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Superman's Pal
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Subj: Sci-Fi Cinema #83 - Damnation Alley (1977)
Posted: Sun Jun 05, 2022 at 07:47:47 pm EDT (Viewed 155 times)






Damnation Alley (1977)
Trailer

Major Sam Denton (George Peppard) and Lt. Jake Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent) are military men working at a nuclear missle silo, and indeed they are the ones to turn twin keys to unleash nuclear armageddon against a flurry of inbound ICBMs. After the holocaust Denton tries to keep order going at the military base which has survived but is now surrounded by desert wasteland. Also on the team is Keegan (Paul Winfield) who prefers to paint.

The world may be devastated but apparently it's safe for people to be out and about. Tanner scouts for any other survivors on his motorbike while he dodges overgrown scorpions mutated by radiation, but the people are not affected? The sky looks like the Aurora Borealis and storms blow constantly because the nukes tilted the Earth off its axis.

The base is destroyed by a gas leak and a discarded cigarette leaving only Denton, Tanner, Keegan, and Lt. Perry (Kip Niven) who set out in a pair of Landmasters, or armored RVs, from California to Albany, New York which is the last place they got a signal from a survivor. To get there they will cross "Damnation Alley" or the center of the U.S. which will have slightly less storm activity.

Along the way they pick up Janice (Dominique Sanda) in the ruins of Las Vegas, and a teen named Billy (Jackie Earle Haley) further east. They also encounter armor-plated, flesh-stripping cockroaches, armed rapists out in the desert, storms strong enough to cripple the Landmasters, and a flood that seems Biblical in scale. Luckily the Landmasters are also amphibious.

I think I saw this with my parents at the drive-in, but maybe it was TV, since I would have only been 2 when this came out. The only thing I really remembered was the cockroaches. Watching it now, it could have been an effective little thriller but the characters always seemed a little too comfortable. Their super RV never runs out of gas even though they try to fill it up at every stop and never can get working gas pumps. They never run out of food. They have a working shower onboard so everyone can stay pretty clean. I would think this sort of movie would benefit from a little dirtier journey.




Damnation Alley is based on the 1969 story by novelist Roger Zelazny, which was "an interesting novella converted to an unfortunate novel" according to Wikipedia. It sounds more fun because Tanner is a Hell's Angel offered a pardon for undertaking the suicide mission to send relief supplies across country. It sounds like Escape From New York. The book apparently inspired Judge Dredd’s Cursed Earth in the UK comics. The book and/or movie inspired the Fallout video games.

George Peppard I only really know from The A-Team, and here he goes from crusty to smug. I was more pleasantly surprised by Jan-Michael Vincent who I primarily know from Airwolf and I think his young acting is a lot better that what he did later on. Paul Winfield I know from various Star Trek and he’s the most charismatic of the bunch.

The star of the movie may have really been the Landmaster which was custom-created for the film. It has since appeared in a few other movies or TV shows. It should not be confused with the Ark II from the TV show of the same name, which looks similar and I will get around to reviewing at some point.

The movie was also released in Sound 360 where available, which I think is a surround-sound kind of like Sensurround used for Battlestar Galactica.




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