Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Video: Death Race 2000 (1975)

David Carradine’s career resurgence prompted me to take another look at this movie. It’s a highlight not just for Carradine, but for producer Roger Corman and director Paul Bartel. (I miss Bartel. Back in high school, when everyone else was inserting toothpicks into the backs of their cable boxes so they could watch PORKY’S for free, I was obsessed with EATING RAOUL. There’s nothing sadder than sitting in the cafeteria reeling off lines from a movie that nobody else has seen. Unless it’s writing a blog that nobody is reading.)

Many people are familiar with the movie’s premise. In a dystopian future, the national sport is a cross-country race where points are scored by killing pedestrians. (People 75 and older are worth the most.) But that’s only a hint of how truly unhinged this film is. The United States is led by a President-for-life currently governing from his summer palace in China. Much of the movie is structured around the nonstop TV coverage of the race, which plays like a demented combination of professional wrestling, SURVIVOR, and ESPN’s remotes from the NFL draft.

It’s all served up with typical Corman verve; the damn thing’s only 78 minutes long. Here the cheap vitality adds to the flow of ideas. This is the movie that A CLOCKWORK ORANGE thinks it is, in only half the time and with better jokes. And it hasn’t dated at all. If anything, it seems even more relevant. Everything that goes wrong in the race is blamed on the French, for God’s sake.

A big-budget remake is in the works, but I’m certain it will have none of the original’s gonzo energy. The focus will be on the cars and the outsized characters. And it will be at least half an hour too long.

One other observation: whatever happened to casual nudity in the movies? It just made everything ... better.

TV: Turner Classic Movies

The network devoted an entire afternoon to movies beginning with MURDER. As in IN A PRIVATE CAR (1934), BY AN ARISTOCRAT (1936), and so on. I managed to catch MURDER ON A HONEYMOON, a Hildegarde Withers mystery from 1935. Co-written by the great humorist Robert Benchley and filmed on location in Catalina. Can a TV network be declared a national resource?

Music: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)

Every time I go to the gym I’m assailed by the limp electronica remake, so I bought the Journey original from iTunes. Let me state this in no uncertain terms. I love this song. Unironically and unreservedly.