Post-nuclear Armageddon, the skies look like Yes album covers. Our small group of survivors — military men George Peppard, Jan-Michael Vincent and Paul Winfield — cruises around the wasteland in a cool LandMaster tram vehicle which is run by a Texas Instruments calculator. In their travels through “Damnation Alley,” they encounter giant scorpions, man-eating cockroaches as big as fingers (easily the hokey highlight), multiple tornadoes and wicked electrical storms.
Vincent gets to ride his motorcycle through a department store, and the whole group gets to play around in a casino, where they meet the apparent last woman on Earth (Dominique Sanda, “The Crimson Rivers”), who’s not exactly the ideal for the apparent last woman on Earth. Then-lil’ Jackie Earle Haley (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), whom they pick up later, may be prettier.
I can’t help but think that Peppard’s gruff, cigar-chewing Air Force character was a precursor to B.A. Barracus on “The A-Team.” But where that TV series was fast-paced and action-packed, this woefully out-of-date slice of speculative fiction never gets out of first gear. Who knew the apocalypse could be so dull?
Not even the participants in the bonus features can get excited about discussing the film. Dressed like he’s Popeye Doyle for Halloween, co-screenwriter Alan Sharp talks glumly about adapting Roger Zelzany’s novel. I haven’t read it, but I did read the short story that Zelzany later expanded, and it was plenty long already. Perhaps much of the movie’s deficiencies rest in the source material. —Rod Lott