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Death Race 2050 (Blu-ray Review)

Death-Race-2050Death Race, the original, was made in 1975, considered a cult classic piece of B-grade genre filmmaking from the master of such, Roger Corman.  We went a whole 33 years with no sequels, TV spin-offs or remakes.  In 2008, the film was remade as is popular to do nowadays, but it spawned a straight-to-video surge for this franchise, and now in just over 8 years, we have 4 films added to the original.  Two not mentioned are sequels to the remake (Which Paul WS Anderson apparently feels is a prequel to the original).  Now, Corman is back behind it all (Though his name is over the title, he only produced, GJ Echtenkamp directs), and he’s making sequel-reboot (Rebootquel, legacy sequel…all the terms) to the original.  There’s been a surprising amount of press for this. Not much, mind you, but much more making the common movie watcher aware than you would think for something like this.  

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Film 

It’s the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman. The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein, who’s half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy.

Whatever the case with this series, be it a remake, reboot, sequel, homage or knock off, the concept leads itself to what should seem like an easy amount of B-level fun at the very least.  A sort of Cannonball Run, with bits of Running Man sprinkled in should be an instant winner.  Instead, nope, Death Race 2050 is almost a complete bore and a big waste of your time.  The original was a film that was completely genuine, striving to be what it was, 2050 is just a giant phony that never reels one in and just feels completely fake the entire time.

Sure, the film features cheap effects, its Roger Corman.  In our computer age, however, watching junky computer effects just worsens the deal as opposed to some practical effects that don’t really hold up.  Unlike the practical effects, the computer ones could, you know, do something a little different with some of the kills.  I don’t know how many pedestrians we see sliced in half, but its the same thing over and over.  Its a pretty big boring detail to go along with a plot that is just some gobbly gook garbage.

Of the players in the film you’d expect to be good, they are.  Malcolm McDowell isn’t yawning through it, though I’d hardly blame him if he did.  Manu Bennett is solid as Frankenstein.  Yancy Butler is a lot of fun as she camps it up (Plus, its just good to see her in something).  There was a revelation here, however.  A lone bright spot in this turd, and that is Marci Miller, one of the films’ protagonists.  I’m not familiar with her, but she really was the closest thing to reeling me in, and her performance seemed to fit with what the film wanted to be.  Looking like a young Amy Steel, the actress made the material believable and did her best to progress the story, even if there wasn’t one. Most of the performances and performers in the film are all over the map in terms of how they bring the material to life and that makes for a disjointed effort in what I called the film looking “Phony” earlier.

Death Race 2050 is a stinker.  And you probably didn’t need to watch or have me tell you that to know it.  There’s not a cool thing I can think of to take from this movie.  I’m a Marci Miller fan now, hopefully she appears in more things I see, but that’s all I can recalled.  The rest is a forgettable, boring (I can’t believe a movie like this would be, but it is) one hour and thirty two minutes I’ll never get back.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Death Race comes with a pretty damn good looking picture.  Its sharp and very vibrant.  Details come through really strong on the cars, costumes and grisly gory details on the kills and violence.  Dirt surfaces and roads also carry much information.  If you’re someone looking forward to a good looking digital picture that makes the cheap CG effects look pretty obvious, then here you go.

Depth:  Decent depth work.  Everyone moves along smoothly with good separation from the background and good dimensional work on the CGI effects.  Some impressive moments come from far away sky shots looking down onto the cars (Which are also likely CGI).

Black Levels:  Blacks have a wide range of showing in this and hold on good to deep tones.  There are a lot of brighter grayer looking blacks in appearance.  There was no crushing witnessed in this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are both vibrant and so much so that things can look washed out.  Its intentional.  Greens, reds, blues all pop pretty good.  Orange from fire really roasts off of your screen.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a bit bleached and washed out by design and maintain such a look throughout the duration of the film.  Deaths are very strong in close ups of wrinkles, scars, stubble, make-up, scuffs and dried blood.  Burt Grinstead’s character has some crazy make-up stuff done toward the end of the film that shows through in complete detail.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish 5.1 DTS

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Its not bad, but I kinda found this track to be very disappointing.  Its there, it works and that’s really it.  The effects feels sort of generic and this mix is sorta matter of fact and not too engaging.  Nothing hits hard or amuses with any sort of intricacies or layers in the mix.  Its balanced, for what its worth, its just not as effective as it easily could have been.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Deeper sounds, like crashes, shots, humming engines, explosions or mutilations really get no oompf like they should.  Of all the areas, this should have been much more lively and it winds up light and disappointing.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Placement and movement is done with good accuracy.  Rear channels do see some action but are mainly accountable for solid ambiance throughout the film’s duration.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is a hair light, but clean and clear.

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Extras 

Death Race 2050 comes with the DVD edition and an UltarViolet digital copy of the film.

The Making Of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 (HD, 10:16) – This briefly tells the story of the film with interviews from Roger Corman and the cast.  Manu Bennett calls the film “Mad Max meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  This handles many aspects of productions from effects, to story writing and directing.

The Look of 2050 (HD, 6:29) – This covers the shooting location of South America and also handles the costuming.  Everybody apparently was sweating profusely which the director hopes presents “gritty realism”. Ugh.

Cars! Cars! Cars! (HD, 4:33) – Obviously this one talks about the cars in the film which have some of the director’s “stupid ideas” added to them.

Cast Car Tours (HD, 8:30) – Each actor gives a deeper look at the car they drive in the film.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:35) 

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Summary 

Death Race 2050 isn’t really a disappointing movie, there was nothing to expect here, but it didn’t really even manage to buzz around for some junky fun.  Its presentation features great video with an audio mix that will leave you underwhelmed.  The extras aren’t anything too deep, but prove more fun and interesting than the movie itself.  This is a definitely rental if you’re curious, or rather, wait til it hits your streaming service if you feel you MUST know what its all about.  But seriously, save your precious time.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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