Death Race 2000 (1975)

R | 80 mins | Science fiction | 30 April 1975

Director:

Paul Bartel

Producer:

Roger Corman

Cinematographer:

Tak Fujimoto

Editor:

Tina Hirsch

Production Designers:

Robinson Royce, B. B. Neel

Production Company:

New World Productions
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HISTORY


       Costumer Jane Ruhm is credited onscreen as Jane “Rum.” The character “Thomasina Paine” is called the grandmother of “Annie Smith” throughout the film, but in the last scene, Annie refers to the woman as her great-grandmother.
       An 18 Sep 1975 document containing Official Screen Credits for Academy Award consideration in AMPAS library files stated that production for Death Race 2000 was completed May 1974, and onscreen credits include a 1974 copyright.
       Upon its 30 Apr 1975 opening in Los Angeles, CA, many reviews, including those in the 2 May 1975 LAT and 7 May 1975 Var, noted that Death Race 2000 was produced quickly to secure an opening date before Norman Jewison’s Rollerball (1975, see entry), which was being distributed by United Artists Corp. as a large summer release. Despite the picture’s low budget, critics generally praised its sense of humor and noted the skill of photographer Tak Fujimoto. On 19 May 1975, a Box advertisement reported a box-office gross of $556,327 in the first week of release at 100 Southern CA theaters. Nearly two years later, an 18 Jan 1977 DV article stated that Death Race 2000 had earned $5.1 million to date. New World was planning to reissue the picture at that time in the wake of Sylvester Stallone’s “new celebrity” after the release of Rocky (1976, see entry).
       Marking the film’s transition from cult status into the mainstream, an 8 Sep 2005 HR article announced that Walt Disney Studio’s video distribution company, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, had acquired rights to over ... More Less


       Costumer Jane Ruhm is credited onscreen as Jane “Rum.” The character “Thomasina Paine” is called the grandmother of “Annie Smith” throughout the film, but in the last scene, Annie refers to the woman as her great-grandmother.
       An 18 Sep 1975 document containing Official Screen Credits for Academy Award consideration in AMPAS library files stated that production for Death Race 2000 was completed May 1974, and onscreen credits include a 1974 copyright.
       Upon its 30 Apr 1975 opening in Los Angeles, CA, many reviews, including those in the 2 May 1975 LAT and 7 May 1975 Var, noted that Death Race 2000 was produced quickly to secure an opening date before Norman Jewison’s Rollerball (1975, see entry), which was being distributed by United Artists Corp. as a large summer release. Despite the picture’s low budget, critics generally praised its sense of humor and noted the skill of photographer Tak Fujimoto. On 19 May 1975, a Box advertisement reported a box-office gross of $556,327 in the first week of release at 100 Southern CA theaters. Nearly two years later, an 18 Jan 1977 DV article stated that Death Race 2000 had earned $5.1 million to date. New World was planning to reissue the picture at that time in the wake of Sylvester Stallone’s “new celebrity” after the release of Rocky (1976, see entry).
       Marking the film’s transition from cult status into the mainstream, an 8 Sep 2005 HR article announced that Walt Disney Studio’s video distribution company, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, had acquired rights to over 400 Roger Corman-New World Pictures productions, including Death Race 2000. Earlier that year, a 22 Mar 2005 DV brief reported that Paul W. S. Anderson had been hired to write and direct a remake for Paramount Pictures, titled Death Race 3000. Two years later, a 23 Apr 2007 HR article, which announced the casting of Jason Statham, noted that the remake was initially crafted as a vehicle for actor Tom Cruise. However, Paramount ended its relationship with Cruise and his production company, Cruise/Wagner Productions, one year earlier, as stated in a 23 Aug 2006 WSJ article, and United Artists acquired rights to remake the film when Cruise and his partner, Paula Wagner, took over the studio. Death Race was released 22 Aug 2008 with Wagner credited as producer and Roger Corman listed as executive producer. Cruise, whose split with Wagner had been reported in the trades mid-Aug 2008, just one week before the film’s opening, was not credited onscreen.

      End credits begin with the following voiceover narration: “As to this matter of violence, the technique of violence was first developed in two million B.C. by the australopithecines, a tribe of four-foot primates who had no brains to speak of but who, nevertheless, invented the tomahawk and used it on each other. This practice led to the enlargement of the brain, another useful weapon. Yes, murder was invented even before man began to think. Now, of course, man has become known as the thinking animal.”

