Episode 17 - Death Race 2000

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In 1997 Stainless Games gave the world Carmageddon, one of the most controversial games ever made. The objective in the game was to run over pedestrians and score points, as well as waste your opponents. But you already know that if you read the Dark Humor Highlight on Carmageddon. What you may not know is that there was a movie with an eerily similar premise made two decades earlier in the 1970s. It's called Death Race 2000 and it stars the late David Carradine and everybody's favorite action hero of Italian descent, Sylvester Stallone. Except in this movie, Stallone's the bad guy.

Produced by Roger Corman, Death Race 2000 paints a pretty dark picture of the future, a dystopia in which the biggest media attraction in the world is the Death Race, a transcontinental race in the North American continent the aim of which is to reach the finish line with the highest score possible. The spin is that in order to score the contestants must run over people. Different age groups are worth different amounts of points. Old people in particular are quite valuable hence hospitals hold "Euthanasia Day" during the race, which consists of the hospital staff rolling their helpless patients out onto the road in wheelchairs for the contestants.

DeathRace 2000 Trailer

David Carradine plays the lead role of Frankenstein, the fan favorite driver who everyone expects to win the race. He dresses in black and wears a black cape and mask as part of his image. He is a melancholic figure who seems to care about nothing else but winning the race, though his reasons are more complex than they seem. His greatest rival in the race is Machine Gun Joe, played by Sylvester Stallone. Joe is a bad and bitter man. You can tell when, within seconds of debuting on the screen, he fires into the crowd with a Tommy Gun just because they dared to cheer Frankenstein. Beyond Frankenstein and his nemesis, there are three additional contestants in the race, each with their own crazy gimmick that easily rivals those of the drivers of Carmageddon. The cars are all purpose built for this sort of race complete with blades, spikes, and giant horns to maximize damage to the pedestrians. Meanwhile a group of rebels try to sabotage the race in order to put an end to the Death Race once and for all. So how does Frankenstein end up being the hero in all of this? Just watch the movie, and you'll see.

Now you may be inclined to think that Death Race 2000 is nothing more than a gratuitous horror movie that builds on shock value, but you'd be wrong to think that. True, Death Race 2000 features lots of outrageous acts of violence including the culmination of the aforementioned Euthanasia Day, Machine Gun Joe running over a fisherman in the river, or a crazy rebel teasing one of the contestants in a matador outfit only to end up impaled on the car... however the film doesn't take itself particularly seriously as evidenced for example by the constant sports commentary during the race. With this humorous presentation the movie comes across as a satirical horror comedy rather than an actual horror flick and it certainly succeeds at entertaining any fan of dark humor. Bottom line, if you liked Carmageddon, you'll love this movie.

So, was Death Race 2000 the inspiration for Carmageddon? Who knows? But we certainly wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was.

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