47 FILMS: 32. DEATH RACE 2000

In our continuing series of 47 films to watch before you are murdered in your dreams, we look at cult classic Death Race 2000.

Set in a fictional 2000, Paul Bartlet’s Death Race 2000 posits a future in which a dictatorship ensures its continued popularity via the Transcontinental Road Race where competitors in souped up death cars pick up extra points killing pedestrians along the way, with the most points for the very old or babies. Whereas Rollerball – also released in 1975 – is a melancholy take on the same idea, Roger Corman’ rip off is gleefully inventive and funny. The gore is over the top and sensationalized and the absurdity of the premise is played up for laughs.

David Carradine is Frankenstein, a veteran racer whose body has been replaced so often that he is a walking version of my father’s ax! Simone Griffiths plays Annie, his new navigator and a member of the resistance who has her own motives for getting involved in the race. A young Sylvester Stallone is glorious as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo, a real live version of the leader of the Ant Hill mob, with a silk tie and a tendency to machine gun people and eat with his hands.  A year later he will break out in Rocky. Roberta Collins plays the neo-Nazi Matilda the Hun, with her lackey Herman the German.

The racing is exciting and Corman’s low budget aesthetic adds a kitsch charm, but there is also some genuine satiric intent, which nails the supine media celebration of violence and death even as it insists on cloying sentimentality. ‘He is a close personal friend,’ the interviewer opines. Even the rebels are a bunch of deluded crazies, with a Tomasina Paine who claims to be great grand-daughter of Thomas Paine. With its brilliantly punning script and its cartoon characters and ludicrous exaggeration, Death Race 2000 is an exploitation classic that hits its targets with bloody precision and eager vim.

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TOP 10 FILMS OF 2015

HOLLYWOOD – The Studio Exec has put together a list of the top films of 2015, in no particular order.

2015 was an odd year for film. A bit underwhelming until December it has to be said. The blockbusters busted blocks but the most successful (until December) was the M’eh-fest of Jurassic World. Everything looked very familiar. There was an Avengers movie (I think) and a new Bond film. The two main European festivals saw the main prize picked up by average movies that won’t escape the festival circuit. Of course, December suddenly gave us a year’s worth of interesting stuff. What am I talking about? Jesus, why am I even writing this? I’m hungover and tired and it is now time I went to bed so here’s the Goddamned list:

Bone Tomahawk

Gruesome and beautiful western, both elegiac and horrific, starring Matthew Fox, Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Richard Jenkins. It will certainly divide audiences, if not bifurcate them. Here’s the review.

Mad Max: Fury Road

A remake that if anything exceeded its original source material. George Miller brought his post-apocalyptic car chase into the territory of the purest genre cinema. Witty, exciting, incredible. Here’s the review.

Son of Saul

Devastating portrayal of the life in the day of a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz. A film I never want to see again, but everyone should see once. Review here. 

The Revenant

Leonardo diCaprio crawls through hell to get to an Oscar. On the way he features in one of the most beautiful and stunningly immersive cinematic experiences of the year. For the review click here. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It wasn’t shit. Click here for the review.

Crimson Peak

Guillermo Del Toro goes full on Gothic with Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain in a Roger Corman/ Stanley Kubrick inspired visual treat. Review here.

Anomalisa 

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop animation tale of angst should have won at Venice. I’ll write a review some time soon.

Sicario

Made me want to see Blade Runner 2. Or at least made me not be too scared about it. Review here. 

Call Me Lucky

There have been some great documentaries this year and Call Me Lucky by Bobcat Goldthwait was one of the best. Charting the life of comedian Barry Crimmins this was a portrait of an unsung American hero, read the review here.

So Happy New Year and all that jazz. Let’s hope 2016 brings us some movies that’ll light our collective fires.

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BEN STILLER SIGNS ON FOR CALL OF CTHULHU

HOLLYWOOD – Following the horror of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller has announced that his next film will be an intentional horror: an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu.

The Meet the Fockers star has been a long-time Lovecraft aficionado and spoke EXCLUSIVELY to the Studio Exec about his new project:

Not since Tropic Thunder have I been so utterly psyched by a project. H.P. Lovecraft’s stories have freaked me out ever since I read them as a child and I have dreamed of bringing his weird and archaic visions of obsidian horror of the Old Ones to the big screen.

Many have tried and failed.

Indeed. Roger Corman had a crack at it but his versions were more an extension of his Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. And then Brian Yuzna had a crack, but he was again like he was actually using Lovecraft to explore his own weird sex stuff and blackly comic sensibility. And most recently Guillermo Del Toro has been battling to get the Mountains of Madness onto the screen.

So what is going to help you succeed?

With Walter Mitty and Tropic Thunder, although those films are nominally comedies, I really got into terrifying darkness of otherworldly strangeness. There were angles that seem unworldly and an eldritch stench and scratching that arose also from a knowledge of what it is like to be close to Ricky Gervais. In fact Ricky Gervais and Owen Wilson are both in the film, but they reveal depths to their own gnawing fear that has hitherto been suspected but never witnessed by human minds, at least not ones that haven’t been driven stark raving mad and now confined in the mossy depths of the Arkham Asylum.

The Call of Cthulhu will be released in 2016.