              End credits also include the acknowledgement: “…and thanks to the following for their kind cooperation: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Bakersfield District Office; Synanon Foundation; VariViggen Aircraft supplied by Rutan Aircraft Factory; Electro Helmets Division of Electrofilm, Inc.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 May 1975
p. 4780.
Box Office
19 May 1975.
---
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1975.
---
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1975.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
22 Mar 2005
p. 1, 19.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1975
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 2005
p. 27.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 2007
p. 1, 14.
Los Angeles Times
2 May 1975
p. 21.
New York Times
6 Jun 1975
p. 17.
Variety
7 May 1975
p. 48.
Wall Street Journal
23 Aug 2006.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
2d unit cam
2d unit cam
Gaffer
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Assoc ed
SET DECORATOR
Propmaster
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Make-up
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Cars des by
Cars constructed by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Racer" by Ib Melchior (publication date undetermined).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Race
Release Date:
30 April 1975
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 30 April 1975
New York opening: week of 6 June 1975
Production Date:
ended May 1974
Copyright Claimant:
New World Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
30 April 1975
Copyright Number:
LP47184
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
80
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the near future year of 2000, New York Memorial Raceway fills with spectators to celebrate the start of the three-day Twentieth Annual Transcontinental Road Race. As television emcee Junior Bruce introduces driver Calamity Jane Kelly and her navigator, Pete, reporter Grace Pander waits at a nearby hospital for the unveiling of the renowned racecar driver, Frankenstein. The hero has been recently outfitted with a new mechanical arm and he awakens clad in black leather. Back at the stadium, fans wave swastikas and cheer teammates Matilda the Hun and her navigator, Herman the German. Another car approaches the starting line, driven by Ray “Nero the Hero” Lonigan with his surly companion, Cleopatra. Contestant Machine Gun Joe Viterbo speeds toward his mark with his blonde cohort, Myra, then fires an automatic weapon at Frankenstein fans. Meanwhile, Frankenstein meets his new navigator, Annie Smith, and races to the stadium. Before the death race begins, the United Provinces of America’s dictator, Mr. President, broadcasts a message and activates a green light. The cars speed away from New York City on their journey west to New Los Angeles, California. Meanwhile, political insurgents convene in a factory. Lt. Fury complains that Mr. President uses the race to maintain his autocratic rule and an elderly matriarch named Thomasina Paine insists that her granddaughter, Annie Smith, will succeed in her mission to sabotage Frankenstein, a close friend of Mr. President. On the road, Annie wonders aloud what Frankenstein’s face looks like under his mask, and the driver says that he has lost many body parts in past races. When Annie unmasks her partner, she discovers ... +


