Right, let's start with what I knew about this film before I started. It stars (the late, great) David Carradine. It's called Deathsport. If that wasn't enough to make me want to watch, what more could I want? Could I cross my fingers and hope that, on top of those two, pretty convincing selling points, that it was produced by Roger Corman and set in a semi-medieval dystopian future? If I had done, I would've been in luck.
The film is also brilliant. Brilliant in the way that only a really crappy film made in 1978 can be. Brilliant in the way that most people fail to notice how brilliant it is and dismiss it as rubbish (2.7/10 rating on imdb? How are people SO dumb?). Brilliant in the way that only a film featuring David Carradine, wielding a perspex sword and battling motorcycle-mounted baddies can be.
From the off, you know you're in for a treat. A narrated intro kindly informs us that, since the neutron wars (!), people only live in the cities, leaving the wild and barren countryside (think Star Wars' Tatooine with a few more bushes) to the "dreaded mutant cannibals" (more on them later) and the Range-Guides. These folk are basically wandering Jedi-cum-gypsies, ultra-talented warrior nomads. Peaceful when left alone but capable of fighting when necessary.
|Mr Carradine in his prison cell.|
Sadly, bonkers Lord Zirpola of the city, has decided, in an effort to increase the popularity of his war, to design a new fighting machine and perform a public demonstration of it with a handful of captured Range-Guides as victims. This is where DeathSport comes in: DeathSport has replaced the death penalty for the statesmen of the city, instead of going to prison, criminals fight for their freedom a la Roman gladiators. For a special edition of his DeathSport however, Lord Zirpola has given all of his criminals one of his new DeathMachines with which to attack and kill the captured Range-Guides (Carradine and Claudia Jennings).
The DeathMachines are motorbikes. They're motorbikes. Nothing particularly fancy, just motorbikes.
|Carradine and Claudia Jennings plan their next move|
|AIEEEE! DEATH MACHINES! ... Or motorbikes as they're more commonly known.|
Needless to say, Carradine and Jennings, as ultra-warriors with their perspex swords (basically low-rent lightsabres...) are pretty nifty and don't fall victim to the er.... DeathMachine motorbikes, nick a couple and ride away...
And here's where the problem comes. The best action scene, the DeathSport of the title, is all over and done with just 40 minutes through the 82min run time. What feels like something of a climactic battle comes just half-way through. What follows is a long sections of really very dull motorbike journeys through open scrub land, the occasional fight but almost no interesting action, almost no dialogue and almost no fun.
It hots up again towards the end, with some wonderful pyrotechnics, a little action with the dreaded cannibal mutants (Tusken Raiders from Star Wars?) and a fantastic perspex-sword battle, but the middle section is just too boring. It's almost as if they simply couldn't face releasing a 55 minute long film (the good bits) and just whacked in 25 minutes of solid plot-less boredom. Which is a great shame really, as it spoils an otherwise pretty damn good film.
In all, it's good fun. Maybe watch the first 45 minutes, then go get a drink and some snacks and be ready to settle down for the last bit? It plays as a kind of meeting point of Death Racers and Star Wars and finally answers the question that has been on everyone's lips: What would StarWars have been like if David Carradine had got Mark Hamill's role and George Lucas had been born as Roger Corman?
The answer is DeathSport.
|Perspex-sword wielding wannabe Jedis.|