"A thousand years from tomorrow," after the Neutron Wars, the world is divided into a barbaric collection of city states, surrounded by wastelands where only mutant cannibals and independent warriors, known as Range Guides, can live. The city state of Helix is planning war on another, Tritan. Hoping to prove their newest weapon's superiority, the "Death Machines" (laser equipped dirt bikes), they create a new Death Sport.
The death penalty has been replaced by Death Sport, where criminals battle each other to the death for their freedom. Lord Zirpola is using the "Death Machines" against some Range Guides he managed to capture. One of the guides, Kaz Oshay, forges a bond with the female guide Deneer and vows to escape with her and find her child who was taken by mutants before her capture.
After enduring torture and facing his mother's killer, Ankar Moor, Oshay and Deneer are forced into the Death Sport motocross field, which is mined with explosives. They easily defeat the other riders and escape into Helix city with two other prisoners, Doctor Karl and his son Marcus. During the escape, though, the doctor is killed.
Eventually they rescue Deneer's child from mutant cannibals, and battle the other Death Machine riders who followed them. Finally safe, Deneer delivers Marcus to Tritan, while Kaz Oshay faces his nemesis Ankar Moor in "honorable" combat, using Whistlers (plastic swords that sound like music). After a bloody battle Kaz decapitates Ankar, becoming the greatest guide alive. The film ends with him and Deneer riding their horses off into the sunset.David Carradine - Kaz Oshay
Claudia Jennings - Deneer
Richard Lynch - Ankar Moor
William Smithers - Dr. Karl
Will Walker - Marcus Karl
David McLean - Lord Zirpola
Jesse Vint - Polna
H.B. Haggerty - Jailer
Peter Hooper - Mr. Bakkar
Brenda Venus - Adriann
The film was intended as a follow up to Death Race 2000 (1975). Until the release of Death Race 2050 (2017), a real direct sequel to the original film, Deathsport has now became an unrelated film. Nicholas Niciphor, a recent graduate of USC, was given the job of rewriting and directing the film. Shooting was problematic and he ended up being fired. Allan Arkush was called in to complete the film, recutting it and adding new scenes. Arkush later claimed that:
Mostly we just blew up motorcycles. Lots of them. We also set some mutants on fire. And the stunning Claudia Jennings got naked. David Carradine... smoked a lot of high-grade weed and helped us to blow stuff up... Sad to say, I couldn't save the picture.
In a 1990 letter to Psychotronic Video magazine (Psychotronic Video #7), David Carradine described writer & director Nicholas Niciphor as "a very talented and crazy guy". He claimed Niciphor "physically attacked" Claudia Jennings and Carradine "beat up" Niciphor in response. In 1991, Niciphor countered these claims in a letter to the same magazine (Psychotronic Video #9) where he claimed he and two stunt men physically removed Jennings from a motorcycle when Niciphor realized she was drunk and apparently high on cocaine (Jennings had a well known cocaine addiction in the late 70's). He also claims Carradine "would smoke hashish & marijuana openly on the set". Niciphor went on to say that later in the shoot, Carradine hit him in the right eye with a karate fist during training for a fight scene and was not sure if this was "an accident" or "purposeful" as retribution for the Jennings incident.
The film was not as successful at the box office as Death Race 2000 and a proposed follow up, Deathworld, was not made.
On August 3, 2010, Shout! Factory released Deathsport along with the 1982 film Battletruck on a double-feature Collector’s Edition DVD.
The film was scored by Andy Stein and featured guitar riffs from Jerry Garcia.