Damnation Alley the film might be politely called a travesty the Hells Angel hero has become a US Air Force officer and to the story has been added mutant cockroaches and giant scorpions, as well as a kid and a bimbo and written in along for the journey. If Damnation Alley had been made in the aftermath of Mad Max 2 (1981), the book might have fared better. With the Mad Max films, Mel Gibson created an archetype of the grim, post-holocaust loner anti-hero, which comes a great deal closer to the character in Roger Zelaznys book than the bland, squeaky-clean Tanner played by Jan-Michael Vincent does in the film. With this to draw on, the book would have come across much more acceptably and at the very least could have been blown up into a decent action movie.
However, Damnation Alley is a Grade Z film. The cast get to play out in straight-face lines like The towns infected with killer cockroaches. Dominique Sanda offers an explanation for her survival that involves being taken to bed in a fallout shelter beneath Las Vegas by a man who promised to advance her singing career at the time the bombs were dropped. The plausibility holes are frequently laughable you keep asking how come if the rest of the country is devastated, the power managed to stay on in Las Vegas, or where they keep managing to find the fuel for the journey. Dominique Sanda and in particular Jan-Michael Vincent give dull performances, while George Peppard plays with a stolidly unvarying expression. The mutant bugs look laughable, although there are some interesting laser effects added in post-production to create the burned-out skies. The ending arrived at is ludicrous because when the film finally arrives at Albany it is like a pastoral vision of Americana straight out of The Waltons (1972-81) in the midst of the wasteland. It is indicative of the film that George Peppard sets out on his mission without ever stopping to check and see whether the messages are coming from Albany, Oregon or Albany, New York.
The only other Roger Zelazny work to ever approach filming was a supposed version of his novel Lord of Light (1967), a conceptually wild work about a planet where scientifically advanced humans pose as Hindu gods, which was announced in 1979. However, this proved to be a multi-million dollar scam attempting to jump on the post-Star Wars (1977) science-fiction trend.
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