Director: Alan Arkush & Nicolas
Cast: David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, Richard Lynch
Special guest review!
By Matthew Conn
Once in a while, you go to the local superstore to
browse the five dollar DVD rack and come away with a gem of a B-movie.
This time it was Deathsport. And if you ask me, it was
five bucks well spent.
One way it caught my eye was the bold red letters across the top of the
DVD that read "Roger Corman Presents". Any B-movie fan knows Corman (and if you don't, check out his films). He
has given us some real classics, such as Deathrace 2000
and Battle Beyond The Stars, a sci-fi remake of the
classic The Seven Samurai. This one almost fits in that
class. If only it didn't smack of a cheap take on a very popular space
drama released one year prior. Corman produced this gem, letting Allan
Arkush and Nicholas Niciphor (using the name Henry Suso) direct.
Frances Doel and Niciphor wrote the screen play.
The film is set in a future after a great war. The city-state of Helix
City has devised its newest military technology yet, the motorcycle.
Yes, the dirt bike will be the most deadly military advance in a time
of blasters and force fields. Of course, these bikes are outfitted with
aluminium boxes that explode when the driver falls off. The bikes are
called "Death Machines". The troops must have given it this lovely
moniker since every person who rides one (with the exception of the
starring characters, of course) is guaranteed to die in a ball of fiery
doom or vaporized while doing doughnuts in the desert. Using these
"Death Machines", they plan to invade the city of Tritia and conquer
David Carradine stars as "Kaz Oshay", often said so quickly I thought
his name was "Kassoshae" until the end credits rolled. He is a "range
guide" which is a blend of wilderness scout, mystic, and those robed
types from the aforementioned space drama. Oh yeah. The outfits, the
cryptic (and very corny) lingo, they even have large plastic swords
that make a very synthesized swoosh sound. There is also a reference to
"the Consciousness" that all guides share.
His quite attractive co-star is Claudia Jennings. She plays another
"range guide" named Deneer that teams up with Kaz to escape the
"Deathsport". She serves as the extremely loose love interest for the
film. Kaz and Deneer seem to have no problem in "getting down to
business" later in the film though they hardly know each other. The
protagonist is played by none other than Richard Lynch. He is one of
those actors who people know on sight, but can't remember their name.
It's a shame too; this guy has a catalog of films and television
appearances that numbers into the hundreds. Star Trek fans will
remember him as "Arctus Baran" in the Next Generation two-part
episode "Gambit". This time around, he plays Ankar Moor, a black clad,
third person referring lackey to Lord Zirpola, the leader of Helix
City. He sounds like Bob Dole trying to be evil, often using first
person and third person pronouns in the same sentence. Ankar Moor was
once a "guide" but he betrayed "the Consciousness" and murdered Kaz's
mother who was a legendary "guide". Boy, this film just sounds more and
more familiar, doesn't it?
The plot is very shabby. Not only is the "Deathsport" more of a
sub-plot to the film, but no one plot really takes command over where
this movie is going. There is no true plot, more like a string of
sub-plots that start, stop, and end more abruptly than my relationships
do. I counted about nine separate plots in this film; some are nothing
more than time filler, since there is no need to even expound on the
plot point brought up. Why make a big scene about someone going insane
if they die fifteen minutes later in a manner not related to their
growing insanity? The story also could have been much more interesting
if the writers were not so adamant about lifting ideas out of that
other movie I keep referring to. Action sequences are typical low
budget affairs with the exception of explosions, most of which are done
in painfully slow-motion, but look spectacular. Jennings stunt double
is obviously a man in a really bad wig.
The title implies that the movie would be about this "Deathsport" that
everyone keeps alluding to. The conversations about it make it sound
similar to a Roman gladiator match, where enemies of the state are sent
to kill each other off. The actual "Deathsport" is a large dirt bike
course a-la Thunderdome. Large force field towers prevent the
combatants from escaping. They then give the highly guarded, hard to
manufacture, expensive "Death Machines" to these enemies of the state
so that they can use them on each other. You read that right. After all
of the complaining Lord Zirpola does over losing some "Death Machines"
to capture Kaz and the other "guides", he decides to let his enemies
use them in the "Deathsport". He wants to convince the people that
riding a "Death Machine" will make you as powerful as a "guide". And
these babies are loaded, blasters, exploding boxes, and all. So, it is
not hard to imagine what happens, but I don't want to spoil it for you.
Suffice to say, the whole "Deathsport" sequence only lasts about ten
minutes at the most.
The one scene that really tickles me is toward the end of the film. A
huge motorcycle chase scene, complete with sounds effects from
you-know-where, plenty of explosions and crashes, plus several reaction
shots of Carradine looking more like he is thinking about what's for
dinner than trying to elude his enemies. This is really laughable
because in scenes from the beginning of the movie, he is really getting
into his part. I guess he was concentrating hard to keep that "Death
Machine" from exploding.
Speaking of laughable, there is a sub-plot concerning a young girl
"guide"-in-training who has been captured by mutants. That may not
sound bad until someone mentions that they are cannibals. We really
never see how they are mutated until the rescue attempt later in the
film. They have pop eyes! I swear! That and they mumble and grunt
instead of speaking. They look like the lost love children of Marty
Feldman and Bette Davis.
Although some would disagree, I say the scenes in Lord Zirpola's
private stripper torture chamber are the best. No, really. What man on
all of Terra would not love to have private nude dancers running around
a room of eight foot tube lights suspended from the ceiling that can
apparently inflict great pain when activated? And we get treated to
this not once, but twice! The first subject of this "torture" is
Deneer, who has a few other nude scenes as well. Later, a nameless
dancer played by Valerie Rae Clark gyrates away before getting some of
the same. Claudia definitely has the looks secured (I think she was a
Playboy Playmate, hubba hubba), but Valerie really gets into the
stripper swing of things.
I found it a wonderfully pitiful film. It has the potential to be a
really great film, but poor writing and lack of plot development ruined
it. Carradine's performance waxes and wanes throughout the movie.
Jennings is very well made up for someone who lives in the wilderness.
I guess beauty salons and makeup factories survived the war, or maybe
it's one of those "guide" things. Lynch is definitely not at his best,
but his character is so laughably lame, I can't say I blame him. The
dialogue was very poor, the plot was MIA. These things aside or maybe
because of them, I liked watching this movie. I highly recommend it for
those true B-movie fans. If you are not so much into B-films, watch it
with a good friend and heckle the crap out of it. My friend and I were
rolling with laughter the whole time we watched it. If you don't fall
into one of these categories, you might be better off watching Mad
Max Beyond Thunderdome. Or, if you missed my reference to the
other film, pick up a copy of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,
then watch this one. You may see just how much they were inspired by
the 1977 smash hit.
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Check Amazon for Roger Corman's autobiography
See also: Neon City, Omega Doom, Robot Jox