Friday, May 15, 2015

get to truck.

To celebrate (OK cash in on and therefore hopefully get some new readers) the release of the bloke-baiting Mad Max: Fury Road let's take a look back at another road based, post-apocalyptic pot boiler featuring things with wheels.

Damnation Alley (1977)
Dir: Jack Smight.
Cast:  Jan-Michael Vincent, George Peppard, Dominique Sanda, Paul Winfield, Kip Niven and Jackie Earle Haley.

"Bomb or no bomb, the lights never go out in Vegas!"



Welcome to the US Airforce's best kept secret, an ICBM base cunningly disguised as a collection of garden sheds some place in the sunny Mojave Desert where moustachioed military Major Eugene Denton (pity poor Peppard having to slum it to pay his wife's alimony) and his rebellious rookie sidekick Tanner (grizzled Airwolf star Michael Vincent) spend their days marching up and down corridors and looking intently at a series of randomly flashing lights whilst wearing fancy white cravats and Kwik-Fit overalls.

Paul and Barry Chuckle: The Nuremberg Years.


It's not all hard work tho' as they do get to occasionally hang out with Kev Keegan (Star Trek II's Winfield), the bases security chief cum artist whose obsession with painting Denton's wife (or is it Denton?) naked borders on the obscene.

But just when you think the movies going to take a turn into paint covered multiracial tit wanking territory Russia decides to start World War III and nuke America.

Arse.

Not wanting to spoil the habit of a lifetime when it comes to world wars our Yankee cousins wait a little bit (well until Albuquerque has been nuked) before joining in the fight and it's not long before the Earth dies screaming in a searing haze of disco lights, atomic test film and stock footage from The Guns of Navarone, all played out to an eerie electronic proto-jazz score courtesy of Jerry Goldsmith.

On crack.

Cue your friendly neighbourhood title cars to explain that as well as mutating scorpions and turning the sky into a giant laser light show, the combined nuclear explosions have also tilted the Earth off its axis.

Which is nice.

Luckily for the plot our heroes base is safe, enabling the few bold survivors to carry on doing all that military stuff for no apparent reason other than an almost psychotic obsession with finally making all the lights on the control panels flash in unison.

Except that is for Denton who spends his time tinkering away in the garage, assisted by the only slightly moustached Lt. KT Perry (teevee stalwart Niven) and the by now air force drop-out Keegan, who's taken to shoddily painting tropical landscapes on the outside of his shed and Tanner who fills his day by wildly driving around the desert annoying the local giant scorpions.

It's a living I guess.

If not very exciting to watch.

"Fuck me! It's Fred Titmuss!"

It's a good job then that one of the airman, enjoying a post wank fag accidentally sets light to a jazz-mag which just happens to be resting against a pipe that says  "WARNING:FLAMMABLE GAS" in big letters down the side.

Massive explosions and more stock footage ensues leaving only our feebly fleshed out foursome standing.

Or in Jan Michael Vincent's case leaning drunkenly against a wall.

But fear ye not, for Denton and Perry have been building two pimped to fuck silver (I.E. futuristic) highly armed transit vans, christened Landmasters with the intention of driving to Albany where Denton is sure a group of survivors live.

This is probably more likely than it seems, I've been to Albany and I can assure you it's not even worth shitting on let alone wasting an atomic bomb on, even the birds fly past upside down.

So our heroes, like a gaggle of sci-fi pikeys set out across the radioactive desert in the vain hope of finding the last remnants of humanity.

Or at the very least a field to park in.

"Wanna buy some pegs Dave?"


Almost immediately (it's as if the director is scared we'll get bored if there are more than five minutes of dialogue on screen between the action) our motley band drive headlong into a terrifying tornado-style storm.

Yikes.

Tanner, being a wee bit of a rebel decides to carry on regardless whilst the more by the book Perry pulls over to the side of the desert to consult the Landmaster manual.

This turns out to be a fairly bad decision as poor Perry has only gotten as far as how to set the dashboard clock before the storm has picked up the Landmaster and deposited it upside down halfway up a hill.

And unfortunately on Perry's head.

As a plus point this does mean that for the first time in cinematic history it's not the token black guy that died first.

Tho' an actor of Paul Winfield's calibre was probably hoping to get out sooner rather than later.

"You mean this van isn't full of sweets?"

There's no time for tears tho' as the next stop is fabulous Las Vegas, where quite surprisingly (and to Hunter S Thompson's utter joy I imagine) the Circus Circus is still all lit up and pumping Tom Jones thru' the tannoy system.

I would expect nothing less from the hotel I got married from.

