Digi-Schlock: Deathsport/Battletruck Double Feature (Shout! Factory DVD)

Shout! Factory has taken a two-prong approach to their Roger Corman releases – obvious flagship titles like Piranha and Death Race 2000 get their own extras-packed standalone releases but the more obscure titles get issued on two-for-one DVD’s that allow the fan to pick up two titles at a budget-conscious price.  The first of the two-for-one releases, a pairing of Deathsport and Battletruck, is a pleasant surprise because it offers more than just two films on one disc.

Ideal materials weren’t available for either title so transfer quality is a step down from the standalone releases.  Battletruck uses an old full-frame video master: the color and detail levels can be a little off, particularly during a few nighttime scenes, but the end result mostly works and is a step up from previous VHS renderings of this title.  With Deathsport, the best available source was a t.v. inter-positive so the disc’s producers created a composite that cuts in footage from a lesser R-rated print source to make up for content edits in the t.v. version.  There are few sections with some prominent emulsion scratches on one side of the screen but the overall result is pretty colorful and sharp – and probably the best it has ever looked on video.

In terms of sound, both films retain their original mixes and sound fine.  The mix for Deathsport can get a little “crowded” at times but that’s a reflection of the fact that the entire film was mixed in two days rather than a problem with the disc itself.

The Deathsport/Battletruck two-fer also boasts a surprising amount of extras for a value-conscious package.  The most substantive of the extras are commentary tracks for both films.  On Battletruck, the commentary pairs director Harley Cokliss with moderator Jonathan Rigby.  Cokliss offers up a lot of practical advice for young filmmakers based on his experiences, including noteworthy advice on how to plan a day’s shoot when working with a less-experienced crew.  He also reveals an interesting connection between his film and Megaforce, a conversation he had with George Miller about the (unintentional) similarities between Battletruck and The Road Warrior and also how a sequence from Battletruck was paid homage to years later in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess that he directed.

The Deathsport commentary pairs co-director Allan Arkush with editor Larry Bock.  The end result is as informative as the Battletruck track and boasts a lot more humor.  Without getting sleazy, Arkush tells the story behind this troubled project: original director Nick Niciphor was fresh out of film school and unschooled in genre fare, both David Carradine and Claudia Jennings had substance abuse problems and Carradine got so mad with Niciphor during the shout that he broke his nose!  Arkush and Bock also talk a lot about the challenges of trying to beef up the exploitable elements of the film on minimal money, including a fascinating story about the advice Corman gave Arkush to help him stage a complex-looking chase scene in a small-ish locale.  However, the best story might be the one about how Carradine shared a joint with the crew after one day’s shoot and said marijuana was so potent that all partakers had trouble finding their way home afterwards(!).

There are also image galleries for both films, with Deathsport having the bigger selection of material: its gallery includes stills from different countries and an array of cool on-the-set photos.  Elsewhere there are t.v. and theatrical trailers for Deathsport plus a radio spot.  The package is rounded out with trailers for other Shout! Factory/Corman releases.

In short, this is a nice little package that offers a lot more for the viewer’s dollar than the usual two-pack.  It’s definitely worth the investment for Corman completists.

Death Sport/Battle Truck [Double Feature]

Death Sport/Battle Truck [Double Feature]

Death Sport: In the year 3000, there’ll be no more Olympic Games, World Series, or Superbowl. There’ll be only Death Sport. Battle Truck: Post-World War III tale of collapsed governments and bankrupt countries heralding a new lawless age. Also known as Warlords of the 21st Century.

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