Peter’s Retro Movie Review: Deathsport (1978)

July 29, 2013

Deathsport movie posterby Peter Nielsen

This week I’d like to introduce you to a Roger Corman produced oddity. It was released in ’78 as a kind of unofficial follow-up to Death Race 2000 which was released a couple of years before. Oh, and by the way, ladies and gentlemen? I’ll get to that one too eventually.

Deathsport is set in the year 3000 and there is no more death penalty, which sounds idyllic, right?  It’s instead settled in Deathsport, which doesn’t really make much of a difference because the outcome is still the same… death!

The good side in this movie is represented by David Carradine whom you might recognize from the TV-show Kung Fu and its follow-up Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. He’s also seen in the two Kill Bill movies, Lone Wolf McQuade and The Long Riders. In Deathsport he plays a Range Guide by the name of Kaz Oshay and is apparently somewhat of a legend. At the start of the movie he’s shot down and taken to the city Helix and thrown into a cell.

The city is run by Lord Zirpola, played by David McLean who’s done a lot of TV work but was also in Kingdom of the Spiders opposite William Shatner. Lord Zirpola is a weak old man who likes to watch naked women getting tortured with electricity. He has an enforcer named Ankar Moor and he’s the main reason that Oshay is imprisoned, I think. Their pasts are linked and let’s just say that there is some “mild” animosity between them. Hatred might be another good word.

Claudia Jennings as DeneerI’m sure you’ll know the actor portraying Ankar Moor and that you’ll nod your head in recognition when I mention a couple of titles… His name is Richard Lynch and has done Bad Dreams, Invasion U.S.A. and The Sword and the Sorcerer to name just a handful.

Ankar Moor and his Statesmen has also captured another Range Guide and placed her in a cell opposite Kaz Oshay. Her name is Deneer and she has some sort of strong psychic bond with Oshay. They have the ability to read each other’s thoughts and “join” in a somewhat pseudo-sexual manner. I don’t know if all Range Guides can do this or if it’s only these two because of their bond.

Deneer is played by Claudia Jennings (‘Gator Bait, Fast Company) who’s not a bad looking woman. VERY easy on the eye!

Now, I’ll bet that some of you are wondering what the hell Range Guides and Statesmen are and it’s actually never really explained in the movie, but I’ll try to enlighten you. Statesmen are kind of like soldiers who ride around on modernized and armor-plated motorcycles. They’re clad in silver and are wearing silver-colored helmets and black masks which make them very much anonymous.

A gathering of Statesmen!

A gathering of Statesmen!

I suppose they were going for an intimidating look, but I’m sorry… it doesn’t work! The main reason is of course a limited budget and the fact that this way you can have the same actor play several different statesmen and die multiple times too! The weapon they use looks like an over-sized toy flash-light, but it sure is effective! It doesn’t just kill you… it vaporizes you!

The Range Guides are a nomadic people who use horses for transportation instead of using modern technology. They help as protection and guides to travelers across the wastelands. The main danger here are cannibal mutants who actually look more like googly-eyed freaks with sharp teeth, but dangerous none the less.

The Range Guides’ main weapon is a weird crystal-like sword called Whistlers because of the sound it makes when you wield it, I guess. It looks like it’s made of clear see-through plastic, which I suppose it was.

I shall kill you with my vaporizing flashlight!

I shall kill you with my vaporizing flashlight!

Well, Lord Zirpola zaps and kills himself during one of his torture games (unintentionally of course) and Ankar Moor takes over. Deneer and Oshay are sentenced to Deathsport and now a rather long chase sequence follows. A bit too long, in my opinion, because nothing much happens other than them driving around the rocky terrain in a tedious cat and mouse game.

Oshay and Deneer do however manage to kill a couple of the Statesmen, but even that isn’t too exciting because when they’re shot they just vanish into thin air. When you’ve seen that a couple of times, the novelty kind of wears of, you know? I’m not going to divulge any more of the “intricate” plot. You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out, but it, of course, ends with a big showdown between Kaz Oshay and Ankar Moor.

So, is Deathsport a good movie or is it utter crap? Well, it’s certainly not a good movie, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it crap either, because despite all the negative stuff it’s still somewhat entertaining. There are little things here and there that I find amusing.

Ankar Moor and Kaz Oshay swinging Whistlers.

Ankar Moor and Kaz Oshay swinging Whistlers.

For instance, like how the sliding doors in the city sound a little like Darth Vader breathing when they open and close, and to carry the Star Wars reference even further, the death-machines (motorcycles) actually sound a little bit like Tie Fighters when they drive by. This can’t be just a coincidence, can it? It must be intentional that these sounds were “borrowed”, right?

The dialogue in Deathsport is hokey to the point of being ridiculous and is highly entertaining. It’s so highfalutin that you can’t help but laugh at the actors’ and actresses’ lines. They’re so bad that they actually become funny, if you know what I mean?

Another cool thing about this movie is the fact that there’s a legend from the music industry appearing on the musical score… on guitar is Jerry Garcia! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, THE Jerry Garcia… from the Grateful Dead!!

And on that little tidbit is where I’ll leave you this week. Remember to write your thoughts in the comment section below.

Until next time, my friends…

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