Retro Review: ‘Deathsport’
In 1975 actor David Carradine starred in one of the most memorable of B-movie icon Roger Corman’s films Death Race 2000. The flick about race car drivers zipping through the country on a fun-filled trail of death and destruction was a hit for the producer. Undoubtedly Corman wanted a sequel, only to change things up, this time with motorcycles. The problem was the only motorcycle film he had a script for was not working for him. It passed through several hands, most notably those of Allen Arkush and Nicholas Niciphor, who all revised it to some extent. The 1978 film which was the end result was a completely different animal from Death Race 2000, so Corman made it a completely different movie called, Deathsport.
In your standard post-apocalyptic future, David Carradine plays Kaz Oshay, a member of the Range Guides, a nomadic people who live outside of the totalitarian city-states which litter this world. He along with a woman named Deneer are captured by the dictator of Helix and given the death penalty. In his kingdom, this means they have to participate in the Deathsport. Kaz, Deneer, and those with them must navigate through a wasteland where they are hunted by an army on motorcycles who are hunting them down. This biker gang is led by a particularly over-the-top foe who has a score to settle with Kaz.
I am sure you are curious about the mythology and world building of Deathsport like: the culture of the Range Guides or why are naked women forced into a dark room with crystals for punishment or how this totalitarian government came to power. To you I say; shut up nerd!!! Instead enjoy the the ‘splosions (and yes the sheer awe-inspiring majesty of these pyrotechnics warrants the slang spelling of the word)!!!! That’s right ‘splosions!!!!! Don’t forget: motorcycles (given the metal name of Death Machines), sword fights, recycled Star Wars sound fx, laser guns, mutants, dungeons and boobs. This film is a pure gold mine of pulp sci-fi/fantasy goodness. As any fan of cult cinema knows, Roger Corman has his fingers directly on the pulse of what his audience wants and he delivers it.
As you may have guessed already, Deathsport throws every genre element if can find on the screen in unapologetic fashion. You can see directors Allen Arkush and newcomer Nicholas Niciphor, are clearly going for a Frank Frazetta inspired world but with a healthy dose of low budget grit. He executes this to perfection even if it does leave some members of the audience confused. Those who are not confused, and you know who they are, are happily along for the ride. They see David Carradine in a loin cloth swinging a sword at henchmen on laser-armed motorcycles and they are onboard for it. He utilizes a cast of cult film favorites, not only Carradine but also the likes of; Claudia Jennings and Richard Lynch, who go all out in making this an entertaining movie.
There is no denying this flick is a Corman production, and frankly it is all the better for it. He built a movie empire in being smart with limited budgets and resources while at the same time allowing; the directors, screenwriters, and actors working for him the liberty to make something fun. If you have ever been curious about what a live action Heavy Metal movie would be like, then Deathsport is truly the movie for you. This is one of those movies which radiates cool in every scene and keeps you stoked with a nonstop amount of ridiculous action on your screen.