Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 | This Wacky Races for the Trump era is a turbo-charged blast of popcorn fun
This ‘sequel’ to Roger Corman and Paul Bartel’s 1975 cult drive-in actioner Death Race 2000 is a hoot and a half – and finally consigns those dire Jason Statham/Luke Goss efforts to the wrecker’s yard.
Malcolm McDowall dials in another performance as the Trump-esque Chairman of the United Corporations of America who gets his bouffant comb-over in a twist when his four-time racing champion Frankenstein wants to retire from the ‘greatest pissing contest of mankind’ (aka the Death Race), which every citizen (now permanently unemployed) vicariously joins in via VR headsets.
Playing the man of many a spare part (and stepping into John Carradine’s black leathers) is Manu Bennett (TV’s Spartacus), who seems to be channelling Mel Gibson’s Mad Max as he sets off with his proxy Annie Sullivan (Marci Miller, Days of Our Lives) – who is secretly working for a resistance group – from Old New York to Los Angeles. But as they mow down ‘willing’ fans along the way to collect vital points, will trying to avoid some high calibre hospitality, hot on their tailgate is the genetically-modified superstar Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead), who’ll stop at nothing to beat them to the finish line…
This Wacky Races for the Trump era is a turbo-charged blast of popcorn fun that pays loving homage to the original (even down to the retro poster design), while also providing some thigh-slapping political satire by lampooning everything that is wrong with America today – from guns and religion to consumerism and social apathy.
Director GJ Echternkamp and co-writer Matt Yamashita inject loads of black humour into the film and its characters, who are great fun to cheer on or boo as they traverse America’s re-named cities and states like Upper Shitville (Baltimore), New Texxaco (Texas) and MeatPakistan (Kansas).
Amongst the racers are hip-hop star Minerva (Folake Olowofoyeku), whose latest hit song is ‘Drive… drive… drive… kill… drive…’; Tammy the Terrorist (Anessa Ramsey), a bible-bashing interfaith wack-job who is a ‘magnet for heathens’; and ABE, a KITT-like artificial intelligence who has an existential meltdown when he accidentally impales his sex-mad proxy to the hood of his bonnet.
Turning up the Roid Rage to warp factor 10 is Burt Grinstead as the sexually-ambiguous Perfectus, who reminded me of a closeted version of Gerrit Graham’s glam rocker Beef in 1974’s Phantom of the Paradise, while Yancy Butler (of Lake Placid and Witchblade fame) is the tough as nails Alexis, a former network programmer who now leads the resistance – a bunch of leather clad muscle boys. But for me, it’s Shanna Olsen who steals the show as the Hunger Games-styled news anchor Grace Tickle.
Among the many funny lines are ‘It’s hard to turn global famine into click bait’ and ‘I’ll drink your tears Frankenstein and lick them off your handsome face’, but the most chilling must be, ‘The world is fucking crazy, a sane person doesn’t stand a chance’. Considering what America is going through now, it might just be true…
The late-great Ib Melchior gets a credit at the end for it was his short story The Racer that inspired Corman’s original Rollerball rip-off in the first place… now, does anyone remember sales people?
Death Race 2050 is out on Blu-ray and Digital Download from Monday 20 March 2017
DID YOU KNOW? You can watch the original cult action film here – in full!
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) | Holy spacemen! The futuristic castaway sci-fi crash-lands on Blu-ray
Out on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time in the UK comes the colourful, cartoony 1964 sci-fi adventure Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
While following Daniel Defoe’s classic castaway novel, this Boy’s Own adventure transports its hero into outer space. Paul Mantee (fresh from TV’s Cheyenne) is US astronaut Kit Draper, who gets stranded along with his pet monkey Mona (actually Barney, hence the diaper) on the Red Planet after an emergency crash landing. After building his man cave, Kit starts exploring the alien landscape – only to discover he isn’t alone as he first thought…
Penned by genre legend Ib Melchior (Angry Red Planet) and directed by Byron Haskin (who worked with George Pal on War of the Worlds and Conquest of Space), this is an imaginative, though lifeless sci-fi adventure. And… Holy Spaceman! poor Adam West (before he hit the big time with Batman) gets killed off at the start, and only appears again as a mirage (what???)
The first hour is spent with Mantee (looking every inch the fit all-American hero) playing house with his monkey in a vast styrofoam cave (that wouldn’t look out of place in Lost in Space) and taking hot baths with his undies still on (obviously not to shock poor Mona); before he discovers some fast-moving cartoon-drawn space ships (modelled after the martian machines in War of the Worlds) protecting a mining operation manned by humanoid slaves.
Then the ‘non-action’ kickstarts as one of them (Victor Lundin) escapes, gets named Friday, and is taught English by Mantee’s spaceman, before they try to outrun those cartoon ships after their man cave gets blown to bits and they head to the polar ice caps for a final showdown…
If it weren’t for Mantee’s fine physique and the wildly inventive visual design (which turns Death Valley into a Looney Toons cartoon and looks fantastic on Blu-ray) then I’d say give this one a miss. And while we never see the aliens, I’d suspect that if we did get to peer into those spaceships, it would be Marvin the Martian at the controls.
But then, what did you expect from producer Aubrey Schenck, who gave us the studio bound horror house schlocker The Black Sleep and the rock ‘n’ roll deliquent teenfest Untamed Youth?
Robinson Crusoe on Mars is released in Dual format on 23 November 2015 from Eureka Entertainment.