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"Damnation Alley" - {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Shout Factory
Genre:
Sci-Fi
Release Date:
7/13/11
Special Features:

Commentary track, featurettes, trailer Rating: PG

Review:

The end of the world ain't a pretty sight. Killer cockroaches, giant scorpions and colorfully radioactive skies that look like a bad acid trip. I suppose you could say that Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent), Major Denton (George Peppard), Keegan (Paul Winfield), Billy (Jackie Earl Haley) and Janice (Dominique Sanda) were damned from the start; these survivors of the Third World War travel the perilous "damnation alley" a 100 mile wide area free of deadly radiation (although not free of giant killer cockroaches and other critters oh my!) to the only area in the U.S. broadcasting a radio signal-- Albany, New York. ***

Based on Roger Zealzny's novel of the same name (although Zealzny immediately disowned it and it happened to be one of his least favorite novels as well)with an original screenplay (much rewritten)by Alan Sharp ("Night Moves", "Rob Roy")and directed by TV and film Jack Smight ("The Illustrated Man", "Frankenstein: The True Story")"Damnation Alley" is a guilty pleasure--a big budget "B" movie if there ever was one, the film is, at turns, absurd, enjoyable and down right silly. ***

Don't mistake my comments as suggesting this is a good movie--it's not. It is, however, a lot of fun for a variety of reasons. ***

I have fond memories of "Damnation Alley" but it falls into the category of movies so bad it's good. Featuring "B" movie star Jan Michael-Vincent, George Peppard (with the most outrageous accent one can imagine), Paul Winfield (the token African-American who is killed), Jackie Earl Haley and giant killer cockroaches, it's been a long road for "Damnation Alley" to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray but it was well worth it. ---

Image & Sound:

This deluxe edition from Shout Factory gets it right for the most part. Although the film doesn't quite get the deluxe restoration that most fans would want, this is a fine looking transfer. That's not to say it's flawless--reel cues (something you rarely see in hope video transfers today)are evident and the Sound 360 isn't here (evidently the audio tracks are in very poor shape and some no longer exist)but this is probably the best we'll ever see the film on home video and fans should be thankful that Shout did as exceptional job as they have here. The film doesn't look as ragged as it has in recent years when it was broadcast or when it first showed up on home video but it is far from what I would call blu-ray demo quality. ***

The 5.1 audio commentary presented lossless sounds quite good. ---

Special Features:

We get a good commentary track from co-producer Paul Maslansky although the most honest and direct assessment probably comes from screenwriter Alan Sharp in one of the featurettes "Survival Run" where he laments the changes to his original script and the massive amount of rewriting and re-editing the film underwent becoming something largely unrecognizable to him on the screen. ***

Dean Jeffries who designed the Landmaster talks about the design of the vehicle which I used to see by the freeway at Jeffries Automotive on Cahuenga Blvd sitting along side the vehicle that he designed for the "Logan's Run" TV series--which IS coming to DVD on Demand from Warner Home Video you'll have to go to their website to order it) waiting for someone to finally appreciate the ultimate monster truck. ***

Jerome Zeitman discusses the trials and tribulations of making the film in "The Road to Hell". ---

Final Words:

"Damnation Alley" was thought to be the big summer movie for Fox and that "Star Wars" was going to be lucky to make back the money invested in it. Ironically, the film is regarded as a classic although not in the same category or way as "Star Wars" but its failure at the box office wasn't a surprise given what we saw on screen but it's still enjoyable for what it is--a diaster movie that, well, turned out to be a bit of a disaster itself. ***

I still enjoy "Damnation Alley" (and saw it twice in theaters just because I enjoyed it's "B" movie badness and unintentionally humor) and am happy that the film has finally gotten the release it deserves.

 

 
 
 
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