Lt. Jake Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Major Eugene ‘Sam’ Denton (George Peppard) work at the 123rd Strategic Missile Wing at Tipton Air Force Base in California. During their shift they receive a communication stating that there are incoming missiles. They are instructed to intercept. They launch their missiles. Only forty percent of the incoming missiles are destroyed. The rest hit various areas in the United States. The attack signals the start of World War III. The war devastated the planet and tilted it on its axis.
After the war ends Tipton Air Force Base houses the survivors of the 123rd Wing. Denton and Tom Perry (Kip Neven) are working on two Air Force Landmasters getting them ready for travel. Tanner and another man, Keegan (Paul Winfield) have resigned their commission but still reside at the base. The base is in the command of General Landers (Murray Hamilton). Despondent about the future Landers recklessly causes a fire that blows up the base. The only survivors are Tanner, Denton, Keegan and Perry.
For the past two years the base had been receiving radio transmissions from an area near Albany, New York. The transmissions are automatically sent. Not knowing whether or not anyone is still there, Denton decides that they must travel there and find out for sure if any of humanity survived outside of the four of them. With Denton and Tanner in one Landmaster and Keegan and Perry following in the second Landmaster the tiny caravan heads East from California to New York over treacherous territory dubbed Damnation Alley to find out for sure if anyone is on the other end of the transmissions.
“Damnation Alley” was released in 1977 and was directed by Jack Smight. It is a science fiction post-apocalyptic film that was loosely based on the 1969 novel by Roger Zelazny.
The special effects are not very good but there are some interesting stock-footage of nuclear explosions. The Landmasters are cool but everything else is really bad back screen or lame superimposed images. The Landmasters are armored troop carriers with a hinged middle section and four-wheel mechanisms made up of three rotatable smaller wheels. The custom-built vehicles were constructed by automobile designer Dean Jeffries and cost $350,000. Outside of the Landmasters the best part of the film was the man-eating cockroaches. I remember that scene more than anything else from the first time I saw the film.
The cast is decent and there are a couple cast changes throughout the film that turn it from a post disaster military trek to a nuclear-family style survival film.
It’s not the best post-apocalyptic movie but there is something enjoyable about it. Meant to be a blockbuster it ended up being a “B” movie. Delays in completing the film meant that it was released the same year as “Star Wars” 1977. Reportedly, the film used stock footage from “Operation Crossbow” 1965 and “Earthquake” 1974. The film may not have risen to cult status, but it does have its fans.