Deathsport (1978)

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Deathsport (1978)

Post  BoG on Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:48 pm



DAVID CARRADINE in DEATHSPORT also starring
CLAUDIA JENNINGS*RICHARD LYNCH*WILLIAM SMITHERS

Don't be fooled, as I was in the late seventies, by the poster above, which hints at some truly futuristic tech - the wild-looking motorcycle - and an unusual visual approach to sci-fi. This is low-budget New World Pictures/Roger Corman at its most pedestrian, coupled with some behind-the-scenes problems. There was also the suggestion that this was a sort of sequel to DEATH RACE 2000 (1975), which is not the case (you can stretch a point by saying this takes place a thousand years later, in year 3000, so can very well be a follow-up to the events of DEATH RACE 2000, but that's r-e-a-l-l-y stretching it).

I thought this would have the same dark humor of the older film, but DEATHSPORT has a completely different tone. Everyone takes events and themselves so seriously, it ends up as unintentionally amusing. This is evident immediately in the beginning narration, which tells us that after "the great neutron wars," the world consists of desert wastelands and city-states; between the cities dwell cannibalistic mutants and "range guides" - Carradine plays one of the latter. Jennings, former playmate & an actress in several exploitation pictures, is another one (this was her next-to-last film; she died in an auto accident a year later).
To get a feel for this film's flavor, I can describe an early scene after Carradine is captured by Richard Lynch and other city enforcers on motorcycles, and thrown into a cell. Carradine is outraged, leap-kicking the door, slamming it with his fists, shouting "I am a Range Guide! I am my own master!" Carradine wields a cumbersome plastic sword while the city "state-men" use disintegrator beams which look like utility flashlights - these work even better than Star Trek's phasers; just point and 'zap' - the target just vaporizes, no fuss or mess.
We get some plot about the city-state's governor needing a couple of range guides for the death games; the motorcycles, which almost become the real stars of the film, are called 'death machines.' We also get some full frontal nudity from Jennings and another actress to add some interest - they're placed in a room with electrical shock rods hanging from the ceiling, for the amusement of the governor.
In a way, this is prototypical low-budget post-holocaust sci-fi schlock, just more silly because, even though it's not very ambitious, it still fails to live up to its ambitions - it's like DAMNATION ALLEY or RAVAGERS on a shoe-string (keeping in mind that both those films are very average).
The writer must have watched Star Wars one time too many since he included blatantly derivative story points here: besides the funky swords used by a few characters, Lynch is like this film's version of Darth Vader, Lynch's character having some history with Carradine's mom, who was the greatest range guide ever before being killed.
Lynch is saddled with some of the most pretentious dialog of the seventies, spouting awful poetic babble that, rather than being profound, sounds like utter nonsense. Carradine doesn't do much better. You'll be rolling your eyes as these two prepare for their final duel ("Now we shall duel.."). Rolling Eyes  Of the actors, only Smithers escapes with some of his dignity intact. BoG's Score: 4 out of 10. Stick with The Road Warrior or, even, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but I do offer a serialization of the film here from YouTube, if you must...

Death Sporting Trivia: Behind the scenes, the original director had numerous problems, as did Jennings. The director, Nicholas Niciphor, was finally fired midway through and replaced by Allan Arkush. Niciphor's side of the story was that both Carradine and Jennings were using drugs during the shoot and interfered with its progress. Sounds like a fun set, huh? Much of this was filmed outdoors at places like Vasquez Rocks (the famous site for some Star Trek episodes) to simulate the desolate wastelands look.  
More Death Sporting Trivia: Star Trek TOS actor alert - Smithers appeared in the episode Bread and Circuses



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