The future is a pretty dreary place. Wars, famine, plagues, etc. Kinda makes you not want to see it. Thankfully, today’s story takes place 1,000 years after tomorrow, so unless there’s some kind of cure for everything released pretty soon or cryogenics steps up its’ game, we won’t have much to worry about. See, in this future a neutron war takes place. No, neutrons don’t fight each other, I’m guessing it’s some kind of war that has to do with neutron bombs. After the war, the world consists of vast deserts and large city-states. If you’re not in a city state, then you don’t use machinery (except weird floodlight/gun things) and you’re probably a mutant. Unless, of course, you’re a guide – which is an ancient warrior that lives only by it’s own code. If you are a guide, though, you’re hunted down to participate in the only punishment that’s still allowed in this distant future. That punishment is Deathsport!
Kaz Oshay (David Carradine) is one of those guides, and while out and about he’s hunted down and captured by Ankar Moor (Richard Lynch). Ankar Moor fought Kaz’s mother, who’s name is just Oshay, and now he’s got a boner for Kaz. He captures Kaz and sentences him to Deathsport, where jerks ride around on the loudest motorcycles every built in a Rome-like Colosseum that combines motocross with an obstacle course. While Kaz would never show it, he’s a stoic warrior, he’s relieved to find that another guide has been captured as well. Deneer (Claudia Jennings) is a female guide who was captured out in the wastes trying to lead a group out of the capitol city Helix. Now they’ll fight together in deathsport to try to escape Helix and the arena.
Deathsport is super thin on plot. It’s basically a vehicle for Kaz and Ankar to fight at the end, and everything leads to that. The gimmick of the film are these death machines, which are just glorified dirt bikes that shoot lasers that disintegrate it’s victims. The movie is filled with chase scenes, however, where the bikes are perfectly lined up but no shots are taken – defeating the purpose of having lasers in the first place, right? It’s an understatement to say that these bikes are loud, though. They sound like Millennium Falcons when they ride by, and they just replay the same sound over and over again whenever they’re in the picture, which gets old after a while. You’d have to think with these things being so loud, it would work against them in any kind of stealth situation. By the point in the movie where they need to be sneaky, though, both the heroes and the villain are both riding them, cancelling the hearing of each other out.
The film is full of 70’s weirdness, including a few scenes where the dying emperor tortures nude women (including Jennings’ Deneer) in a room filled with poles. While you think they’re going to do some pole dancing, and they start to actually get into the groove a little bit, he turns a knob and electrifies them, shocking the women and killing one of them. They also conduct weird experiments on the guides, including flashing colored strobe lights on their naked bodies. While it’s never explained what this does to them, it’s fits into the weird far off future motif.
Deathsport has some interesting ideas, and isn’t totally hard to watch, but the repetitious motorcycle noise will grate on your nerves. The first half feels like the director was trying to be as weird as possible, and the second half needed to blow the budget with explosions. The budget definitely wasn’t spent on the rag-wearing googly-eyed “mutants” and plastic swords, that’s for sure. Only Roger Corman and David Carradine completionists need apply. Deathsport rides into 1.5 landmines out of 5.