Death Race 2000

tn_deathrace2000I’ve enjoyed DEATH RACE 2000 a few times over the years, but not since before I found myself actually liking P.W.S. Anderson’s remabootquel DEATH REACE and its two DTV prequels by Roel Reine, so this was strange to revisit it again. The new DEATH RACE is a fun macho b-movie, the original DEATH RACE 2000 is a different animal. It’s colorful, satirical, goofy and off-handedly brutal. It’s as cheap as other Roger Corman productions, but less serious. It seems like the template for the tone of all the best Troma films, and they even borrowed the rules of the Death Race for use as a fun game for teens in THE TOXIC AVENGER.

In DEATH RACE they made it a car race but with guns and bombs, played by convicts competing for a pardon. The original circa-2000 Death Race was a much more extravagant sport, and not disreputable at all. It’s a national pastime overseen by the president himself. The drivers and their female navigators drive across the country not only trying to kill each other but also trying to run over pedestrians, with a point system worked out by age group. Although Frankenstein (David Carradine) is the good guy he’s not above tearing through the sidewalk in front of a hospital to rack up points on high scoring senior citizens.

mp_deathrace2000Another major plot element missing from the remake (but finally coming up in part 3) is the rebel underground who protest the Death Race. Some of them make a game out of it, laying in the street to duck under the cars, or playing matador with the car that has bull horns on the hood. Others go as far as trying to kidnap Frankenstein, the Michael Jordan of the sport.

Frankenstein looks a little like Darth Vader. He wears black and a space age helmet with a black rubber mask revealing a bit of his burnt up eye and mouth. (This turns out to be a put on.)

Sylvester Stallone plays the lead heavy, Machine Gune joe Veterbo. He has a retro 1940s gangster sense of style and drives a car with a giant knife on the front. (Frankenstein’s ride is shaped like some kind of snake or lizard.) It’s fun to see Stallone play a villain. Joe is a real scumbag. His most telling moment is when he’s got Frankenstein’s navigator alone and he’s threatening to kill her but then Frankenstein comes in and he’s like “Oh, hey Frankenstein, I’m glad you came in here” and tries to play it like he caught her betraying him. A total weasel.

He’s also really funny. He drives up as two guys are hanging a “Welcome Frankenstein” banner, gets jealous and runs one of them over. The guy survives so Joe turns around ready to run him down again, but then he considers letting him go. He decides to ask the other banner hanger, who votes for him to kill the guy! Shit is harsh in the futuristic year of 2000. No loyalty among working class brothers.

One thing that’s great about this movie, it has the perfect ending for the story. A pulpy movie like this gains alot by building to a really satisfying conclusion. According to the interviews on the disc the ending was kind of an afterthought somebody suggested after they were already filming, but it seems like the punchline they’re building up to from the beginning.

The director is Paul Bartel, who wasn’t your typical exploitation director. He came up in Roger Corman’s company, but his thing was social satire, EATING RAOUL being his most famous one. So he took this drive-in subject matter and turned it into a comedy about a bloodthirsty society with reporters breathlessly narrating the action and glorifying murderers as celebrities. But don’t worry, he got plenty of boobs and blood splattering in there. There’s a ton of great car action, these cool looking novelty vehicles moving at high speeds, crashing into each other, chasing after pedestrians, blowing up and all that shit. Bartel left that to the professionals of the second unit, a wise decision. One of the two 2nd unit directors was Lewis Teague, who went on to direct ALLIGATOR and CUJO. On one hand it seems like something an auteur shouldn’t do, leave an important chunk of their movie up to somebody else, on the other hand maybe we’d avoid post-action if more of the modern directors did this. Hey, you guys seem more interested than me in doing a professional job of filming action scenes that an audience can make heads or tails of. Want a go at it while I do something else?

I really recommend this on blu-ray. It just looks beautiful, capturing the colors and film grain way better than any version I’ve seen before. And it’s funny because it makes the matte paintings and props look even faker than before. For example you can see the brush strokes on the silver paint on the giant knife on the front of Machine Gun Joe’s car. Wait a minute, that’s not real metal? I like it though.

