Genre master Roger Corman has made an incredible number of films – some forgettable, some not-so-much – but perhaps the one I remember most from my youth was the quintessential ‘need for speed’ picture Death Race 2000. In it, the legendary Frankenstein (played by the late David Carradine) and a handful of other seasoned driving veterans endured a cross-country race wherein drivers chalked up points each time they ran down helpless pedestrians who almost always somewhere miraculously got in their way. It was essentially a brutal viewing experience – with a bit more story thrown in for good measure – that created a bit of controversy for its day; but it was honestly meant to be little more than a road trip of all good fun.
Lo and behold, the original Race would eventually receive a legitimate sequel an astonishing four decades later – with an all-new cast and crew, of course – when Death Race 2050 kinda/sorta revisited the idea via writer/director G.J. Echternkamp’s modern sensibilities. In fact, I’ve read online that some don’t much consider the flick a sequel so much as they do a weak remake/reboot. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad to see that the idea was too good to stay shelved for so long, and someone resurrected Frankenstein for today’s discriminating audience.
Who couldn’t use a bit more shlock in their entertainment diet?
This time out, the popular Manu Bennett took the wheel as Frankenstein, and the cast was rounded out with Malcolm McDowell, Marci Miller, Burt Grinstead, Yancy Butler, and Shanna Olson in key roles. Here’s its plot summary as provided by the good folks at IMDB.com:
“Five long decades after Death Race 2000 (1975), in the overpopulated United Corporations Of America, the annual Death Race is about to begin. This time, Frankenstein is up against no-nonsense challengers. How many points will he score?”
Purists are quick to point out that 2050 isn’t the only time the original has served as inspiration for a revisitation, however: in 2008, action star Jason Statham headlined the Paul W.S. Anderson loose remake of the original, this time setting the bulk of the action somewhat ‘behind bars’ in a bleak, blighted future wherein convicts suited up behind the wheel for similar action. (In fact, that incarnation has spawned a few sequels in its own universe, as well.) But – in my humble opinion – that darker and grittier attempt took away the camp feelings of the original, and I do so prefer my dystopian tomorrow with a few laughs.
It goes without saying that 2050 wasn’t exactly a barn-burning success. Direct-to-DVD fare gets very little advertising these days, and the film took a bit of a critical drubbing from those who got the chance to screen it either before, during, and after its time in the limelight (IMDB.com shows it currently with a 3.7 on its 10.0 scale), but – as I always say – to each his own. Diff’rent strokes, diff’rent folks.
Start … your … engines!