License to Ill

Sicko drivers take the road to perdition

1975. David Carradine has just laid down his nunchucks as Kwai Chang "Grass-hoppa" Kane in Kung Fu. Sylvester Stallone is an unknown pug whose mug will soon be known all over the globe. B-movie producer Roger Corman is at the peak of his power. Together, this unlikely triad will create Death Race 2000, setting the template for all road-kill/future-shock movies to come -- including 1979's Mad Max and Paul W.S. Anderson's Death Race remake, scheduled for release next year.

Having seen DR2K in its original theatrical incarnation, we can tell you that it's pretty bad. 20/20 hindsight? Still rank. But there was a saying back then -- "That's bad meaning good, not bad meaning bad" -- and Death Race 2K has aged like fine synthetic lubricant. Inspired by the video game Death Race, the cult fave takes place in a denuded future America whose tyrannical leader, Mr. President, has, just for yuks, created a coast-to-coast competition designed to reward the wack job who mows down the highest number of pedestrians.

Carradine plays the semi-mechanical man named Frankenstein -- a character who reputedly influenced George Lucas in his creation of Darth Vader -- and Sly portrays his main rival, Chicago mobster "Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo, in the vehicular-manslaughter cheese fest, which screens as part of Midnite Movie Mamacita's monthly Grindhouse Redux series. A showing of John Hayes' drive-in cult classic Jailbait Babysitter follows at 11.

 
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