It’s kinda too bad, after enjoying the DEATH RACE movies for what they are this one reminds me how much fun they could be if they were more faithful to the type of gimmicks used in the original. Makes me want to see a DEATH RACE part 4 that skips past the Jason Statham events and has a cross country Death Race with updated takes on the original cars. It’s never too late to bring it back to the ol’ Y2K.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 at 12:00 am and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

53 Responses to “Death Race 2000”

  1. Weird, I`ve been on a Corman binge for the last week and checked the archive a couple of days ago to see if Vern had reviewed any Roger Corman productions. I found nada and today this review pops up.

    I really like this movie, btw. It´s constantly entertaining, has great performances and is quite clever. I`m not sure if it is the best of Cormans productions, but it is up there.

    Some other Corman titles I really enjoyed are: The Intruder (62), The Wild Angels (66), St. Valentines Day Massacre (67),
    The Trip (67), Bloody Mama (70), The Big Doll House (71), Women in Cages (71), The Big Bird Cage (72), Boxcar Bertha (72), Big Bad Mama (74), Caged Heat (74), Crazy Mama (75), Jacksonville County Jail (76), Piranha (78), Rock N Roll High School (79), The Lady in Red (79), Humanoids from the Deep (80), Battle Truck (82), Forbidden World (82), Slumber Party Massacre (82), Suburbia (83), Streetwalkin´ (85), The Slumber Party Massacre II (87), Halloween 4 (88) and Heathers (89).

    I enjoy most of them because they are cheesy, very entertaining, but there was some actual surprises (aka fucking awesome movies) in the bunch as well. Especially Bloody Mama (with Shelley Winters and Robert De Niro), Jackson County jail (with a very young Tommy Lee Jones), The Lady in Red (written by John Sayles, loved this one) and Suburbia.

  2. I’m 99% sure that Frankenstein isn’t driving over the senior citizens at the hospital, but instead kills all the doctors who rolled them outside.

  3. Knox Harrington

    May 7th, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Tommy Lee Jones was quite the stud in Jackson County Jail. I barely recognised him.

    Anyone else see that Corman’s World documentary? It really gave me new respect for the guy. And it made me jealous. I’d love to have a career like that. What’s even more depressing is that he makes it all seem so very possible.

  4. – knox

    yeah, I saw Cormans world, it`s pretty good. Now I can`t stop thinking of modern blockbusters as Roger Corman movies with a bigger budget. I must say that I have the feeling that the documentary is a bit too positive on Corman, at least compared to other filmmakers description of him on commentary tracks etc. But none-the-less, his impact on american cinema is very underestimated. And he has some brilliant movies under his belt as both a producer and director.

  5. I’m sorry guys, but I have to mention Louisa Moritz’s amazingly round butt, because it’s….very nice

  6. Yeah, when I saw CORMAN’S WORLD*, I immediitely wanted to open a low budget studio too. DTV is the new drive-in and when people rent those shitty ASYLUM movies, I’m sure they would also rent GOOD movies, that were made for the same amount of money!

    *I didn’t like that they made it look like he stopped making movies in the 70s and then continued when SyFy called him for their shitty movies.

  7. I’m not the type of guy who goes to conventions or signings or things like that. I ain’t standing in no line to meet nobody…except Roger Corman. A few years ago, he did a signing at at DVD store in Manhattan and I waited in line with my copy of BIG BAD MAMA like a rube just to get his John Hancock. No other filmmaker could get me to do that. Oh, you made a movie I like? Big deal. This guy INVENTED movies I like. Like, the entire concept of “movies Majestyk likes.” Roger did that, and he did it for 11 grand over a long weekend. The word “legend” gets tossed around a lot, but Roger’s one of the few who deserves it. We’re all living in the world he made.

    And DEATH RACE 2000 is one of his absolute best. The story goes that Roger thought Bartel went too far with the comedy and went back and added more gore, which Bartel was never really a fan of. (The guy made the world’s only blood-free cannibal movie, after all.) It just shows the difference between a good producer and a bad one, because this meddling actually works. I don’t think the satire would have the bite it does if the tone didn’t swerve from cartoony caricature to grisly flesh-and-blood violence to remind us that, as funny as this all is, when people die, it’s for real. That great ending wouldn’t have the punch it does without seeing the trail of carnage it took to get there.

    Anyway, you know those movies that open up your mind a little bit? This one did that for me. I realized that the world of movies was a lot weirder and wilder than I’d ever expected. I’ve been on a quest ever since.

