I think that it must have been in late 1980 or early 1981 that our little gaming group discovered Car Wars.
It was a pencil and paper board game with a simple but effective premise – you had a budget to design an automobile of the future and equip it with armour, guns, lasers, spikes, mine droppers and so on, and then take to the highways of a post energy crisis dystopian USA to blow the living crap out of anything that got in your way. We devoured the game and all of the various expansion packs and spent far too long designing vast townships and arenas on gridded paper to manoeuvre our counters around simulating automotive mayhem, and a fine time was had by all.
One of the inspirations for the game was the infamous Roger Corman produced B-movie ‘Death Race 2000’, featuring a very young looking Sylvester Stallone amongst others. I remember seeing the poster for it in the high street and I desperately wanted to see the film at the time, but it was an ‘X’ certificate (remember those?) and by the time I was old enough to pass for 18 the film was long gone from local cinemas (and indeed, so was the local cinema, demolished to make way for a garage). The era of home videos was some way off, and so I didn’t manage to actually watch the film until it turned up on a late night showing on an obscure digital channel a couple of years ago.
It was enjoyable enough, although it was very much of its mid-70s cinematic exploitation era. The major disappointment was that the cars were all pretty shonky – they looked more like something from ‘Wacky Racers’ than anything that any self-respecting auto-vigilante would be seen dead in.
Fast forward to the present day and the latest arrival on our doormat from Love Film – Death Race, the Paul W Anderson remake version. Let’s ignore the wafer thin plot (hero gets framed for murder and sent to prison to complete in death race as reality tv event), the dubious acting (Jason Statham mumbles his way through the protagonist role) and even Ian McShane in a rather bizarrely unexpected cameo role. No, we’re here for the cars, and boy, does this film do them justice.
They are all proper cars – Mustangs, Porches and trucks – with appropriately chunky armour plating and convincing looking weapons. None of your effete James Bond machine guns peeking coyly out from the bumper – these are proper 50cal hood mounted mini-guns that wouldn’t look out of place on a helicopter gunship. They race through what looks like an abandoned industrial complex, shot in steely blues and greys to contrast with the inevitable fiery explosions. This really is a film to watch with all critical facilities switched off and the surround sound set to the higher reaches of the Richter scale. Even the slightly silly power up pads that the drivers must hit to activate their weapons seems like a nod to the possibility of a video game version (oh, I do so hope there is – I haven’t seen a really good car combat game since Interstate 76).
All in all, pure cinematic wish fulfilment tosh of the highest order.
Anyway, that was what I watched last night. How about you?