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Damnation Alley

Damnation Alley (1977) starring George Peppard, Jan-Michael Vincent

Synopsis of Damnation Alley

Damnation Alley – In a post-apocalyptic world, a group of survivors travel and find other settlements in huge custom designed all-terrain vehicles.

Review of Damnation Alley

In Damnation Alley, George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent go on a road trip.  A post-apocalyptic road trip.  After nuclear war has knocked the Earth of its axis, a road trip.  To find survivors, and try to make it to Albany, New York, the only source of a radio transmission afterward.  A road trip with:

  • Giant scorpions
  • Killer cockroaches
  • Insane “mountain men”.
  • Really bad weather – including flooding that turns over the vehicle, a sandstorm that kills multiple people.

Damnation Alley is a cult classic, due to no small part to the special vehicle that they take their road trip it.  In a real sense, it’s the star of the film.  Although the various actors have done excellent performances elsewhere, the performances here are fairly wooden.

Cast of characters in Damnation Alley

  • 1st Lt. Jake Tanner (Jan-Michael VincentAirwolf).  Air Force veteran, who fired the retaliatory strike with Denton.  Now, simply trying to survive.
  • Major Eugene “Sam” Denton (George PeppardBlue MaxA-Team).  A “by the book” military man, in charge of the expedition.
  • Janice (Dominique SandaThe Conformist).  A young lady, rescued by them who joins the group.  She had been living in an abandoned casino – and had thought that she was the last survivor.
  • Tom Keegan (Paul WinfieldThe TerminatorStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).  Former airman, an aspiring artist, and Tanner’s friend. He has a “close encounter” with cockroaches.  His friendship with Tanner is one of the most relatable parts of the movie.
  • Billy (Jackie Earle HaleyWatchmen).  A teenage boy who’s been living on his own, since the death of his father.  A likable young man, who throws a mean rock.
  • Lieutenant Tom Perry (Kip NivenAirport 1975).  Denton’s right-hand man, a by-the-book military type.  He sadly dies relatively early in the sandstorm.

Editorial review of Damnation Alley courtesy of Amazon.com

Damnation Alley (1977) starring George Peppard, Jan-Michael VincentA low-wattage cult hit among post-apocalypse movie fans, Jack Smight’s Damnation Alley arrives on DVD in a deluxe presentation that underscores its troubled production, as well as its modest charms. Based very loosely on the 1967 novel of the same name by Roger Zelazny (who loathed the movie version), the film stars George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent as Air Force officers crisscrossing the ruins of America in massive armored personnel carriers (the 10-ton Landmaster, originally designed to lug trucks, and the film’s most enduring image) in search of survivors. Their journey brings them in contact with shotgun-toting killers and giant, flesh-eating cockroaches, plus Jackie Earle Haley and Dominique Sanda as the final pieces in their new model of a nuclear family.

Plagued by special-effects issues and reedits, Damnation Alley arrived with a thud in the wake of 20th Century Fox’s other science-fiction release, Star Wars, which the studio initially regarded as Damnation‘s second-string support. The film developed a modest following in the ensuing decades among late-night TV habitués, who can finally retire their gray market dupes of the 1985 VHS release, thanks to Shout Factory’s DVD release. The disc offers a new anamorphic widescreen presentation (minus the Sound 360 process, which was too damaged to preserve, but with three newer audio options), as well as commentary by veteran producer Paul Maslansky and a trio of interesting making-of documentaries, the most interesting of which features an interview with co-screenwriter Alan Sharp (Ulzana’s Raid, Night Moves), whose assessment of his work isn’t too far from Zelazny’s reaction. Meanwhile, a look at the Landmaster with designer Dean Jeffries should satisfy fans of that unique vehicle. –Paul Gaita