Keegan and Tanner, relieved at finally getting some fresh air after days of wallowing in each others farts (and trust Me Jan Michael Vincent's taste of egg) race thru' the casino with gay abandon pausing only to chance their luck on the puggy machines whilst dashing Denton stand atop the stairs, hands on hips and with a clearly visible erection, gazing down on his boys with all the decorum of former Labour MP Lord Janner at an orphanage.

"Merde
  dans les cuisses de grenouilles mah bouche gourmands!
"


Suddenly as if from nowhere a curtain wearing, long of face yet smooth of thighed French woman appears and introduces herself as club singer cum exotic bird (and last non mouldy woman in Vegas) Ms. Janice (Sanda from, um some French stuff).

Which is a bit of a shock for our heroes as they were expecting Cher.

Or at the very least Lance Burton.

She soon explains that she managed to survive the war because she was giving the manager a private performance in his handy fallout shelter when the bombs went off.

Typical fucking blonde.

Being real gentlemen our tricky trio offer to take Janice all the way (to Albany, not up the arse obviously) but first have to stop in Salt Lake City to get some petrol.

Oh and crisps.

Arriving at their destination (in what seems like a matter of minutes) Tanner and Janice head into town of his motorbike to look for 'women's stuff' whilst Keegan checks the abandoned cars for any discarded chocolate or cans of Tizer leaving Denton to stand about looking manly whilst sucking on a cigar.

It's whilst on this snack hunt that Keegan notices how strangely clean the human bones are within the cars.

It's almost as if the set has been littered with bits of cheap Halloween skeleton toys.

Well either that or the place is full of fist sized flesh eating cockroaches but really what are the chances of that?

We'll soon find out cos no sooner has Keegan open the petrol hatch when hundreds of the black shelled buggers start swarming (do cockroaches swarm?) toward him, biting and barking wildly as they go.

Keegan finding himself pursued by what looks like loads of raisins stuck to a bit of lino jumps inside one of the cars and attempts to hide under a skeleton.

Big hunky black man, skinny white skeleton, you do the maths.

Beware the Cornetto man!


Noticing his pal's dilemma (tho' why he's admiring the make of car he's hiding in under the circumstances is anyone's guess) Denton hops into the Landmaster and pulls out that most useful of sci-fi movie weapons; a fire extinguisher.

Great, because we all know that mutant insects are allergic to foam.

That'll be why you never see them taking bubble baths then.

Unfortunately for Keegan this has absolutely no effect on the bugs, so Denton shuts the car door to muffle the screams before radioing Tanner to announce, in all seriousness:

"This whole town is infested with killer cockroaches, repeat, killer cockroaches!"

Utter fucking genius.

Relieved that they're not actually being chased by giant liquorice balls Tanner and Janice do their best to lose the bugs in the local Woolworths, taking the stairs (on a motorbike mind) in an attempt to outrun the lazier cockroaches who'll no doubt be waiting on the lift before stunt biking it thru' a first floor window in glorious seventies slo-mo action.

Ker-chow!

Waiting for them downstairs, after first blowing up a wall with a handy grenade launcher is good old Denton smoking a big cigar and standing manfully atop a pile of foam sodden bugs.

Phew.

Tonka.


Patting each other on the back as they drive no-one seems to give a fuck that Keegan is dead, more likely Tanner realises that he's now the only hetro' guy onboard, bringing him closer to having a wee French fancy.

Dirty sod.

Denton, obviously upset by the lack of firm man-meat in the Landmaster decides that they should stop at the next town they find in the hope of coming across a young boy.

You can take that any way you like because I'm pretty sure Denton will.

Coming to a sudden halt outside a rundown shack in the middle of nowhere, Denton sniffs the air before changing into his best uniform and heading outside where, not too surprisingly, he finds a young, baw headed and buck toothed boy named Billy (Future Fred Krueger and author of Roots Haley), who's busy throwing rocks at bad men.

Result.

"That's amazing! I'm 15 and like The Saturdays too! Now get your webcam on and your clothes off!"


Adventure seems to be coming at them by the bucket load now (well at least that's all that's coming) because after the first thirty five minutes where sod all happened they appear to be finding fairly attractive survivors every couple of seconds now.

Except for this time obviously where our heroes run foul to a group of real-life, rape obsessed gypsies hiding out in a petrol station just waiting for a nice bit of prime ass to travel by.

Oh and to sell them some pegs as well.

It's only thanks to big browed Billy's amazing rock-throwing skills coupled with Janice's almost impregnable bra (oh and Tanner's ability to shoot someone in the face at point blank range obviously) that our merry band escape without so much as a violated mouth or loss of bladder control.

