The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘Damnation Alley’

Jack Smight‘s 1977 feature, Damnation Alley is a movie I recall l fondly from when I was growing up.  It’s (very) loosely based upon a novel by Roger Zelazny, and while it’s an entertaining movie, it’s not a particularly good one.

I while I don’t know how the movie was filmed, it feels epic and looks massive (which had a lot to do with the excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith which managed to be bold and at the same time minimal enough that it didn’t take over).

Events take place after a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  You’re never told who started the conflict or why, though like W.O.P.R. said, “The only way to win is not to play.”

Unfortunaely for these guys, War Games came out in 1983, so they erred on the side of mutually assured destruction.  The United States is devastated and most of the land reduced to desert, while the sky is irradiated and angry with aurora borealis.

Though on what I assume is the last remaining military installation everything life goes on.  Maj. Eugene Denton (George Peppard) is in command, and is military through and through, while Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Keegan (Paul Winfield) don’t see the point of playing soldier any longer, so the former spends his time riding about the desert on his motorcycle, dodging giant scorpions (because radiation does nothing else if not create giant versions of things) while the latter  works on a mural.

While on the base, someone falls to sleep with a lit cigarette, causing the destruction of the outpost.  Major Denton uses this moment to unveil the Army’s latest, and perhaps last, weapons: LandMaster 1 and LandMaster 2.

Assuming that there were areas of the United States free of radiation the vehicles set off into an uncertain future.

As I said prior, Damnation Alley isn’t a particularly good movie, but it is an interesting one and well worth remaking mainly for one reason:  The Landmasters.

If you’ve seen movies like the Transformers or Tron: Legacy, an integral part of those film is the fetishization of technology, which the Landmaster was in its time, and could be again.

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