  8. Has anybody seen The Lady in Red? It totally blew my fragile little mind.

  9. dna – That’s good to know. I have a copy of it waiting for me with a bunch of other Corman gangster pictures. I’ll bump that one to the top.

  10. Jareth Cutestory

    May 7th, 2013 at 7:05 am

    You’re not exaggerating when you describe Corman as having created a world; look at the directors he served as mentor to:

    Francis Ford Coppola
    Martin Scorsese
    Ron Howard
    Peter Bogdanovich
    Jonathan Demme
    James Cameron
    Curtis Hanson
    John Sayles

    And when you expand the list to include directors who didn’t actually work with Corman but were highly influenced by him, like Joe Dante, Raimi, Spielberg, and Tim Burton, it’s almost crazy how influential he’s been.

  11. Knox Harrington

    May 7th, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I think a big part of why he was so influential was because he didn’t give a shit about the more sanitary conventions of the time; he just went ahead and made the kind of movies he thought people would really like. Really shamelessly crazy outside-the-box stuff; the kind of films that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

    I like to think of him as the Takashi Miike of his time.

  12. whoa, Joe Dante made several movies with Corman; Piranha and Hollywood Boulevard, and edited most of the trailers from the seventies / eighties.

    I would add Jonathan Demme as well, who directed Caged Heat and Crazy Mama, if I remember correctly. Not to forget James Cameron, who were production designer and 2. unit director on Forbidden Planet. Or James Horner, who composed several (really good) scores for Corman productions. And Spielbergs editor, Michael Kahn, was involved in several Corman productions as well, even if it isn`t mentioned on imdb. And, off course, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholsen and Dennis Hopper, who were involved in several Corman pictures in the sixties.

  13. Knox Harrington

    May 7th, 2013 at 8:43 am

    James Cameron worked on Forbidden Planet? You sure about that?

  14. Knox, dna is correct. JC did work on FORBIDDEN PLANET aka GALAXY OF TERROR.

  15. He did visual effects work on BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, too. I’m pretty sure he met future TERMINATOR producer and second or third ex-wife Gale Ann Hurd on that show. She’s gone on to produce everything from PUNISHER: WAR ZONE to THE WALKING DEAD, so I’d say she’s another success story from the Roger Corman Graduate School Of Film.

  16. I love the over the top (and at times trashy) earnest nature of the old Corman produced films. What I can’t understand is how with all the affordable digital technology out there making it cheaper to make a movie than ever before that there is not a modern day Corman film factory out there pumping out DTV genre and exploitation pictures.

  17. Asylum make crappy CGIspoitation but I´m not sure I am comfortable comparing Asylum to Corman. I just found their movies painfully dull. Even the one with Lorenzo Lamas.

  18. I wasn’t comparing Asylum to Corman. I said that if I would open a Corman-esque cheap-but-good DTV production company, it might have a chance to become a success, considering how even crap like whatever the Asylum squeezes out seems to make a profit.

  19. I just watched “Death Race 2000” on blu-ray over the weekend. Great as ever, this movie never gets old for me.

  20. – charles and knox

    Ups, I meant Forbidden World (aka Mutant), but JC was actually production designer on Galaxy of Terror, another Corman sci-fi horror movie fra `81.

    Forbidden World is great cheese, though, with a group of nubile scientists taking lots of showers while figuring out how to cope with a deadly organism.

  21. My bad as well, but in true Corman fashion they recycled a lot of the sets and production design from GOT on FP.

  22. Joe Bob Briggs just started his own low-budget film studio called Coney Island Pictures with the stated goal of following in Corman’s footsteps.

    Here’s the blurb from his Facebook page. Sounds really interesting, especially the part about not making the kind of cheesy throwbacks you might expect from Briggs:

    For everyone who has been asking about Coney Island Pictures, the low-budget film studio that finally took shape last week, here are the basics.

    First of all, I want to thank everyone in the extended Joe Bob community—people who have followed my career for the past thirty years—who pitched in on getting this company launched. Some of you helped with the funding effort. Some of you are professional editors and writers and film professionals who agreed to fit us in between much better paying jobs. And some of you are festival organizers who helped us locate talent and scripts.

