is a movie in which almost half the running time is spent on motorcycle
chases yet the words "bike" and/or "motorcycle"
are never used. Instead the vehicles are called "death machines".
That's because they're dirtbikes tricked out with spray-painted
aluminum fairings that fire disintegration rays. When zipping
through tunnels, the motorcy— (ahem) "death machines"
sound exactly like Star Wars
Imperial TIE fighters on an attack run. (And I mean exactly.)
a bearded, long-haired David Carradine spends the first 30 minutes
jumping around in a loincloth wielding a futuristic (i.e., cheap
plastic) crystal sword, like he's starring in Jesus Christ,
Hunter from the Future. There's some gratuitous nude dancing
— fortunately not by Carradine — and a gaggle of pop-eyed Killers
from Space-style mutants make an appearance. Lots of stuff
blows up, most of it for no discernible reason. Jerry Garcia of
the Grateful Dead plays guitar on the synthesizer-heavy soundtrack.
to emulate the success of 1975's Death Race
2000, producer Roger Corman envisioned it as an action-packed
"sci-fi samurai biker" film. What he got was a ridiculously
slapdash mess of a movie, one so embarrassingly bad that it enters
the realm of unintentional comedy. Deathsport
would've made perfect cannon fodder for the Mystery Science
Theater 3000 crew, and should prove just as efficacious to
your own do-it-yourself MST3K home party. (Inebriant-enhanced,
the year 3000 A.D., a millenium after the Great Neutron War
devastated the entire planet. Carradine plays Kaz Oshay, member
of a mystical warrior cult known as the Range Guides — a bit
like the Jedi Knights — who shepherd travelers across the wasteland
between cities. At movie's start he's minding his own business,
riding along on his horse, when he's ambushed by the silver
jumpsuited henchmen of Ankar Moor (veteran B-movie heavy Richard
Lynch) and captured. Ankar Moor's troops also attack a caravan
of travelers led by another Guide, foxy blonde warrior-woman
Deneer (Claudia Jennings); she, too, is taken prisoner. The
captives are transported to Helix, a city-state ruled with an
iron fist by the tyrannical dictator Zirpola. (Sounds more like
a Mexican beer or a cough remedy than the name of an evil overlord,
doesn't it?) A former Guide who turned traitor to become Zirpola's
right-hand man, Ankar Moor really hates Kaz and wants him dead
but for the moment must be content with merely torturing him.
Lord Zirpola (David McLean) has decreed that Kaz and Deneer
compete in Deathsport, a gladiatorial combat spectacle that
pits condemned prisoners against Helix soldiers on motorcy—
uh, "death machines". The Guides, however, turn the
tables on their captors and manage to escape during the games.
(Since the Deathsport tournament is held outside the
city walls, this proves fairly easy for them to do.) An enraged
Ankar Moor assembles his goons and rides off into the wasteland
in hot pursuit.
the brief outline above may suggest that the film makes at least
a modicum of sense, rest assured that it does not. The script
is really terrible. Amusingly bad dialog aside, it's rather obvious
just how poorly thought out this thing was — the rules and parameters
of the titular contest are never explained, leaving the audience
clueless as to what it is they’re supposedly watching. (Basically
Deathsport is like motocross with landmines, the riders shooting
ray guns at each other... or something like that.) That's why
the actual tournament sequence is all of five minutes long, the
remainder of the pic being your basic chase scenario culminating
in the inevitable mano a mano duel between hero and bad guy. Acting
ranges from adequate to awful; Lynch (The
Premonition) puts in the most effort of anyone in the
cast — still unable to rise above the clichéd, often laughable
villain he's playing — while Carradine is content to show up,
hit his marks and cash a check. (He at least seems to be a little
more enthused in the action scenes, for which he did most of his
own stunts.) '70s exploitation goddess Claudia Jennings (Gator
Bait) looks fetching in and out of her minimal costume,
which is the entire reason for her presence. Additional skin is
provided by bodacious brunette Valerie Rae Clark (Caligula)
as a slave girl who gyrates naked for Lord Zirpola in his 'Electric
Nudie Revue' — perhaps the movie's biggest 'WTF?' moment (and
something I'll leave for you to discover on your own).
of Shout! Factory's excellent Roger Corman Cult Classics
collection, Deathsport is paired
with the post-apocalyptic BattleTruck
(AKA Warlords of the 21st Century, 1982) on a budget-priced
double feature DVD. Deathsport is
given an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer taken from different prints
a few of the scenes appear to have come from an inferior source
but in the main looks rather good. (There's a bit of minor damage
in spots and some ugly green emulsion lines make an intrusive
appearance during the nude scenes; otherwise it’s fine.) The mono
audio mix is quite serviceable, without any issues of note.
There's a surprising array of extras on deck
for such an inexpensive disc (currently selling in the $10 - $13
range). Deathsport gets a sizable
image gallery, radio/TV spots, the ridiculously pompous theatrical
trailer ("It's a future war on wheels fought astride high-powered
death machines with blasters and laser guns!") and an
commentary with co-director Allan Arkush and editor Larry Bock.
Their interesting discussion underscores just what a clusterfuck
the making of Deathsport truly was...
Lensed in four weeks after only two weeks of pre-production, original
director Henry Suso quit midway through because he couldn't work
with Carradine, who was constantly smoking pot all during the
some degree it's a miracle the film turned out as well as it did.
My DVD rating of "8" factors in the disc's value as
a double feature.)