Mary Woronov as Calamity Jane in Death Race 2000, 1975.

Mary Woronov as Calamity Jane in Death Race 2000, 1975.

RETROSPECT

Death Race 2000

The most famous Hollywood movie I appeared in was Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000, which was bizarre because coming from New York, I didn’t know how to drive yet. Over the years the movie became one of the most popular American films in Europe, including France. Because of this humiliating statistic, Hollywood has tried three times to recreate D.R. 2000. They have also failed three times. Rather than fail again, they have asked Corman to do their next version of D.R. 2000.


I ran into Roger and his wife Julie at the Hammer opening of Lawren Harris’ paintings and started to congratulate him, but Roger is not interested in praise, he is interested in movie-making and, with a smile, he immediately launches into the reason for Hollywood’s triple failure, “Death Race wasn’t about just winning a race, it was about the extra points the drivers accumulated by killing pedestrians, and Hollywood left that out!”

Mary Woronov as Calamity Jane in Death Race 2000, 1975.

Mary Woronov as Calamity Jane in Death Race 2000, 1975.


“Yes, I remember, the highest score was for running over a pregnant nun.”


In other words, D.R. 2000 is a comedy about the rite of human sacrifice, which we like to think we have outgrown. But like Rome, we have unwittingly become a war nation and our coliseum games are held in the darkness of the movie theaters, where sacrificial blood runs freely without guilt or ritual to give it meaning. Where we can enjoy mindless slaughter without any reality—just some naked girls on the side. The fucking scene has replaced romance, and the John Ford morality Western is now a senseless bloodbath as in the last Mad Max movie, all in order to build the violent culture necessary for war.


This brings us to the popularity of Death Race 2000, which is a taste of freedom from a real curse we have been born under. No other animal kills for fun. But in Death Race happy innocent people run into the road in the hopes of being run over and we laugh. This is a major advancement—not to mention relief—to be able to laugh at the darkest urge society has been trying to ignore but still enjoy. It’s a step from darkness to light. We might be the most dangerous animal on the planet, but we are also the only animal that can laugh.