    The result is that we raised enough money for our first 12 films, which will be produced by me from our New York headquarters and filmed in tax-friendly states and Canadian provinces with local crews. Ironically, all the money came from people far removed from the film industry, people who simply believed in our plan. We’re a Texas corporation—can’t forget the roots—but my native state is not too tax-incentive-friendly these days, so very little of our actual production will be done out of our Dallas office, but that’s where my long-time colleague John Bojo will handle most distribution and finance matters.

    We’re not a horror company. Get that out of your collective heads. From the moment I met the great Roger Corman in 1982, I’ve been studying the art of exploitation, and it’s all about emerging genres, changing genres, combining genres, and sometimes even inventing genres. Even though we honor the past with our retro name and our association with many innovative horror writers, the key word there is “innovative,” not horror. We’re not interested in sifting back through old formulas, and the horror films we do make will be uniquely ours. All you eighties-lovers are welcome to submit ideas, but I hope they’re eighties themes with a 2013 sensibility, because we’re not going to produce any museum pieces.

    Another misconception is that these will be my films. I’m not writing any of them, acting in any of them, or directing any of them. I’m hiring people with far more talent than myself and giving them the freedom to create. Our doors remain open to anyone interested in writing or directing for us. For those who have written to me asking for crew-type jobs or development jobs, we can only hire you if you happen to live in the city where we’re filming or, in the case of development, the greater New York area. We will keep all the resumes on file and we’ll notify you of where we do intend to film.

    For those who just want to “help out in any way”—and I can’t believe how many of you said that—there are several things you can do. We need people to help out with social media. We’re still trying to line up marketing and advertising people, both on the creative and the business side. And you can apply to me to represent us at your local fan convention or film festival. Actors will mostly be hired locally, although the lead roles will often be cast in New York.

    The other way you can help is with the continuing fundraising effort. We’re establishing a special “micro-budget” division that could create an extremely high rate of return if successful. We’re also looking to de-leverage the part of our funding that was provided through loans. If you know of an investor who would be interested in an equity position, please let us know. We didn’t use Kickstarter or any of the “crowd funding” sites because I have a fundamental problem with those, namely, that they are just tip-jar systems for handouts and they don’t guarantee returns for investors. But we’ll be happy to share our proprietary business plan with any qualified investor who signs a non-disclosure agreement. If you know of someone, contact John Bojo at johnbojo@gmail.com.

    Finally, why Coney Island Pictures? Because . . .

    a) I love Coney Island, even in its present depressed state.

    b) Coney Island is where modern American showmanship began.

    c) Coney Island is a place despised by the intellectuals and loved by the people.

    d) And as Lawrence Ferlinghetti told us, it’s the place where “falcons of the inner eye . . . dive and die.”

    –Joe Bob Briggs

  23. “Now I can`t stop thinking of modern blockbusters as Roger Corman movies with a bigger budget. ”

    I’ve been recently arguing this elsewhere, but Marvel basically is pretty much the big budget blockbuster Roger Corman if you think about it.

    Corman did quote on quote “junk,” or genre/exploitation movies that he knew that if he produced under a certain budget, profit (or breaking even at least) was pretty much guaranteed. And hey he’s got all these people and kids working for him (for pennies) who want to break into the movies, several of them also want to prove their salt as a director and get that movie on their industry resume so hey why not let them as long as they don’t go overbudget and fulfill the genre quota (blood, boobs, etc.)? You’re not losing money, plus these people want to prove themselves, so usually they try to actually make as good of a movie as possible. I’m reminded of John Milius’ very solid directing debut, the Corman-produced DILLINGER. (These ambitious wannabe directors were also helped by having veteran crews who picked up the slack due to the director’s inevitable inexperience.)

    Of course Marvel isn’t delivering R-rated blaxploitation/monster movies to drive-ins, but instead PG-13 (at harshest rating) superhero/fantasy/sci-fi actioneers for the global multiplexes. Budgets much bigger, quotas different (CGI action, one-liners, Stan Lee cameo, fanservice) but they’re still basically doing the Corman method. Why not let hire “off-beat” directors (i.e. people Hollywood wouldn’t hire otherwise for their big tentpole movies) if they’re willing to work for pennies and within the timeframe/guidelines? And just like the Corman method, such guys hired tend to try to make as good a movie as possible so they could get to direct more movies, whether as relative newbies or has-beens trying to work their way back. And your chance to direct your own big budget blockbuster is a career-appetizing opportunity.

