DVD Tales: Death Race 2000 to Doctor Who: The Beginning

Following from Dead Poets Society...

Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975)
Death Race 2000 first came into my consciousness via the Death Race 2020 comic published by Roger Corman's Cosmic Comics exactly 20 years after the movie came out (1995). I liked Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neil on Marshal Law, which has a similar "parodic killfrenzy" attitude, so I migrated towards this title. But I didn't see the film until recently (although I'd caught sight of the massage scene on late night cable once). What a hoot! Though cheaply made, and not terribly well acted, there are enough original flourishes here to make it a treasured part of my collection (Frankenstein dancing in his mask and underwear, for example). The DVD features a very good commentary track by producer Roger Corman and B-movie queen Mary Woronov as well as the required featurette and trailer. Now, I've got to dig out the 2020 comics and get back to you!

Deep End (Scott McGehee and David Siegel, 2001)
A remake of the 1971 British thriller, with a "modern day" gender-futzing twist (that's not really a spoiler, folks), I bought this film on the advice of Roger Ebert on At the Movies (which often happened). And while it's good - it put Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic on my radar and has some terribly effective Hitchcockian moments - it left me with that "meh" feeling, a rare occurrence despite the fact that I buy a LOT of movies sight-unseen. Now that I've seen both actors in a lot of stuff, it may be time to revisit The Deep End...

Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
Reviewed back on Scorsese Week (or so I came to call it), so more thoughts there, mostly about the film's Oscar buzz. I also promised to discuss my thoughts on the brain-blowing finale. So here they are. You can consider these spoilers if you like, but it's the one thing I knew going in: Everybody gets their brains blown out. That's how the movie was described to me. Every 5 minutes, somebody gets shot in the head. That turned out to be an exaggeration, but there's something to that in the last few minutes. The first time, it's rather shocking. You don't see it coming. After that, it's a slaughter, until finally, Matt Damon gets it. And his expression is priceless. It's really a case of "yeah, might as well, it's a fair cop." Made me laugh, but probably shouldn't have...

Desperado (Robert Rodriguez, 1995)
I loved El Mariachi, but how would the same basic story work with big stars Antonio Bandaras and Selma Hayek (who became a star because of this, I'm well aware)? The answer is: It works great. Where Robert Rodiguez turned El Mariachi's shoestring budget into an indy film budget, here he turns an indy film budget into an action movie budget flawlessly. I recommend any of his films if only for the DVD extras - they're all like going to film school. Extremely dense and interesting. Desperado is exciting and sexy and while El Mariachi's locations are used again, it's a new story. Man, I need to see this again as well...

Doctor Who: The Beginning (BBC, 1963)
[Warning: I own all of the Doctor Who DVDs, including the North America-only Key to Time set, but excluding the UK-only Fox TV Movie, so these next few Tales are going to be Doctor Who heavy.] The Beginning is a recent boxed set featuring the first three Doctor Who stories in their entirety, plus a 30 minute narrated slideshow version of Marco Polo, one of the many early stories wiped from the BBC tapes. I'm guessing it's more efficient than the 7 episode original, and still enjoyable. The first three stories include: An Unearthly Child (including the original, slightly different pilot episode, showing that Star Trek wasn't the only SF classic to get a second chance at a pilot), The Daleks (which made Doctor Who a hit), and The Edge of Destruction (the only story that's less than watchable here because it is so strange). As with all BBC World releases, each story has a commentary track with surviving members of the cast and crew, production note subtitles, and relevant "making of" documentaries. And as usual, they've found some archive material, like comedy sketches, linking segments and odd language tracks to supplement the discs. This is one of the best DVD series ever made for a television show, which is why I'm not lumping them all into one entry.

But what did YOU think? Next: Doctor Who: The Aztecs to The Tomb of the Cybermen.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah I watch Desperado about once a year and it's genius everytime!

Watch it if only for the first scene.

rob! said...

i enjoyed the Deep End, like you on the recommendation of Eebert. i didnt know it was a remake, tho!

i thought it was a good, tight thriller, free of the padding and extra unneeded flourishes(big action scenes, etc) that wouldve been there if the movie had had big stars.

De said...

I'm in the process of making an NTSC version of the 1996 Doctor Who movie, but it's taking a while because the disc is so packed full of extras.

Siskoid said...

Do tell, De. Is this a bootleg homebrew or do you work for a DVD-making company?

Anonymous said...

Deathrace 2000 is far more amusing than it has any right to be.

So bad, so over the top violent, so fun.

De said...

It's a bootleg homebrew. I do own a small video production company but it's a home-based business for the time being. Le sigh.

Siskoid said...

mwb: And yet, not THAT violent. A couple of splatterpunk shots, but on the whole, way tamer than it could have been!

De: Video? Does that still exist? ;) Just friendly ribbing, what kind of stuff do you put out?

Anonymous said...

siskoid: I draw a distinction there. The violence is over the top (cartoonish), but the gore factor is relatively low. We've grown conditioned to expect them both together, when they are kind of separate.

De said...

I mainly do duplication of people's videos onto DVD, stuff like weddings, kids birthday parties, etc. As more and more people ditch their VCRs, folks are wondering what they can do with all their camcorder memories on VHS tape - that's where I come in. Eventually I'll expand the scope to Super 8 film and slides, but the equipment is a bit pricey.

While I wait for clients, I'm usually dabbling in making DVDs of stuff that doesn't exist on DVD yet. Unfortunately, the stuff I've already done has been made (animated Star Trek, Mission Hill, and Justice League to name a few). However, I have a number of projects in mind after I finish Doctor Who: The Movie.

Nik said...

As someone relatively new to the Who (I've just watched the new series), what "classic" Who would you recommend for a newbie to dip into to try it out?

Siskoid said...

Welcome to the fold Nik. I'll talk about each release in turn in the coming weeks, but I think can answer your question without getting into it too much.

I think the best way to go for an initiate is the best of Tom Baker (4th Doc) seasons. They're the most in keeping with the tone of the current series, for one thing, and many releases feature Sarah Jane Smith or K9, which we've met again in the new series. Furthermore, though the releases are all over the place in the show's timeline, there are quite a few that follow each other in those particular seasons.

As good a one-shot as any is Pyramids of Mars, but if you want to start at the "beginning", Tom Baker's first story is now available ("Robot"), and the story continues straight on into The Ark in Space, The Sontaran Experiment and Genesis of the Daleks.

Pyramid comes later, and Sarah Jane says goodbye in The Hand of Fear. Robots of Death, The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock feature the 4th Doc and Leela, and are all excellent, especially Talons which many call the best classic Who of all time. City of Death is currently the best 4th Doc/Romana story out on DVD.

That said, if you'd like a pot-pourri with 1 story per Doctor, I'd go for: The Aztecs (1st), The Tomb of the Cybermen (2nd), Inferno or The Green Death (3rd), The Talons of Weng-Chiang (4th), The Caves of Androzani (5th), Revelation of the Daleks (6th) and The Curse of Fenric (7th). But mileage may vary.

 

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