The first Death Race 2050 trailer was released by legendary producer Roger Corman at NY Comic Con on Thursday. It was posted to his official Facebook account later that day. Already, it has over 56,000 views.
Looking Back: Death Race and Roger Corman
Roger Corman, who turned 90 earlier this year, has been involved in making movies since the 1950s. Known for low budgets and incredibly short filming times, Corman directed or co-directed over 50 movies in the 16 years between 1955 to 1971. Retiring from directing at the start of the 1970s, Roger Corman opened his own independent movie studio, New World Pictures, where he would act as a producer. Though studios and companies have come and gone, Corman has remained in the business ever since, producing countless films for the past four-plus decades.
Death Race 2050 (announced a few weeks ago), is a continuation of the universe created by producer Roger Corman over 40 years ago with his original film, Death Race 2000. A dystopian satire set in the then-future of the year 2000, the 1975 film showcased an ultra-violent televised game show in which contestants drove in high-powered armored vehicles and scored points by running down victims. Directed by Paul Bartel and with a script by long-time Corman collaborators Robert Thom and Charles Griffith, the film starred David Carradine as Frankenstein. He is a leading competitor in the game who has grown weary of the violence and joins a resistance movement set on overthrowing the totalitarian government that uses the race to keep the masses calm. The film also featured radio DJ Don Steele as an over-enthusiastic play-by-play announcer, and an as-yet-unknown Sylvester Stallone as “Machine-Gun” Joe Viterbo, a rival of Carradine’s Frankenstein.
Death Race vs. Rollerball
The original Death Race 2000, although ostensibly an attempt by Roger Corman (and his independent movie studio, New World Pictures) to beat MGM’s similarly-themed Rollerball to theaters (which it did), ultimately became a distinct cult-classic in its own right. Both played with the “bread and circuses” idea of an oppressive government using a violent sport to keep the population under control. Although less successful financially than Rollerball in the short-term, Corman’s film arguably had greater influence with Death Race 2000’s satirical violence resonating more strongly with audiences than Rollerball‘s more meditative contemplation on power and strength. Future cult-classics of the following decade, such as 1984’s The New Gladiators and 1987’s The Running Man, undoubtedly owe some degree of influence to Death Race 2000.
Perhaps the proof is in the remakes. The 2002 remake of Rollerball was generally considered a financial failure, while the 2008 movie Death Race did well enough to spawn two sequels of its own. Eight years later, the concept clearly is too potent to be left dormant for too long.
Death Race 2050
The new film, Death Race 2050, is a return to the sensibilities of the original movie. The 2008 remake de-emphasized the satire and focused more on the action. The new Death Race 2050 trailer clearly promises a return to comedy.
It is unclear how, but it appears the evil government of the original film has returned to power and is once again forcing the race to continue. Another possibility is that the new movie ignores the original, and instead opts for a stylized remake of the original plot. A synopsis posted by Coming Soon seems to give weight to that theory.
“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 (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.”
Death Race 2050 is expected to be released in early 2017.
[Featured Image by Universal/New Horizons/Roger Corman]