie made a bit of a splash, one has to admire Corman's rather impudent bit of thievery. There's also a bold (and doomed) attempt to pass off a splice in a scene in which everything is on fire. It appears the fire stubbornly ignored the stage direction to hold still between takes.

Finally, this movie rips through extras wholesale. At one point Oshay is fighting in the "Death Sport", a Rollerballesque spectator combat sport using destructocycles in which only one contestant can emerge alive. Extras pour out of a tunnel and Oshay knocks them down like tennis balls from a service machine. Sometimes they explode spontaneously, in the absence of any immediate threat. It's suggestive of the satirical scene in Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste in which the good guys simply cannot be shot, no matter how many bullets rain down on them or how far from cover they might be. If Corman had intended to lampoon the expendability of the extra in your average action film, it would have been merely funny. Because he expects us to take it seriously, it's uproarious. If you are a fan of 70’s style futuristic B or C grade action movies, you’ll probably love it!

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1 comment:

  1. I think that Roger Corman's work is highly underrated. I just finished hosting a Roger Corman blogathon, and the general consensus was that he was a great filmmaker.

    Anyhow...hello! My name is Nathanael Hood from Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear!

    I just want to invite you to my blog's blogathon. It will be taking place in about three weeks. The topic is MONSTER MOVIES FROM THE 50S!!!

    I would love it if you would participate! Send me an email at nahood@ursinus.edu.

    Here are a couple of links to more information:




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