In the near future year of 2000, New York Memorial Raceway fills with spectators to celebrate the start of the three-day Twentieth Annual Transcontinental Road Race. As television emcee Junior Bruce introduces driver Calamity Jane Kelly and her navigator, Pete, reporter Grace Pander waits at a nearby hospital for the unveiling of the renowned racecar driver, Frankenstein. The hero has been recently outfitted with a new mechanical arm and he awakens clad in black leather. Back at the stadium, fans wave swastikas and cheer teammates Matilda the Hun and her navigator, Herman the German. Another car approaches the starting line, driven by Ray “Nero the Hero” Lonigan with his surly companion, Cleopatra. Contestant Machine Gun Joe Viterbo speeds toward his mark with his blonde cohort, Myra, then fires an automatic weapon at Frankenstein fans. Meanwhile, Frankenstein meets his new navigator, Annie Smith, and races to the stadium. Before the death race begins, the United Provinces of America’s dictator, Mr. President, broadcasts a message and activates a green light. The cars speed away from New York City on their journey west to New Los Angeles, California. Meanwhile, political insurgents convene in a factory. Lt. Fury complains that Mr. President uses the race to maintain his autocratic rule and an elderly matriarch named Thomasina Paine insists that her granddaughter, Annie Smith, will succeed in her mission to sabotage Frankenstein, a close friend of Mr. President. On the road, Annie wonders aloud what Frankenstein’s face looks like under his mask, and the driver says that he has lost many body parts in past races. When Annie unmasks her partner, she discovers that he is not scarred after all. Elsewhere, Machine Gun Joe scores extra points by slicing through the groin of a hapless road worker with the blade on his car hood. A television commentator announces that race road kills are advantageous, with toddlers and geriatric victims worth the most points. In her car called “The Bull,” Calamity Jane impales a pedestrian who goads her in a bullfighter costume. At Mercy Hospital, nurses create a roadblock of aged patients in anticipation of Frankenstein’s arrival, but the hero diverts the goal to strike several bystanding doctors, instead. Cleopatra spots a family picnic and directs Nero toward an infant; however, the baby is really a doll, rigged with dynamite, and the car explodes. As Grace Pander interviews the widow of Machine Gun Joe’s first kill, the television broadcast is interrupted by a renegade signal, depicting Thomasina. The elderly matron announces that the “age of obedience is over,” and explains that she is leading a resistance against Mr. President; the execution of Nero and Cleopatra was the movement’s first act of rebellion. The drivers listen to Thomasina from their cars and Frankenstein is pleased by the challenge, but Annie reminds him this is a declaration of war. Unfazed, Frankenstein argues that winning “is the only standard of excellence left.” At a pit stop in St. Louis, Missouri, Frankenstein undresses in front of Annie, but keeps his prosthetic arm covered with a glove. He reveals a perfectly formed body, unmaimed by purported race injuries, and they make love. The next morning, Joe maintains his lead as Frankenstein turns around to recover his lost glove and he kills one of the race officiants, the Deacon of the Bipartisan Party. He then follows Annie’s recommendation and leads Joe on a detour to a dead end road. There, Frankenstein skirts a rebel ambush and wonders who betrayed him. He orders Annie to drive. Meanwhile, Joe is outraged to discover the ruse and falls behind. Elsewhere, Matilda the Hun runs over Calamity Jane’s navigator, Pete, and a chase ensues. On the road ahead, rebels construct a detour, leading Matilda and Herman to careen off a cliff to their deaths. Back in Frankenstein’s car, Annie swerves to miss a teenager and Frankenstein becomes convinced she is an interloper. He demands that she stand in front of the vehicle as he resumes the driver’s seat and he is tempted to kill her for an extra thirty points. However, Frankenstein invites his lover back into the car and demands she explain herself. Annie admits being Thomasina’s granddaughter, and says that the rebels planned to replace Frankenstein with a doppelganger, who would take their demands to Mr. President. The insurgents want to exchange Frankenstein’s life for “the abolition of the race.” At the next pit stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the surviving contestants complain about Thomasina, but Mr. President’s representative assures them that the old woman is confined to a hospital. On a television broadcast, Mr. President insists that France is responsible for the uprising, as well as for the decline of the American economy. Later, Joe strangles Annie in the garage, but Frankenstein comes to her rescue and a fight ensues, leaving Joe beaten. Back in their room, Frankenstein warns Annie that “the world doesn’t want to be saved” and suggests that she save herself before it’s too late. As Annie lies naked in bed, Frankenstein admits that he was raised by the government to be a gladiator. He declares this year’s race will mark his greatest, and final, victory. The lovers embrace. At the starting line of the final “lap” into New Los Angeles, Calamity Jane wishes her competitors luck, while Joe scores points running over his own mechanics. On the road, rebels plant a land mine and lead Jane into the trap. Although she narrowly misses hitting the bomb, it detonates as she turns around. Elsewhere, Frankenstein sneaks a sleeping pill into his thermos and offers it to Annie. As she loses consciousness, rebel leader Lt. Fury flies a plane overhead and orders Frankenstein to stop the car. Fury shoots at Frankenstein and a chase ensues, but the lieutenant crashes into a canyon wall and dies in the explosion. Annie awakens to find Frankenstein wounded, but still determined to win. She grabs the steering wheel and directs the car toward a cliff. When the car stops just inches from the precipice, the lovers quarrel and Frankenstein appeals to Annie for help. Removing his glove, Frankenstein reveals a grenade lodged into his prosthetic hand. He intends to win the race and assassinate Mr. President while shaking his hand. Although Annie objects to Frankenstein’s suicide mission, he argues it is his life’s work. Back in the race, Frankenstein and Joe speed toward New Los Angeles with their respective mates, trying to force each other off the road. Annie detaches Frankenstein’s hand and throws it into Joe’s car, killing the competitors. Frankenstein asks Annie to shift gears for him and worries how he will proceed with the assassination. At the victory ceremony, Mr. President again proclaims that the French are to blame for all of life’s ills, but declares Frankenstein the embodiment of American indestructibility. As Frankenstein walks onstage to embrace Mr. President with a knife in his good hand, Thomasina fires a gun from the crowd and hits the driver. Mr. President unmasks the wounded Frankenstein to discover Annie. Naked, Frankenstein, speeds his car into the bandstand, leaving Mr. President impaled on the razor hood of his car. Annie stumbles toward her lover and raises his arm in victory as the crowd cheers. Sometime later, Annie and now-President Frankenstein are married, and Thomasina is appointed Minister for Domestic Security. The old lady vows to punish those who rebel against happiness. When Frankenstein announces the Transcontinental Road Race has been abolished, reporter Junior Bruce warns that violence is the basis of Frankenstein’s popularity, but Frankenstein runs over the correspondent and speeds away with Annie at his side. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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