The double-dip, the homevideo industry’s most perplexing (and sometimes infuriating) practice. Why do I want to pay for the same movie over again? Is the question that every fan/collector has to ask themselves when faced with the newest “Super-duper Deluxe 5-Disc Clusterfrak Edition” of a favorite film.
The old me would fall for this racket routinely but I must say that I’ve become a much more educated consumer in the last few years, tightening my belt and reducing double-dips to next to zero. Bluray reissues pose a serious quandary: you could pay the money for the upgrade and get hosed (i.e. Warner’s recent reissue of the original Clash of the Titans, which looks like crap and includes no new bonus features except a commercial for the remake. Wow, thanks guys.) or you can buy something like Shout Factory’s new Death Race 2000 (1975) disc and feel like you’re literally watching a classic film for the first time.
Even if you haven’t seen it, you’re probably familiar with the plot of director Paul Bartel and producer Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000. In a dystopian fascist America the public has fallen in love with a cross country race where the drivers score points not only for speed but for vehicular manslaughter. The film is not as dour as its premise (it’s actually a pretty broad comedy with some scifi elements) but it is definitely just as bombastic. The late David Carradine plays Frankenstein, America’s favorite racer and the races only multi-time winner, and Sylvester Stallone steals the show as his rival “Machine Gun” Joe (who gets not all, but most of the best lines “Why do I want to win this race? In the name of hate.”).
I would not only say that this is the best disc of the year but it’s in the running for the best Blu-ray on my shelf, but maybe I’m bias: I’ve loved Death Race, no exaggeration, for the majority of my lifetime. I love the over-the-top satire, I love its presaging of reality television, I love the funky pseudo-arthouse cinematography, I love the cars, I love the break-neck pace, I love Sly Stallone firing a machine gun into a crowd of spectators and above all else I love the fact that it marries economic viability and an interesting plot that actually has something to say(regardless of how silly or obvious that something may seem).
There is a commentary with Corman (that is great, but a holdover from the previous release) and a new one with 2nd unit director Lewis Teague, who would later direct Cujo (1983) and Alligator (1980), and editor Tina Hirsch, which is a fantastic addition and I feel a lot more informative than the old one. There are a metric ton of features which include: two featurettes (one old and one new), a great interview with writer Ib Melchior who wrote the story on which Death Race is based (and directed the B-scifi classic The Angry Red Planet) and an interview snippet with David Carradine(which is actually an outtake from another interview, but is still a more than welcome addition) and a bunch more stuff. For a laugh be sure to watch the included “Trailers from Hell” version of the trailer which carries a very candid commentary by John Landis (who is actually in the film).
I would say that if you haven’t seen it, than this disc is an absolute no brainer. Even if you’ve already seen it, love it and own it I would also advise that you strongly consider the upgrade to Blu. The features are abundant and the picture is sharp and colorful (you can count on one hand the shots that show their age, but otherwise the transfer is miraculous). So go grab some popcorn and be prepared to find out the answer to the age old question: Is it possible to score a race official?
(I know, you don’t get it, but you will)