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Featured TV on DVD Review: Roger Corman Double-Feature: Deathsport & Battle Truck

August 2nd, 2010

Roger Corman Double-Feature: Deathsport & Battle Truck - Buy from Amazon

The unofficial Roger Corman week ends with a Double-Feature: Deathsport & Battle Truck. Like many Roger Corman films I've reviewed recently, these two were "inspired" by recent hits. Piranha and Humanoids from the Deep were inspired by Jaws while Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden Planet were inspired by Alien. Looking back, it feels like these two films were inspired by Mad Max; however, Deathsport actually came out first and was inspired by the success of Death Race 2000. Battle Truck, meanwhile, began shooting before Mad Max was released, and was in fact made at the same time as Mad Max 2. Coincidentally, it has more in common with that film than it does with the original film.

Deathsport

A non-sequel follow-up to Death Race 2000, Deathsport stars David Carradine as... I don't know. His character's name is Kaz Oshay and he's a scout / ranger? He and Claudia Jennings are captured by the ruler of Helix, who, after torturing them awhile, puts them into the Death Sport. Death Sport is a gladiatorial type game in which convicted criminals have to fight the forces of Helix to the death. In this case, these two have whistling crystal swords and they are fighting men riding motorcycles that shoot lasers. Doesn't seem fair, but then again, the Roman Gladiatorial Games were not known for being even fights. They escape and do... I don't know what.

I'm having a really hard time following this movie. It doesn't help that much of the film is endless shots of motorcycles riding around that feel like padding. It reminds me of the latest MST3K set I reviewed. "Rock climbing, Joel. Rock climbing."

The Extras

The only real extra for this movie is the audio commentary track with Allan Arkush, the second director on the movie, and Larry Bock the editor. That's second director, not second unit director. Allan Arkush starts out the audio commentary track by calling the film "... a very bad movie." He then has plenty of stories to explain why that is. There are also trailers, TV spots, images, etc.

Also of note, the video and audio is quite terrible at times. I know it's a very, very low budget film from 1978, but it looks really bad at times.

The Verdict

Over his career, Roger Corman has produced more than 300 movies. I haven't seen any significant fraction of those, so I can't be 100% sure where this one fits in his filmography, but this is the worst one that I've seen.

Battle Truck, a.k.a. Warlords of the 21st Century

It's a post-World War III world and the world's oil reserves are burning, which takes the price of gas to $59.99 a litre, which is about $227 a gallon. The part of the world we see in this movie is ruled by a ruthless warlord, Straker, who drives around in his massive semi, the titular Battle Truck, looking for the last remaining reserves of fuel. (Perhaps if he drove a smaller vehicle, he wouldn't need so much fuel.) One member of his gang is his daughter, Connie, but she doesn't want to be like her father so she runs away. In doing so, she meets Hunter, the hero of the story, who takes her to a small town where she will be protected by the kind townsfolk, who include Cliff Clavin as an engineering genius.

But when Straker comes looking for her again, the town has to fight back.

While this film is obviously influenced by Mad Max, it has its roots in westerns. Hunter is very much like the Man With No Name. Additionally, both owe their existence to the oil crisis of the 1970s. So instead of saying Battle Truck was influenced by Mad Max, it might be more accurate to say they were both influenced by the same films and real world events. However, Mad Max is the better movie. This film doesn't have the same high level of stunt work, the story isn't as tightly written, the characters are not as compelling, etc. It's not a bad movie, but it's not a good movie either. It just is.

The Extras

The only extra associated with this movie is an audio commentary track with the director, Harley Cokeliss, who is joined by a moderator, Jonathan Rigby. There's a good bit of information with no real dead spots along the way.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic films, especially the Mad Max style sub-genre, then this film is worth checking out. However, I'm not sure the-replay value it high enough that it is worth buying, so on its own, I would say start with a rental.

The Final Verdict

This Double-Feature DVD features two movies, Deathsport and Battle Truck. The first is a film to avoid, the second is a better than average offering in a sub-genre filled with time wasters. Extras are better than these type of release usually enjoy, but unless you are a hardcore Roger Corman fan, or a hardcore fan of bad movies, it's only worth renting.

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