  24. RRA, I respect what MARVEL studios is doing but they are not like what Corman did. Marvel studios is producing slick big budget popcorn films, and has more in common with its parent company Disney then it does with Corman. At the end of the day what Corman was a master of was financing and distribution. Corman knew that if he kept the budget of the films he produced under a certain amount and paid service to genre fans with plenty of action, violence, and nudity that even if the film was a failure he would turn a profit.

  25. My bad sorry for all the typos and grammer errors on my last post (boy I am on a role).

  26. I hope Joe Bob is sucessful.

  27. Knox Harrington

    May 7th, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Speaking of legends, Ray Harryhausen passed away.

  28. I just heard. He wasn’t a major part of my movie-going upbringing (CLASH OF THE TITANS excluded) but he influenced basically everything I loved as a kid, and I grew to appreciate his enthusiasm and talent when I was older. Another titan falls.

  29. – charles

    I`m not sure how to define exploitation, but I guess it`s when a movie is being sold to it`s audience for it`s content instead of it´s qualities. Corman specialised in selling his movies with the poster, the trailer, the content (nudity, violence, car chases) or the tabloid headlines (hells angels, the trip, etc). Or simply by copying other movies success.

    Mainstream movies (from before the eighties) were sold on the actors or the reviews/ word of mouth. After the success of The Exorcist, Jaws, Carrie and Starwars, the studios realised that the audience preferred exploitation; and most blockbuster since then has been sold on their content (action, sfx, cgi, familiar brands and 3D), and not the quality of the picture. Especially not since opening weekend became the most important aspect of a movie´s success.

    That`s my theory anyway. I do tend to prefer old-fashioned exploitation, since the low budgets gave the directors a green card to express subversive and personal opinions through their art. I love how Russ Meyer and Jack Hill were able to make movies with feminist agendas, as long as their powerful female anti-heroes showed their boobs to lure in the spectators. I´ll take those firm feminist-boobs over a pointless cgi-robot any day of the week.

  30. Unless it`s a cgi-robot with subversive boobs…

  31. Charles – As I said in my post, which you missed, Corman and Marvel are two different spheres in terms of budget and the product they’re peddling out to their respective audiences. What they’re similar in are some of the basic methodology ideas in how to run your studio and the factory-style of pumping out constant product to meet heavy demand.

    Besides, comparing Marvel to Disney is like comparing Dennis Quaid with Randy Quaid. Yes both of the same family, but that’s where the similarities end. Marvel is infamous for their penny pinching and playing hardball (just ask Terrence Howard) But they keep their very expensive movies in line and you don’t exactly hear disaster reports from them of how chaotic and overspending those productions are. They’re a tight run ship.

    Now contrast that with two pretty recent Disney-run $200+ million blockbusters in OZ THE GREAT & POWERFUL and JOHN CARTER, both that got more ink for their production histories than as actual movies. Seriously why does a James Franco movie cost 200 million? No excuse. AVENGERS I can understand that costing a fortune for obvious reasons. The others? Not so much. (Those 2 movies weren’t helped by each going through what 2, 3 different studio chairmen?)

  32. RRA, I don’t think I missed anything I just don’t agree with you that Marvel studios is like the Corman system. I don’t understand how you can even draw the most abstract comparison between the 2. The Corman system offered young inexperienced film makers a start in the industry and a great deal of freedom, because Corman knew that as long as the films stayed under budget and he delivered the T&A and action genre fans were looking for he was going to make money. MARVEL studios deals with multimillion dollar brands and properties that are worth more than any individual film, and they would never higher a kid fresh out of film school to direct or give them much freedom creatively and risk damaging the brand or property.

  33. Man, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is one of my favourite movies.CLASH OF THE TITANS is awesome. Also the SINBAD´s are pretty cool. Even the lesser IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA i rank pretty high.

    R.I.P Mr Harryhausen. One of the most awesome special effects makers of all time, if not the finest. I´m thinking of having a Harryhausen-athon now.

  34. Yeah I also hope Joe Bob is successful. Hopefully he hires enough experienced veterans who can make his vision come to life, especially people who actually want to try and make good movies. Those Asylum folks, its not just that their films are terrible. They just don’t even try. I agree with that old Vern complaint: The B/DTV movie world, you rarely find people willing to try to give a fuck despite the fact they’re much more relatively free than the big studios to do whatever.

