David Carradine plays Frankenstein, the superstar in what has become the national sport of the year 2000: The Transcontinental Road Race. In a dystopian, Orwellian society, this form of bloodshed is the highest form of entertainment. Will Frankenstein be able to make it through the race, or will he be stopped, not just by the other racers, but a gang of revolutionaries that’s killing off the racers one by one?
This is Paul Bartel’s most famous film, and his best. It’s basically what makes genre movies the best ever. The movie is filled with action, with the races being extremely violent and at the same time, humorous. The funniest part is definitely the sequence where Frankenstein runs over the orderlies in a hospital, ignoring the cripples. It’s definitely very typical for a Bartel film. The acting is also excellent, with a great cast. The late David Carradine is excellent, being imposing and frightening at the beginning, but also very human and realistic when his true colors show. There is a high criticism of the whole ‘franchise’ world, as Frankenstein reveals to be only one in a series of drivers, only this one isn’t as patriotic as he seems. Simone Griffeth, as Frankenstein’s navigator, is beautiful and intelligent, making her eventual double-cross seem apparent. Of course, she ends up being a good girl, but I don’t want to reveal much.
The other drivers are very awesome as well, and very flamboyant. Sylvester Stallone as Machine Gun Joe overacts to the hilt, screaming and whining about how much he hates being second, and wearing a pink tie. B-Movie greats like Mary Woronov (Rock N’ Roll High School, Eating Raoul), Roberta Collins (Unholy Rollers, Eaten Alive) and Martin Kove (from the Karate Kid movies) make worthy racers, with their own cars and personality, even making me feel sorry for them when they meet their eventual demise. But still, this movie is excellent, action packed and full of violent fun, and should not be missed. It was remade as Death Race in 2008, and it was a pretty awesome remake.