Monday, 27 February 2012

Review: Damnation Alley

Damnation Alley (1977)

An all-out nuclear war devastates the Earth and throws the world off its axis.  For two years, the globe is blasted by freak storms, radiation as mutated insects start to emerge.  In the deserts of California, a US Air Force ICBM base is barely holding together when a gas explosion kills all except four men.  Using a pair of state-of-the-art military vehicles called Landmasters, they strike out for the possible source of relief: Albay, New York, where the only radio signals have been detected.  In between are thousands of miles of storms and and radiation.

20th Century Fox had high hopes for this film, as opposed to the one they thought would sink without a trace–a little effort called Star Wars.  Heaven alone knows why, because this is such a bland, anaemic effort that never goes anywhere.  Maybe that's because one can say with confidence that repetitive scenes of a road trip through a wasteland ceilinged by weird clouds isn't really all that interesting.  Also, there's no real conflict here.  The trip to Albany is so matter of fact and so linear that the plot never builds, the curves of the arc never leave a straight line and, frankly, this is a story where all the good stuff is in the beginning and it just petters out as it goes along until the film grinds to an anti-climactic stop.

George Peppard as Major Denton does his best to flesh out a thin role, but he's hampered in having to drag along co-star Jan Michael Vincent who is as lightweight as is imaginable.  Paul Winfield is pointlessly killed off too early on and additional cast Jackie Earle Haley adn the vapid Dominique Sanda are so pointless after their introductory scenes that the might as well have been stored in the overhead luggage.

An episodic, one-level pedestrian effort, it's no wonder that author roger Zelazny, whose book was the genesis of this, hated every frame with a hard, gem-like flame.

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