    Charles – When you put it up like that last sentence, yeah you’re right. There are inevitable major differences because its like apples and bananas. Both fruit, both seeds, but alot of differences of course to say the least. All I’m saying is that despite different products being produced and sold and money involved and everything else (because low budget fringe and big budget mainstream are two really different worlds and expectations and limitations, to say the least) there are some similarities. (A point you made for me earlier, which I mentioned before that, about the “quota” or as you put it, giving the audience what they want.)

    Within the world of big budget movies designed to sell toys ultimately, I admire Marvel for having that almighty corporate vision/plan with the franchises and “mega franchises” but also willing to hire directors to leave an auteur print on this product without soullessly castrating it. They don’t have to, they could just clobber something and put it out there like Hasbro has done with their movies because hey we’re toy movies, why try?

    Marvel whores those guys out for their contributions. I mean IRON MAN 3 was a Shane Black version of a superhero movie, and Marvel was willing to go along with that plot twist he suggested which has pissed off a good many fanboys. Now next year, they’re doing a Guardians of the Galaxy movie (property obscure even among nerds) which won’t have any Avenger and hired James Gunn to direct it. Let me repeat that: The dude who wrote TROMEO & JULIET is making a blockbuster. One can’t help but admire that. Not the movie Gunn would make if you gave him $130 million and told him to do whatever, but surely there was a reason you hired him? Maybe its because he might be a guy willing to accept at first glance a walking tree and walking NRA ad in a space mammal.

    So yes I’m saying Charles you are right when we’re done to specifics. I was more about the broad picture. Its like calling some football player the Michael Jordan of his sport. In details that makes NO SENSE because MJ of course played basketball, a non-contact sport. But maybe this player was MJ-esque in how he won several titles, dominated the fuck out of his competition, have quite a few legendary memorable games to back up your legend, usually the #1 cited, famous player of his era, whatever. Thus why I argued Marvel among the big budget players is the Corman of the bunch. Not literally just like Corman, but that was my argument. Feel free to disagree.

    And for the record, I don’t see Deforest Kelly for the trees.

  35. Shoot – I remember that old Roger Ebert rant about how with CGI now, there is no longer any magic in movie FX because you know everything now is done by (most likely) a fat guy behind a lap top and there’s (alleged) sense of impressing the audience.

    Well he might’ve had a point. That skeleton fight in J&TA (which took him what 4 months to pull off?) more impressive methinks than any CGI work I’ve seen lately at the movies. Even IRON MAN 3, which I thought had some well-crafted, bigass CGI sequences, wasn’t as impressive because an army of hundreds were reponsible for it. Or maybe what made it even more impressive was all that stop-motion work for those skeletons actually integrated well into that movie.

  36. I see the similarities. They’re both their own fiefdoms utilizing a recurring talent pool, and both give opportunities to untested talent. While Corman gave rookies the chance to make their first movie, Marvel gives established but smaller-scaled directors the chance to make their first blockbuster. The only Marvel director who doesn’t fit that model is Joe Johnston, who’s been trying and failing to make a decent blockbuster for 25 years. (Brett Ratner doesn’t count because he wasn’t their first choice and they needed an experienced hack to fill in at the last minute.)

  37. Mr. Majestyk – but to be fair, they hired Joe Johnston because they wanted ROCKETEER 2, and they got it.

    Anyway its funny I praised Marvel, because this dropped today and apparently the cast members are going to war against mothership Marvel over backpoints and money and all that jazz. This won’t be pretty, there will be casualties.


    Biggest takeaway for me: Whedon’s Marvel deal is worth $100 million.

  38. RRA, I see your point.

    I think the key to Marvel Studios success has been that it is run by Marvel people that understand the Marvel universe and characters and how to best present them instead of how films based on Marvel properties that have been made by other film studios handle them, where an exec with no understanding of the characters or brand is in control of the project tries to impose his own vision or agenda. I don’t think Marvel gives opportunities to untested talent, they give opportunities to talent that they know they can pay on the cheap. In their eyes the talent is not as valuable as the brand, so why invest in talent? Also, it is a creatively stifling system because any film maker that works on a Marvel film has to do so at the service of the Marvel brand and the ongoing vision of the studio and that limits the stories they can tell and what they do with the characters.

