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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Damnation Alley [Blu-ray]

 

(Jack Smight, 1977)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Warner

Video: Shout! Factory

 

Disc:

Region: A-locked! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:31:18.264

Disc Size: 32,929,445,613 bytes

Feature Size: 25,845,454,848 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.13 Mbps

Chapters: 11

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 12th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 9216 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 9216 kbps / 24-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio English 4728 kbps 6.1 / 48 kHz / 4728 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 6.1-ES / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary with Paul Maslansky

Survival Run (11:34 - 1080P) - a look at the challenges of adapting the celebrated novel with co-screenwriter Alan Sharp

Road to Hell (13:22 - 1080P) Producer Jerome M. Zeitman  details the process of making the film and the difficulties along the way

Landmaster Tales (10:14 in 1080P) - a detailed examination of how the now-famous, Landmaster vehicle from the film with Stunt co-ordinator and car designer Dean Jeffries

Theatrical trailer + TV Spot (2:52 in 1080P)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: The world is devastated by a nuclear holocaust, causing the Earth to tilt on its axis and bringing vast meteorological chaos. As the weather stabilizes, mutated insects start to emerge, preying on the survivors. The surviving crew at a U.S. Air Force bomb shelter in the Mojave Desert picks up radio signals coming from Albany. The commander, Major Eugene Denton (George Peppard, The A-Team), unveils two armored vehicles he has constructed and announces a plan to cross Damnation Alley, the hundred-mile-wide strip between areas of radiation hazard, to join the survivors. They set off, taking on two civilians, a novice singer they find in the ruins of Las Vegas and a wild teenager (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen), along the way. The journey is also beset by giant mutated cockroaches, storms and crazed survivalists, making for some hair-raising escapes in this post-apocalyptic thriller.

 

 

The Film:

Insanely jettisoning the Hell's Angel protagonist of Roger Zelazny's cult novel of a post-holocaust odyssey, this dire slice of uninspired sci-fi tracks an amphibious armoured truck from a California missile base cross-country towards the source of taped signs of life in Albany, NY. Military redneck Peppard and rebel Vincent gather a model post-nuclear family (one black, one woman, one kid) like tokens en route, hampered by appalling process work and by derivative confrontations with mutant mountain men and man-eating cockroaches. A real mess.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

20th Century-Fox borrows a survival script from Universal—along with their star director (Jack Smight) and contract player (George Peppard). Peppard leads a group of World War III survivors (Jan-Michael Vincent, Dominique Sanda, and Paul Winfield) from the Nevada desert to the last outpost of civilization, which is, ironically enough, Albany, New York. The usual Universal limitations apply, although this imitation of the formula is often more fun than the real thing. Adapted from a novel by Roger Zelazny.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr at the Chicago Reader located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Damnation Alley doesn't look stellar on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory. It's a dual-layered transfer but the bitrate is modest but all said and done I doubt this could look significantly better. With limitations in effects - which can seem highly transparent in 1080P - it doesn't benefit the film's suspension of disbelief. Large Scorpions and swarms of cockroaches are less frightening but the charm of the sci-fi encounters (both with Jan-Michael on motorbike) are still there. Some close-ups can look more impressive and the explosions and apocalyptic sky are 'B' grade but suit the presentation. Grain is less visible and skin tones have some warmth. There is no real depth. While this doesn't look outstanding - it's less the fault of the transfer and more the original production. I still imagine this is a notable step-up from SD.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Shout! Factory augment the film's audio with two outrageous lossless tracks - an dynamic linear PCM 7.1 track at a monstrous 9216 kbps and the option of a DTS-HD Master 6.1 at 4728 kbps. Those with more attuned ears might be able to distinguish the artificial bumps but for purists there is also a simple stereo track. There are plenty of sound effects for the tracks HD tracks to gobble up and spit out in various separations and unnatural depth. There are no subtitle options and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region A-locked.

 

Extras :

Shout! Factory supply a modest audio commentary with producer Paul Maslansky. He's been involved in quite a few films - like Circle of Iron and the marvelous Walter Hill/Bronson flick Hard Times. He recalls some details about production of Damnation Alley that some may find interesting. There are also 3 featurettes - running over 30-minutes in total. Survival Run takes a look at the challenges of adapting the celebrated novel with co-screenwriter Alan Sharp, Road to Hell has producer Jerome M. Zeitman detailing the process of making the film and the production hurdles along the way and Landmaster Tales is a detailed examination of the now-famous, Landmaster vehicle from the film with Stunt co-ordinator and car designer Dean Jeffries. There is also an HD Theatrical trailer running with a TV Spot.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Despite the strength of the novel - I doubt anyone was expecting masterpiece status from Damnation Alley. It's highly imperfect but carries the air of survivalist-apocalypse adventure which can lead one down a rather hokey road. The film is really not that bad if you give over to it a bit but the Blu-ray produces an unremarkable image - that is probably a characteristic of the theatrical and production limitations. Shout! Factory have given a solid effort with the included commentary and featurettes. Keeping your expectations low on both film and transfer fronts would probably be the most successful course of action for a decent 'B' style night in the home theater. You could do worse. 

Gary Tooze

July 7th, 2011


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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