Roger Corman is a filmmaking legend. Not exactly a legend like Spielberg or Kubrick, Corman has brought cinema a ton of low budget B-movies. Many of these have become cult classics. He tries to repeat his success with a sequel in Death Race 2050.
Death Race 2050 is an interesting entry. Back in 1975, Corman produced Death Race 2000 with David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. In Death Race 2000, Corman presented audiences with a dystopian future where the Transcontinental Death Race was the most popular spectator event in the country. Racers would race against one another in themed cars equipped with weaponry to fight one another. Along the way, they were expected to try to take out their competition as well as earn extra points for running down pedestrians.
While Death Race 2000 has never been regarded as the pinnacle of cinema, it has earned its place in history as a well-loved cult hit. As such, Paul W.S. Anderson remade the movie about a decade ago before the days where he only makes movies with his wife in the lead. He also produced the two prequels that would follow. Additionally there has been a comic book sequel series. The popular 90s videogame Carmageddon may even have been inspired by the cult classic. I even remember there was a movie with a similar violent race concept that even had The Insane Clown Posse. Yeah, that happened.
That brings us to now. Corman is back in the mix with a follow-up to the original Death Race 2000. Death Race 2050 takes much of the same feel and energy of the original Corman flick. Once again, we are dealing with a dystopian future. The world has seen many advances that have brought about unexpected consequences. The advent of robotic labor has removed the need for most jobs and resulted in mass unemployment. Also, we cured cancer, which has led to massive overpopulation. While these advancements should improve society, they have actually caused its downfall.
Enter the Death Race. The Death Race entertains the listless population who has nothing better to do. It has become the most popular spectacle in the world. Viewers watch with VR headsets so they can experience everything from the passenger seat. The VR experience reminds me quite a bit of the VR experiences shown in Gamer. They can even smell the smells of the race. The race enjoys such a popularity that fans will even sacrifice themselves as bonus points to help their favorite racers. Once again the race is also full of over the top characters from a genetically engineered athlete to a hip-hop star. Like pretty much every other movie in the franchise, our hero goes by the name Frankenstein. As they race each other, violence ensues with racers and many pedestrians becoming casualties of the game.
If you’ve seen the original, you know just what you are getting into. Death Race 2050 continues much of the same tone and low budget mayhem of the original. Don’t expect the effects of remake series from Paul W.S. Anderson. From the special effects to the sets, everything screams cheap and cult film. But this does have its charm. And while Death Race 2000 was probably grittier than this one, it does maintain a lot of the charm. Also benefitting the movie, many of the actors do really seem to be having a good time making this movie especially Burt Grinstead playing the main antagonist of the race.
While not actually at risk of being a good movie, Death Race 2050 is really a lot of fun. If you enjoy any of the other movies in the series, I recommend giving it a watch.
Image Quality: 4/5
Death Race 2050 has a solid transfer that is sometimes at odds with the subject. Detail is great, but that also makes the digital special effects look off. Also colors also look a little off at times. Unfortunately, trying to match the low budget style of the original can sometimes produce uncomfortably unnatural results when mixed with high resolution. However on the upside, most things that are natural (i.e. skin tones and lighting) look accurate.
Audio Quality: 4/5
Death Race 2050 comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The surround is effectively used and the effects hit appropriately hard. Even amidst the chaos, the track still presents very clear dialog throughout the entire runtime.
Special Features and Packaging: 3.5/5
The Making of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050: A behind the scenes featurette focusing on the tone and Corman’s impact on the industry, as well as focus on updating the movie for the times. The real treat is that Corman is involved in this featurettes.
The Look of 2050: A feature on the costume design and shooting in South America.
Cars! Cars! Cars!: A quick overview of the character’s cars.
Cast Car Tours: Each actor gives a quick tour of their cars. The best part of this is the actors mostly seem to be pretty into the movie and the concept of the cars.
Deleted Scenes: A quick handful of deleted scenes. Interesting to see, but I agree with cutting these because they would have thrown off the pacing.
Now one thing that this really has going for it and earns it just a bit extra in my book is the slipcover. While they haven’t provided any new special artwork, the slipcover is embossed. This is a nice step up from the standard slipcovers we typically get.
Honestly, this not a great movie. But it’s a ton of fun. The technical aspects will not blow you away but are good for what the movie is. But did you really expect a follow up to a low budget cult classic from the 70s to have fantastic image in every regard? I think Death Race 2050 has good replay value and makes a solid pairing with the original in the series. Once it hits bargain pricing, it is completely worth the addition to your collection.
You can grab a copy from Amazon here.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.