Two US Airforce missile officers Denton (George Peppard) and Tanner (Jan Michael Vincent) turn up to work and today it's not a drill. ICBMs are incoming and they receive the order to launch and intercept. This is only partially successful and many major US cities are destroyed. The first ten minutes are similar to the start of WarGames, except the missiles are real, the men turn their keys and no one appears to give a toss.
The Earth is ravaged by climate change, intense storms, attractive red skies and large mutant arthropods. Safely ensconced in their bunker, the men survive until a stray fag causes an explosion. Fortunately, two cool multi-wheeled vehicles - Landmasters, have been hidden away for holocausts and the four who are left, take to the desert. They're on their way to Albany where a radio signal is constantly broadcast. After a bad storm, only one Landmaster is left and they stop off in Las Vegas. The lovely but often screaming Janice (Dominique Sanda) turns up, which means that Paul Winfield who is black, must die. The killer cockroaches get him whilst he's pumping gas. They pick up young Billy (Jackie Earle Haley) on the way and the family unit is complete.
Damnation Alley would have been released a year earlier were it not for the post-production work on the sky effects in every outdoor scene. Some other minor sci-fi film called Star Wars came out that year too and rather over-shadowed this unbelievable $17M 'blockbuster'. Not at all based on a novel by Roger Zelazny, the plot feels thin and the film never gets going. Zelazny thought it was crap too. The Landmaster is easily the best thing in it and it's still on the road (Google it), unlike Jan Michael Vincent's career.
They encounter ugly, threatening rednecks that are easily dispatched and nothing more remarkable happens. The climate suddenly clears itself up and they get to Albany and meet some nice normal, middle-class people. Music by the great Jerry Goldsmith with some funky synth.