Denton, feeling a bit left out of all this manly fighting decides to show everyone who's boss tho' by firing a couple of rockets from the Landmaster's missile tubes at the outside toilet in which two of the gypsies were hiding.

Which I'll admit does seem a wee bit excessive even by the future A-Team leaders standards.

"Four fingers and George Peppard...never touched the sides!"


After all this rough terrain, rough justice and even rougher toilet paper it's not too surprising to find that the faithful old Landmaster has begun to make loud clanking noises and belch plumes of oily black smoke.

Looking under the hood Denton deduces that the crank-shaft and armature quimm have broken and need replacing ASAP.

If not sooner.

Luckily for all concern Denton designed and built the Landmaster to use common or garden truck parts so it's a quick detour to the wrecking yards of Detroit then all the way to Albany.

Huzzah!

Pulling into the nearest scrap palace Denton gets hard at work straight away vigorously screwing his nuts whilst Billy goes out exploring and Janice and Tanner stare into the middle distance, totally unaware that the sky has gone all red and the wind is whipping up.

Cue a low rent version of the last twenty five minutes of 2001 projected onto the clouds as Tanner, astride his beloved bike tries desperately to find little Billy whilst dodging large chunks of painted cardboard.

"Hmmmm....tastes like chicken!"


Spotting Billy having a piss behind an old corvette Tanner grabs the boy and rides back to the Landmaster just in time to see a giant tsunami engulf Detroit.

Luckily, Denton designed the Landmaster to float, giving us ample opportunity to experience the sheer joy of watching a shoddily painted cardboard box with cut-out wheels bobbing in a bath.

Noticing the huge wet patch on the seat (no it's not Janice) Denton and Tanner manfully force open the Landmasters top hatch to discover that not only has the sky has gone back to it's pre-nuke normality but from the look of things Detroit is now a lake.

Yup, the huge and impressive special effects sequence we've just experienced was, in fact the Earth tilting back to its normal axis.

Three cheers for science!

Feeling fairly elated by this turn of events Denton sets the Landmaster into 'chug' mode and heads for dry land.

I wouldn't want that swimming up my arse.

Coming ashore in what looks like a kiddies playpark and knowing the movie only has about ten minutes left, Tanner and Denton get to work on setting up a radio transmitter in the hope of contacting Albany, which luckily they do within a matter of seconds.

And guess what?

It's only a few miles down the road.

With an excited glee not seen since The Pope visited a Glasgow orphanage Tanner and Billy jump on the motorbike and head off to meet these newly christened 'Albanians' and hopefully get first dibs on any Mars bars left uncontaminated.

Gazing ruefully into the distance as they drive into the sunset, Denton uncomfortably hugs Janice who, in turn just stands there looking French.

Chinny rackon.



Meanwhile, further down the road, Tanner and Billy are amazed to pass fields of non-mutant sheep and cows, small clean faced children playing in the bushes and about thirty well dressed and healthy people ready to welcome them to their new home.

Awe.



From the director of that other classic book balls up The Illustrated Man comes this cack handed post apocalyptic action based on a novel by Roger Zelazny, which itself is loosely based on the story of Balto, a Siberian Husky sled dog who led the team on the 1925 emergency run, transporting diphtheria antitoxin from Nenana, Alaska to Nome.

Not funny but absolutely true.

In the novel, tough as nails Hells Angel Tanner is hired to deliver a load of cod liver oil tablets to somewhere inconsequential.

Due to his unbearable BO Tanner is forced into piloting the Landmaster alone; the situations and survivors he comes across during the course of the novel work to reawaken his humanity, until by the stories end and with the Landmaster totally fucked, Tanner walks the rest of the way with the serum in a backpack.

A bit like Judge Dredd did in The Cursed Earth saga remember?




With such a great (and highly pilfered) concept and top pedigree it's genuinely frightening to see how much the movie plays out like a Childrens BBC version of Mad Max.

How could director Smight and scriptwriter Alan Sharp go so wrong?

Well adding an array colourful cardboard cliché characters doesn't help

or a Frenchwoman.

And utilising tinfoil, tea bag boxes and giving your huge survival tank a ruddy great canvas midrift is probably not the best way of going about it if I'm honest.

Oh, and getting your six year old nephew on board as scientific adviser is probably not the greatest of ideas.

"Come get in the back of me Cortina and let me bite ya!"



But to be fair there are a few enjoyable things on show.

I mean the cast are good (to a point), the deserts look nice and there's gangly love god Jan Michel Vincent  for the ladies.  

And lets be honest, what more do you want on a Sunday night?

A pity then that I watched it on a Thursday.                                                                                           

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