At his peak, B-movie producer extraordinaire Roger Corman had an uncanny knack for melding cheap thrills with serio-comic social commentary, a gift feverishly on display in Death Race 2000, director Paul Bartel’s (Eating Raoul) action-packed saga about a future-America transcontinental car race in which participants receive points for running down citizens. Giddy, tawdry, and vigorously inventive, Corman and Bartel employ this bloody contest as the vehicle (so to speak) for an in-your-face critique of professional sports’ quasi-fascist brutality, the national appetite for violence, our society’s valuation of women and the elderly (who, when killed, net more points than adult men), the vapid and untrustworthy media, and – in typical ‘70s-era style – Big Brother-ish government. Thematically speaking, none of this is particularly novel, but the conception and execution are top-notch low-budget trash, blending arresting compositions, uneven race footage and wooden dialogue with enlivening tongue-in-cheek hysteria. David Carradine’s American hero Frankenstein (rebuilt after each crash to drive again) faces off against blowhard adversary Machine Gun Joe (Sylvester Stallone), sexpot cowgirl Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov), neo-Nazi Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins), and fey Nero the Hero (Martin Kove), all while attempting to avoid the course pitfalls engineered by a group of democratic freedom fighters led by patriotic granny Thomasina Paine (Harriet Medin). A take-no-prisoners free-for-all in which caricatures are plentiful, stereotypes are mined for incisive (and not-so-incisive) laughs, and the action is at once cartoonish and gritty, Death Race 2000 is more than a little rough around the edges and far from subtle. Nonetheless, its crudity is the sort marked by ragged craftsmanship and wicked cleverness.