Legendary low-budget producer and director Roger Corman is known for putting out highly-profitable movies that often followed and even occasionally drove major shifts in the popular culture, but not necessarily for making movies that were actually “good.” A frequently cited exception to that rule is 1975’s Death Race 2000, a Paul Bartel-directed dystopian satire of politics, media and what we would eventually call “reality television” that starred Kill Bill’s David Carradine and a young Sylvester Stallone.
As with most Corman productions, the making of Death Race 2050 is taking place fairly under the radar, so not much is known about the film other than supposedly following the same basic plot as the original but incorporating unspecified elements of “virtual reality.” The production was announced today via this statement from Corman:
“This is an amazing opportunity for me and millions of Death Race 2000 fans to experience the intensity, thrills and dark humor of the original, fueled by a terrific young cast, spectacular vehicles and side-splitting action, literally. Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 puts the pedal to the metal to bring this enduring franchise to a whole new level.”
The original film, set in the then-future of 2000, depicted a dystopian future United States where a fascist government kept the masses mollified via an annual televised cross-country race, wherein the flamboyant drivers of tricked-out cars were encouraged to compete not only by fighting and out-driving each other, but also by running down pedestrians – with specific targets (children, senior citizens, the disabled) being worth more points. A rebel movement schemes to put an end to the Death Race with a plan that comes to involve an enigmatic masked driver named Frankenstein (Carradine), “Machine-Gun” Joe Viterbo (Stallone) and the descendants of Thomas Paine, among others.
The film has been cited as having a hugely influence upon later features like the Mad Max series and as a predecessor to future media-satirizing dystopian stories like The Running Man and The Hunger Games. The in-name-only 2008 remake featured Jason Statham and substituted cross-country racing with what was effectively live-action Super Mario Kart, with convicts forced to race on a NASCAR-style track with booby-traps and “unlockable” onboard weapons. The synopsis for the new film reads as follows:
In the not-too-distant future, America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government that keeps the masses placated with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, where a motley assortment of drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for running down pedestrians and killing each other. The reigning champion and popular favorite is half-man, half-machine Frankenstein (The Hobbit’s Manu Bennett, taking over for the original’s David Carradine) — but little does he know he’s taken on a rebel spy as his co-pilot. Cult film icon Malcolm McDowell also stars as the sinister Chairman.
Given the explosion in popularity of “reality” programming in the real world, it’s surprising that the film hasn’t been remade or sequelized more often already, especially given Corman’s famous chasing of popular trends to make movies out of, and his preference for hiring young, up-and-coming talent to make his films; famously crediting him with the “discovery” of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, Joe Dante, James Cameron and many others. Death Race 2050 will be directed by G.J. Echternkamp from a screenplay by Matt Yamashita (Corman’s earlier Sharktopus Vs. Pterecuda,) with Corman producing along with Anaconda director Luis Llosa.
We’ll keep you updated on Death Race 2050 as production continues.
Source: Shock Til You Drop