Sunday, July 11, 2010

Damnation


I watched Damnation Alley. I'd actually somehow never seen it before.

I sat down here with the intention of writing something about it, but it's so boring. It's hard to think. George Peppard is boring, playing a boring character. Jan-Michael Vincent is rather charmless as Lt. Jake Tanner, the emasculated version of Hell Tanner, the anti-hero of the original novel Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny. Even Jackie Earle Haley bored me.

The only things that didn't bore me completely were Paul Winfield and the Landmasters, the badass vehicles they use to cross the country.

It takes its episodic nature from the novel, but frankly isn't able to squeeze a drop of drama from any of its episodes.

And that's what I can think of.

Then I stumbled into this post, Hell & Damnation: Looking at Zelazny’s out-of-print novel Damnation Alley (and the movie and what that should have been, somewhat), which says most of what I'd say if I could have brought up the energy.

I may try to wash the taste out by revisiting Hardwired, the tribute to Zelazny's book by Walter Jon Williams that has been a long time favorite of mine.


8 comments:

Ivan said...

Yowza! Thanks for the shout-out; you rule!
--Ivan
P.S. Holy moley, the word verification wants me to type in "pricks." Okey-dokey!

Neil Sarver said...

My pleasure. It was a great post.

Roderick Heath said...

Neil: this is, as I mentioned a few days ago on Facebook, the review of Damnation Alley from the Science Fiction Film Source Book (1985) edited by David Wingrove, written by Tony Richards:

"Author Roger Zelazny disowned this Jack Smight adaptation of his cult novel - mild stuff, Zelazny, you should have shot Jack Smight. The scene is post-Holocaust America, the hero is "Hell" Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent), a one-time soldier turned biking wide-boy (the only "wide" thing about Vincent here is his smile, certainly not the range of his talent). He and his friends live in the middle of radioactive desert, believing themselves to be the last men alive. When they pick up a radio message from Canada, they build a super-armored car to carry them across the devastated States to this last outpost of civilisation. Post-war America is a place of giant scorpions, demented hillbillies, and the worst plastic cockroaches ever to be tugged by a piece of string across a movie set by an equally demented special effects man. But the last outpost of civilisation, when Tanner and Co. finally reach it, has you baying for someone to bring the roaches back - it's a place of white picket fences, clean porches and blond, smiling children. Unless you're very young or very old, the tweeness leaves you horrified, the smell of antiseptic nauseates in seconds. "Hell" has travelled all that way to end up in a Coca-Cola ad. Oh, there's also a portion of the plot which explains how Earth is going through an ecological disaster because the nuclear war has it off its axis. At the end of the movie, the Earth tips back, the sky turns blue in the time it takes you mutter Norman Rockwell, and the sun shines down just in time to catch on the mane of a white horse gambolling inexpiclably verdant roadside. It might have made a good spoof, but everyone seems to be playing it straight. The audience went comatose."

Roderick Heath said...

Neil: this is, as I mentioned a few days ago on Facebook, the review of Damnation Alley from the Science Fiction Film Source Book (1985) edited by David Wingrove, written by Tony Richards:

"Author Roger Zelazny disowned this Jack Smight adaptation of his cult novel - mild stuff, Zelazny, you should have shot Jack Smight. The scene is post-Holocaust America, the hero is "Hell" Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent), a one-time soldier turned biking wide-boy (the only "wide" thing about Vincent here is his smile, certainly not the range of his talent). He and his friends live in the middle of radioactive desert, believing themselves to be the last men alive. When they pick up a radio message from Canada, they build a super-armored car to carry them across the devastated States to this last outpost of civilisation. Post-war America is a place of giant scorpions, demented hillbillies, and the worst plastic cockroaches ever to be tugged by a piece of string across a movie set by an equally demented special effects man...

Roderick Heath said...

But the last outpost of civilisation, when Tanner and Co. finally reach it, has you baying for someone to bring the roaches back - it's a place of white picket fences, clean porches and blond, smiling children. Unless you're very young or very old, the tweeness leaves you horrified, the smell of antiseptic nauseates in seconds. "Hell" has travelled all that way to end up in a Coca-Cola ad. Oh, there's also a portion of the plot which explains how Earth is going through an ecological disaster because the nuclear war has it off its axis. At the end of the movie, the Earth tips back, the sky turns blue in the time it takes you mutter Norman Rockwell, and the sun shines down just in time to catch on the mane of a white horse gambolling inexpiclably verdant roadside. It might have made a good spoof, but everyone seems to be playing it straight. The audience went comatose."

Neil Sarver said...

That is indeed a wildly entertaining review. Thank you for sharing.

My only problem is that it fits with the type of review I'd been aware of before watching it, and I think they made the badness sound more entertaining than it was.

Lord knows, I've enjoyed plenty of Italian Post-Apocalypse movies that don't have much more than a couple of charismatic actors, a cool vehicle (or some other badassness), and a lot of stupidness, and they are at least crazily fun to watch, which sadly, Damnation Alley is not.

Roderick Heath said...

Well, it caused me to successfully resist renting the movie back when my video store still had videos. Oh, the bizarre cornucopia of films that vanished when the great DVD wave came to that establishment...

Smight's track record with sci-fi wasn't great - he also made The Illustrated Man which nobody liked, and the two films he'd made before this were Airport '75 and Midway. Sort of a reverse-Midas: everything he touched, no matter how promising, turned to shit.

Neil Sarver said...

My sense of caution had all but died over the years, and like I said, I hoped it'd be a fun kind of bad... but it certainly isn't.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Google Analytics