  39. Vern,
    I like your point about trusting the 2nd unit on those action sequences. I’ve recently been making my way through the Bond blu ray set and while watching some of the special features I’ve become very impressed by the work of the 2nd unit guys (who would often graduate to director on future Bonds), particularly during the Roger Moore era. Some of the most iconic moments of cinematic history were done by those 2nd units.

    I think that the rise of FX and the ebbing of traditional stunts and camera tricks has made it less of a necessity to let a 2nd unit pretty much run the show, because you can shoot so much more on a soundstage and complete it in post. When they shot James Bond ski jumping off a glacier or having a 20,000 foot free fall, the 2nd unit guys were pretty much the only people alive who could get that shot. Now, of course, it’s far easier to get a convincing looking shot without using the 2nd unit. Or to get a lot more coverage that you can cut in with the stuff your second unit shot. The director is much less limited now because even when you are doing mostly practical stunts, if you need to fix something in post, the end result is a lot more convincing.

    I always think of this with driving scenes. No matter how awesome a movies effects were back in the day, you could always tell the difference between a scene of someone sitting in a car in front of a backdrop or green screen versus one where the car has a camera mounted on the hood and is being driven or towed down a real street. Now, you could argue that even fairly low budget productions can make it hard to tell the difference.

    Anyway, tip of the hat to the 2nd unit!

  40. The original Paul

    May 7th, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    This is seriously Vern’s first review of this Stallone / Carradine classic?!!!!


    Ironically, given this is one of those movies I think I’ve references about fifty gazillion times in the comments for other films, I don’t have too much to say other than the obvious (it’s freaking awesome). Oh, and it’s nice to remember a Stallone film where Stallone still looked like he gave a shit. I miss those.

  41. Dtroyt: Your point about the second unit knowing how to shoot stunts better than directors is sort of like how Tom Savini used to tell George Romero the best angle to film his special effects from to make them look their best. Other directors didn’t listen and subsequently the effects often looked faker than they should have because they were never designed to be seen from certain angles, like magic tricks. The lesson: Listen to the people who are creating the spectacles your movie is relying on. Turns out they know what they’re talking about.

  42. Mr. M— Hear, hear! David R. Ellis (RIP) being another fine example of what you’re talking about.

    I had no idea Stallone was in Death Race 2000 (having never seen it). I always associated it with Carradine and Roger Corman, and no one else beyond them. Silly me.

  43. Harryhausen was (is) one of my gods. R.I.P.

  44. Knox Harrington

    May 8th, 2013 at 9:57 am

    So insensitive and disrespectful of Vern to not write an obituary for the late great Ray Harryhausen.

    What is he on holiday?

  45. Didn´t Vern like the new CLASH OF TITANS more than the original..? Something is fishy here…

  46. Vern goes away and then Harryhausen dies. Hmm. he was very concerned about alibis…

  47. Knox Harrington

    May 8th, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Don’t say it out loud, Shoot.

    Just walk away…

  48. Majestyk-
    Hadn’t thought about that with Savini. Good call.

  49. I was just kidding, of course. The Harryhausen grief makes me do peculiar things.

  50. I did not know that Roger Corman has produced a DEATH RACE SEQUEL. DEATH RACE 2050

  51. Just watched DEATH RACE 2050, don’t make the same mistake I did. It’s what I feared from the trailer, it is DEATH RACE for the SHARKNADO generation, aka a modern no-fucks-given Roger Corman instead of a try to make the-best-trashy-movie-we-can-from-what-we-have old Roger Corman. Maybe I’m being naive and they were always like that, but since I’ve been watching ALIEN-knock-offs to get ready and mitigate disappointment for ALIEN: COVENANT, that means I just got through watching a double-feature of GALAXY OF TERROR and FORBIDDEN WORLD last week and while they are not great, they are still pretty damn entertaining and are a direct result of a bunch of young and hungry budding filmmakers striving for excellence. DEATH RACE 2050 feels like a bunch of young lazy budding filmmakers who either didn’t want to make the movie or not-even-good-enough was good-enough for them.

  52. Forgot to add: DEATH RACE 2050 made me way nice to PHANTASM: RAVAGER not feeling a real/completed movie. DEATH RACE 2050 had a much bigger budget but looks just as cheap and amateurish as PHANTASM: RAVAGER but has none of the ‘want to be good’ and love put into it.

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