[thechat] S A T Movies

deacon b. web at master.gen.in.us
Tue Jul 8 02:34:50 CDT 2003

> My personal all-time favourite is one called 
> "Damnation Alley"-- it had this really terrible 
> actor called jan-michael vincent,some of the 
> "breath-taking" special effects included a really
> cool looking truck and a  scene where mutant 
> cockroaches eat a human being alive....

Roger Zelazny wrote a wonderful story about an 
outlaw biker named "Hell Tanner". It was his real 
name. When he was born, his mother died, and 
when they asked his father what to name him, he 
said "Hell!" and walked out of the hospital, never to 
be seen again. Hell Tanner had his name tattooed 
across his hand, one letter per knuckle. 

But in the movie, Tanner didn't have a first name.

In Zelazny's story, Mr. Denton, who is secretary of 
Traffic of the nation of California, offers Tanner the 
choice of prison or of trying to drive across the 
country to deliver Hoffakine serum to the citizens of 
Boston, who were dropping like flies. Since the 
apocalypse, there were terrible winds which made 
flying impossible, and even radio communications 
were pretty iffy. A guy from Boston died trying to 
bring in the appeal for help, and it was pretty likely 
that anyone trying the return run would die. 

In the movie, Tanner (Jan Michel Vincent) was 
apparently in the military and he, along with Major 
Denton (George Peppard) are on a Sunday jaunt in 
search of communities that might have survived. Or 
maybe they are just taking a Sunday drive. It isn't 
really clear that there is any urgency involved.

In Zelazny's story, there are three vehicles, each 
with two drivers - except that Tanner wounds his 
brother Denny, who is supposed to be his co-driver, 
out of concern for his safety. All right then, he is told, 
you drive alone. They get to the plains states and 
there are terrible tornadoes. Everybody batten down 
the hatches, comes the order. Not me, says 
Tanner. I ain't gonna be no sitting duck. I want to 
outdrive these suckers. Try it and we'll burn you, 
warns the commanding officer in another vehicle. 
Not when it's less than obvious that you're right and 
I'm wrong. Tanner takes off and the other vehicles 
are never heard of again.

It's a big ATV in the movie, more cutesy than 
terrifying, and it has all the comforts of home. 
Maybe it has more. 

In the novel, the vehicle breaks down, and Tanner 
gets the spares out of the trunk. Not spare tires. 
Bikes. Eventually, Hell has to fight the Studs MC, 
who thinks he's got a nice bike, and doesn't believe 
in his story about the serum. He wipes out most of 
the gang, except for Cornelia, aka Corny, a bimbo 
who is good for relaxation. 

No sex in the movie, best I can remember. IMDB 
says that Dominique Sanda was in the credits, but 
darned if I can remember her.

In the Zelazny movie, he ends up making it to 
Boston after fighting all sorts of menaces, ranging 
from good citizens to bikers to mutated animal 
monsters. The citizenry is pleased, and they put up 
a statue in his honor. At the unveiling, however, it 
turns out that the statue has been defaced - by 

Hell of a great book. Roger Zelazny can really write. 
George Lucas could *really* make a great movie 
from this one. Jack Smight directed some good stuff 
before he did this one - he did Midway, Airport 1975, 
The Secret War of Harry Frigg, Harper, and a lot of 
good TV including Hitchcock, McCloud, Banacek, 
Madigan, Naked City, Twilight Zone - but only six 
movies in the 12 years after he made Damnation 
Alley in 1977, and all of them were highly 

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