“Death Race 2000” (1975)
One of the problems with films that take place in the imminent future is that they tend to appear flat-footed when envisioning the vicissitudes of the subject speculative society. This is especially true when that same society is parasitically reflective of the most garish of influences in popular culture (rather than practical anthropological evolution) from the time during which the film is conceived and produced. If Paul Bartel’s “Death Race 2000” promises a future, it is one already trendily lived in and discarded. Cheaply cobbled production values (observe how camera angles are usually determined to disguise obvious seams between poverty row production values and more grandiose but imagined surroundings) are presented amid such decorative affectations as the shimmering representational citadels of the metropolitan matte painting in the background (suggesting unlikely Russ Manning comic book draftsmanship rather than the more utilitarian aligned dominoes of old Gotham) collides with the sub-NASCAR hayseeds in the crowd who are no more credibly at home in such an environment than the slimy tentacled xenomorphs of bad SF who always appear from user impractical gleaming spaceships. Science fiction films have a tendency to burrow into a contemporary mindset- not as a suggestively editorial backdrop, but simply out of sheer laziness in directing the film toward a more timelessly universal level in dialogue and thought -without a regard for credible speculative alterations of societal behavior. How depressing when a film taking place a hundred years into the future already seems quaintly antiquated within a few brief drive-in seasons; and the danger for films consciously produced with the intention of a likelihood of developing a cult following is more pronounced as there is a tendency to think that an innate hipster flippancy is a sufficient substitution for genuinely imaginative content.
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