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How Roger Corman's Sick and Bloody 2000 Death Race Made Hollywood Crazy

How Roger Corman's Sick and Bloody 2000 Death Race Made Hollywood Crazy


Dystopian rides to the death have since become their own cliché. Yet Death Race 2000 arguably went further than any of its peers into a Kubruckian place where violence and satire were horribly intertwined. Featuring broke retirees and a car decorated like a bull goring a matador, it fully commits to its sinister side. Even the most iconic Mad Max couldn't match this excess (Mad Max creator George Miller would openly acknowledge his debt to Corman).

As with many pulp masterpieces, the storyline is essentially non-existent. Runners with wrestler-style stage names run from New York to New Los Angeles. Along the way, bonus points are scored for mowing down pedestrians. A teenager is worth 40 years, a toddler is 70 years. Women receive an automatic 10 point bonus. The biggest prize of all, however, is the over 75s which are worth 100 points.

In addition to the shock factor, there was an impressive cast. David Carradine, future muse of Quentin Tarantino, played the anti-hero Frankenstein. Carradine, then 29, was one of television's biggest stars thanks to his recently concluded martial arts show, Kung Fu. He was able to take advantage of an extraordinary deal with the notoriously miserly Corman, through which he received 10 percent of the box office gross.

Stallone played the boorish Machine Gun Joe. Woronov was Calamity Jane, the wild west driver. Woronov was a counterculture celebrity thanks to his membership in Andy Warhol's suite at the Factory in New York. It's unlikely that Warhol could ever have imagined a canvas for her half as barking as Death Race 2000. Her car was decorated to look like a horned ox, and at one point she ran over a bullfighter, duly showered with fake blood.




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