Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DEATH RACE 2000 (Blu-Ray)

"The drivers are ready, the world is watching. Once more, I give you what you want."

Shout! Factory continues its new "Roger Corman's Cult Classics" line with one of the famed exploitation producers' best-known titles: DEATH RACE 2000 (1975), starring the legendary David Carradine (CANNONBALL), Mary Woronov (THE HALFWAY HOUSE) and Sylvester Stallone (RAMBO, THE EXPENDABLES).

Previously released on DVD by Corman's own New Horizons label and Disney (as well as a handful of unauthorized editions from budget labels), Shout! brings the title to Blu-Ray for the first time along with a new DVD edition, and it's a winner.

Directed by Paul Bartel (EATING RAOUL) and based on a short story by Ib Melchior (PLANET OF VAMPIRES), DEATH RACE portrays a futuristic year 2000 (!) where a totalitarian American government keeps the masses pacified with an annual transcontinental road race, a race where flamboyant drivers score points by running down pedestrians. Carradine is the black-clad, masked Frankenstein, the world champion driver, who may have more on his mind than just winning the race. Stallone and Woronov are among the other colorful competitors who help the titular race live up to its lethal reputation.

Simply put, DEATH RACE 2000 is a drive-in classic low-budget action comedy, loaded with memorable characters (and cars!), great stunts, gutsy guerrilla filmmaking by the talented Bartel, and some heavy-handed-but-genuinely-clever satire.

Shout! Factory's new Blu-Ray presentation is simply stunning, with a gorgeous 1080p, 1.85:1 widescreen transfer from an Interpositive Film Element that utterly blows away all previous home video presentations of this title. Whereas previous editions showed plenty of specks, scratches, age-related wear, dirt and other minor print damage, this transfer is virtually spotless. Detail and colors are are strong and sharp, and the contrast is excellent. The Blu-Ray also features crystal clear mono audio.

As for extras, Shout! has once again included the bonus features from the previous releases, along with a slew of new supplements, including an audio commentary by Roger Corman and Mary Woronov, a second commentary by Assistant Director Lewis Teague and Editor Tina Hirsh, five behind the scenes featurettes covering the making of the film from conception to release and examining the production design, unique automobiles and costumes, and the innovative electronic score. There's also some interview footage with the late Carradine wherein he briefly discusses the film, theatrical trailer, TV spots and radio advertisements, the trailer (again) with commentary by John Landis, courtesy of the Trailers From Hell website, a 12-page booklet of liner notes, and trailers for other upcoming "Roger Corman Cult Classics" titles: GALAXY OF TERROR, FORBIDDEN WORLD, DEATHSPORT and UP FROM THE DEPTHS. My mouth is already watering for those discs....

DEATH RACE 2000 is one of the essential cult films, and Shout! Factory has given it a first-class treatment on Blu-Ray disc. If you have any of the previous DVD versions an upgrade to Blu-Ray (or the also-available Shout! Factory DVD) is...

Highly recommended.

BUY: Death Race 2000 (Roger Corman's Cult Classics) [Blu-ray]

BUY: Death Race 2000 (Roger Corman's Cult Classics) [DVD]