Produced by Roger Corman this is a low-budget satire on race movies and (according to Corman and director Paul Bartel) the American way of life, notably the obsession with violence and sporting events. Set in the near future (in 1975 the year 2000 was the near future) it tells the story of an America that has become a totalitarian state, led by a sinister president who gives the people what they want: a coast to coast car race that isn’t won by the driver who finishes first, but by the one who ‘scores’ most points by running over innocent pedestrians. Children and people over 75 are the best targets.
Subtle it aint. The drivers listen to bizarre names such as Frankenstein, Machine Gun Joe, Calamity Jane, Nero the Hero and Mathilda the Hun, all of them representing a violent period in history; supporters shamelessly wave with Nazi flags and gangster Machine Gun Joe (played by Sylvester Stallone, one year before Rocky) brings his tommy gun to the race and aims at people supporting his major rival, three times winner Frankenstein (a man who lost an arm, a leg and a face to the race)
The blood is juicy and cherry red and the kills are filmed in comedy caper style, apparently to water down the violence and cynicism. The movie is mildly entertaining, but in the end it’s too gross to work as a comedy, and too silly to work as a satire. The narrative is kept floating thanks to a sub-plot involving a resistance group and a few clever twists and turns involving the Frankenstein character, played by David Carradine: is he the real driver known as Frankenstein? Or is he someone else, and if so, who might he be, and what’s he up to? With a running time of no more than 80 minutes, it’s also fast and furious. And yes, there’s lots of nudity too.