Outposters, welcome back to Film Club. Apologies for the delay getting back to everyone with this, it’s been a chaotic week! We’ve kept you waiting long enough, let’s get straight to the reviews for Damnation Alley!
Damnation Alley certainly has its charm, despite some of its flaws. This post-apocalyptic adventure doesn’t offer much in the sense of being unique or imaginative. It’s a pretty standard take on a world ravaged by nuclear war and natural disasters. While it may not have achieved the same level of acclaim as other sci-fi classics of its era, it still manages to be entertaining.
One of the standout features is the special effects. Considering the technology available at the time, the filmmakers did an admirable job in creating a desolate and perilous landscape, filled with mutated creatures and treacherous weather conditions. The armored vehicle was the most impressive thing the movie gives us.
Jan-Michael Vincent and George Peppard, deliver solid performances that help anchor the story. Although there wasn’t much adversity, their camaraderie and determination grounded them as they traveled the apocalyptic wasteland. The lack of adversity stems from everyone being so trusting and never having their guard up. The only real threat was the cockroaches.
Damnation Alley isn’t a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s an enjoyable journey into the world of 1970s post-apocalyptic sci-fi. The TL;DR, it’s more fun than good.
Damnation Alley? More like Darnation Alley, amirite? The movie plays like a family-friendly apocalypse. Occasionally, it flirts with having an edge, but such moments are flitting. Plot-wise, a nuclear war happens, which turns the earth into an ecological disaster — not quite as bad as what Greta Thunberg is worried about but pretty bad. A crew of ex-military folk head for greener pastures in their badass “Landmaster.”
George Peppard and his mustache are set up to be hard cases, but they end up only a slightly stern father figure. Jan Michael Vincent is set up the be the rebellious son, but he ends up a good son. A mom comes in along the way. No scene exists where she bakes cookies, but we can imagine it happening. A cute youngster, played by Jackie Earl Haley, also joins the crew. Instead of throwing baseballs, he throws rocks. This completes the family unit. Two other guys are along for the ride, but they are just there to die and bring that pseudo edge to things.
Mostly, Damnation Alley is the makeshift family cruising along in their glorified RV to the rousing tunes of Jerry Goldsmith. Periodically, they are challenged by bad special effects. I do love the “bug rugs,” though. Damnation Alley doesn’t capitalize on the pulpiness of the Roger Zelazny novella on which it is based. It’s more like a skewed Swiss Family Robinson adventure. It is somewhat entertaining, occasionally giving glimpses of what it could have been, but mostly it’s a meandering road movie.
Well, that’s an hour and a half of my life I’ll never get back!
Hammy performances, below-average special effects, and totally ridiculous scenarios. The scene where Paul Winfield attempts to escape killer cockroaches by climbing into a broken-down car that he can’t escape from is beyond laughable… “Keegan, his face black, his eyes bulged, his body eaten.”
Some will say that I’m being a tad harsh on the special effects, but let’s remember, in 1977 we got Close Encounters and Star Wars. Yes, Close Encounters had a much bigger budget but let’s not forget that Damnation Alley had a budget of $8m, which is just $3m less than what Lucas had. This is either a testament to George Lucas’ genius or a perfect example of how low the bar was set for this movie.
It gets a half-star for the sole reason of inspiring Elon Musk to make the Cybertruck.
I really like Damnation Alley. Always have. I first saw it with my older brother in 1980 or ’81 and it made an impression on me at the time. So of course I have a soft spot for it. How can you not love the Landmaster? The vehicle and film obviously have a big influence on the later book series Deathlands, by Jack Adrian. Post-nuclear war landscapes and dangers? I’m in.
Film Club Week 9
So there you have it Outposters, another week completed for Film Club. Let us know what you think of Damnation Alley in the comments below. Also, we want more recommendations as we are about to embark on Week 9 – so let us have them!
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