A small group of survivors at a military installation who survived World War 3 attempt to drive across the desolate wasteland to where they hope more survivors are living. Hopefully their specially built vehicles will protect them against the freakish weather mutated plant and animal life and other dangers along the way. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
The movie sat on the shelf at 20th Century Fox for some time after production was completed in 1976. Fox had high hopes for it on its release in 1977, expecting it to do better at the box office in comparison to Fox' other sci-fi release scheduled for that year... Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) See more »
Tanner's voice does not match his lips several times while riding through the junkyard. See more »
All the dead are dead - and the living are dying.
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Don't worry, those superimposed giant scorpions won't bite you
So, you've managed to survive world devastation by being inside a missile silo (after you and your fellow soldiers have reacted so stoically to the sight of incoming missiles on the screen that it might as well have been a Russian pizza delivery), but then you discover that all it takes to wipe out your giant military bunker is a sleepy soldier dropping a cigar onto a Playboy magazine (a "hot" centerfold being an aiding factor in the flames). Aw, hell, Tanner, now you gotta hit the road.
Of course, it's only been a couple of years after those radioactive nukes were dropped and the sky looks freakishly dangerous (as in VERY RADIOACTIVE), but thankfully with a lot of sunscreen and a convenient monster truck at the ready, you can head off confidently in your pursuit of a taped signal coming from Albany, New York, and hopefully there you'll find a home able to withstand the lethal force of a burning porno magazine. The leader of the expedition looks suspiciously like George Peppard, but his southern accent makes you wonder. Along for the ride is Paul Winfield, to give the black audience their token, always with the caveat that the black supporting actor in horror/sci-fi films will NOT get the girl and will NOT survive. The girl will be played by Dominique Sanda, and she, along with Jan Michael Vincent and Peppard, will provide enough wooden acting that this film will more resemble a mission of hauling lumber rather than people to Albany. Especially after the lively and un-wooden Winfield misses the rest of the ride in order to provide nutrition to an army of "killer cockroaches" (many of whom are suspiciously riding on conveyor belts--or perhaps that form of cockroach mass transit is a post-nuclear evolutionary development.... okay, just cheap effects).
But what trip through the lonely desert is complete without some "human cockroaches" who are in the mood to devour Miss Sanda. Get out yer banjo's, Sonny-Jim, it's the Mountain Man Raping Hour. Oops, forgot to mention the ugly kid (Jackie Earle Haley) that got picked up by our heroes along the way. He knows how to throw a rock and helps save the day (and Miss Sanda's virtue). Unfortunately, the kid only throws rocks at the actors and not at the director or writers, who are more deserving (of really big rocks, I might add). I assume original author Roger Zelazny would like to toss a few himself for the stealing of his title (well, they certainly DIDN'T steal his book... but then Zelazny's novel had the nerve not to provide the producers with Killer Cockroaches or Truck-Stop Rapists). Aw heck, even with those two odd set-piece detours, this trip is resembling nothing more than a weekend drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (with an acid-trip sky, so perhaps it's more like Hunter Thompson's weekend drive). Why not finish it off with a big storm scene and throw a toy version of that monster truck into the studio tank.
Well, it's been a long trip and Peppard has mapped it out (calling his route 'Damnation Alley' hence the cool title) and all have accepted it, even though Peppard hasn't been out of that bunker since the holocaust but somehow knows this carefully defined route (and is unperturbed by the notion that the gasoline they'll need during the trip would have turned to varnish after sitting for years). At the end of it will be Albany and people and a big banner that reads YOU MISSED US, RUSSKIES! Wouldn't you be shocked to discover that you were sitting in that bunker all that time when you could've been in Albany where not only is there no devastation, but time has gone backwards and the city now resembles the land of Andy Hardy or Leave It To Beaver? Surprisingly, you also discover this is actually a 20th Century Fox film, instead of the usual cheesy AIP/New World Roger Corman film-slop that it resembles. And Fox thought THIS was the big sci-fi film on its slate for 1977. Woe to those who saw this when it opened a few months after Star Wars (myself sadly included). But now it's cheesy relic that is only a reminder of what NOT to do, sci-fi filmwise. Still, there is some accidental twistedness to this saga, especially when you first see Vincent roaring through the dunes on his motorbike with a passenger strapped to him. We see at one point it's a real woman, but Vincent tosses her off to escape from those process shot scorpions (the filmmakers "process" being state-of-the-art....back in 1910) and we find out it was a mannequin (can you say "goof"?). Then later, Vincent does a bike stunt with Sanda aboard and skids to a stop, and we notice that the stunt rider has a female mannequin for a passenger, not a stunt double. Strangely, this mannequin gives one of the better performances. And sadly, in the days before straight-to-video sequels, we never got to see 'Damnation Alley 2: Tanner's European Vacation.'
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