Welcome to the Bad Movie of the Week. [Read more background or see the Bad Movie Archive.] In light of the recent release of action flick Death Race, starring Jason Statham, we bring you the far campier or, well, something-er 1975 action/exploitation film by the same name, starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone:
Death Race 2000 (1975)
Plot: It is the Future, and, battered by financial crisis and social turmoil, the United States has become the United Provinces of America, a fascist police state headed by a dictator known as “Mr. President.” To keep the citizens amused and distracted, the state sponsors the Transcontinental Road Race, in which five drivers race across the country racking up points by mowing down hapless pedestrians. (Senior citizens and toddlers earn additional points). The mysterious ‘Frankenstein’ (Carradine) is the favorite, but he’s up against racer Machine Gun Joe Viturbo (Stallone) and an anti-government rebel group aiming to sabotage the race.
Best quote: Pretty much everything that comes out of Sylvester Stallone’s mouth. “You know Myra, some people might think you’re cute. But me, I think you’re one very large baked potato.”
Most implausible moment: The makers of the movie tried to shoehorn in a heavy political message. The United Provinces of America are ruled by an undemocratic government that uses bloodthirsty, gladiatorial sport to distract and entertain its citizens. The drivers represent various past empires, from Roman ‘Nero the Hero’ to Aryan ‘Matilda the Hun’. And the anti-government rebels are led by ‘Thomasina Paine’, a direct descendant of Thomas Paine. It’s almost absurd enough to work. But there are many moments, such as when the authoritarian President is killed by a fall of six feet, when the silliness really shines through.
‘Gratuitous Hotness’ bonus: 1 (out of 1 possible). There’s almost as much gratuitous nudity as there is violence, although David Carradine in leather briefs comes close to ruining the mood.
‘Gratuitous Violence’ bonus: 1 (out of 1 possible). Gratuitous violence is the very foundation of this movie, its raison d’être, its crême de la crême. Gore scenes abound, some hilarious, some cringeworthy.
Final score: 1½ (6 is worst). Some bad movies are bad in a pedestrian, unremarkable sort of way, and we’re forced to play up their ridiculousness to make them worth watching. Not Death Race 2000. Death Race 2000 takes badness and elevates it to an art form. If it has a shortcoming, it might be that it doesn’t go far enough.
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SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE:
Let’s be clear: TreeLounge Advantage 3 turned out not to be a movie. But Will and Jesse and Sam and I watched it, in the hope that it might be a movie, and our suffering would be for nothing if we did not commemorate it in some way.
TreeLounge Advantage 3, it turns out, is a 45-minute infomercial for the TreeLounge hunting stand. When the VHS cover advertises “Over 50 explicit harvest scenes,” they do indeed mean over 50 scenes of deer, moose, and various other helpless animals being shot with a high-powered rifle by an asthmatic, mustachioed man named Dean Durham.
Dean Durham is the literary hero of this tale; he is Ignatius J. Reilly; he is “a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one.” For a “professional outdoorsman,” he is also remarkably out of shape, and every time he approaches a freshly shot deer, breathing heavily, mustache bristling, murmuring “That’s a good buck” — a phrase he repeats at least 100 separate times, along with “Look at that rack” — the viewer can’t help expecting fetish porn at any moment. TreeLounge Advantage 3 is unintentionally ‘explicit’ in more ways than one.
Thankfully, such a scene never comes. The infomercial just goes on and on. After we had learned more than we could stand about the TreeLounge, we resorted to fast-forward, only stopping to hear the occasional “That’s a good buck.”
Final score: 6/Unratable (6 is worst). TreeLounge Advantage 3 is not really rateable on the Bad Movie Scale since it’s basically an infomercial. Picture an equivalent scale for infomercials, though, and it’s the most grotesquely bad possible 6. As the cover shows, it had been marked down to $3.99 before Will bought it for $0.25. He vastly overpaid.