Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

To the death! Hunger Games not first to feature bloodsport

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IN this movie, a corrupt society forces its citizens to compete in a deadly blood sport until one brave soul bucks the system.

Now, where have you heard this before?

The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins' sci-fi novel, stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, one of several teenagers duking it out on television while the despotic President Snow (Donald Sutherland) smirks his approval. That movie just came out, but the basic story has been filmed time and again using different heroes: gladiators, race-car drivers, roller skaters, you name it.

Here are five movies that came along well before Katniss and her fellow "tributes" drew their weapons:

ñ�SPARTACUS (1960) -- Kirk Douglas plays a Thracian slave who rises from the Roman arenas to lead an uprising against his masters. The scene in which one slave hurls his trident toward the spectators is repeated in Hunger Games, when Katniss shoots an arrow at her captors.

DEATH RACE 2000 (1975) -- In the distant future (ahem), the Annual Transcontinental Road Race rewards drivers for mowing down pedestrians. Starring David Carradine and a then-unknown Sylvester Stallone, it's essentially an extended sick joke, but Hunger parallels abound, including a post-collapse government ruled by the shadowy "Mr. President."

ROLLERBALL (1975) -- Ah, the innocent 1970s, when roller derby seemed so violent that it merited a feature-length social critique. James Caan stars as Jonathan E, aging star of a Houston team whose owner wants more bloodshed, even death. Send in the motorcycles! Ridiculous in hindsight, but times were different then.

THE RUNNING MAN (1987) -- This Stephen King adaptation is about a totalitarian government that sponsors a televised competition in which assassins hunt convicts (one played by Arnold Schwarzenegger). Stanley Tucci's Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman owes a debt to Richard Dawson's Running Man host Damon Killian.

BATTLE ROYALE (2000) -- Man, those Japanese teachers are strict: In this movie, detention means being trapped on an island with food, water and weapons. Hugely popular at home, though too outrageously violent to rise above cult status here. American remake, anyone?

-- Newsday

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2012 E8

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