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November 04, 1977 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1977-11-04

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The Michigan Daily-Friday, November 4, 1977-Page 9
McLaughlin, Shakti

'Damnation Alley'

dead ends

T MAY BE a callous overgenerali-
zation to dismiss all "disaster"
movies as inferior cinema, but such a'
classification would not be far from;
the truth. They have been, almost
without exception, over-produced
and over-acted, a celluloid demon-
stration of the consequences of too
mnany cooks. Gimmicks, like Sensur-
round, help to make these apocalyp-
tic nightmares interesting, even
enjoyable, but their artistic contribu-
tions to the film are minimal.
Damnation Alley (at the Campus)
is such a gimmick movie. However,
the Campus theatre has failed to pro-
vide the facilities for the much bally-
hooed "Sound 360" sound effects, so
the film has one serious strike
'against it even before it starts. This
inexcusable neglect (not inexcusable
to the theatre, for the ticket seller as-
cured me that the sound was "loud
enough") saps the film of any kind of
excitement or novelty it might have
contained. Phe film suffers from both
this 'predetermined viewer disap-
pointment and the nagging question
of what Damnation Alley would have
been like if it was presented as it was
-intended, not to mention the waste of
precious budget dollars for nonexist-
ent effects. Nevertheless, good films
should be able to flourish on a founda-
tion of artistic style, not gimmicks,

and Damnation Alley fails to survive
the loss of its glossy facade.
The film, however, does have its
merits. The tast of characters is kept
down to five, and as a result the
script manages to avoid that intense-
ly annoying "Hollywood stereotype
cross-section of the American pub-
lic" quality that mars other disaster
pictures. Director Jack Smight [Mid-
way, Airport 751 tries to avoid trite
interpersonal relationships and con-
centrates on action-geared special
effects. The story, for all intents and
purposes, is quite good, but Smight
almost immediately loses emotional.
contact with his material; during the
beginning holocaust scenes, in fact.
The nuclear destruction of the world,
a superb climax for many other films
[Dr. Strangelove and the New York
City of Fail Safe], is handled by
Smight with a fantasy-like aplomb
that is totally incompatible with the
THE REST OF the movie, which
concerns the cross-country adven-
ture trek of three armed forces
personnel (Jan-Michael Vincent,
George Peppard, Paul Winfield) and.
two stragglers (Dominique Sanda
and Jackie Earl Haley), ,never
manages to achieve any kind of
psychological or moral horror. In-
stead, the audience is somewhat
competently fed a series of schlock'.

shock effects designed for simple-
minded and uncomplicated shud-
Surprisingly, this treatment has its
blessings, as the viewer is spared any
of the heavy-handed proselytizing
moralism that is all too often the
hallmark of "H-Bomb" films. The
government is treated fairly, even fa-
vorably, as Peppard (the crusty
quasi-representative of the Estab-
lishment responsible for the destruc-
tion) is a sympathetic character and
the "survival vehicles" of the movie
are described more than once as mir-
acles of military technology that de-
serve the credit for the character's.
safety. Smight downplays this subtle
propaganda until it becomes almost
subliminal,' but its effects are real
and powerful. Whether this point of
view is disgusting or praiseworthy
depends on one's beliefs, but the
change of pace is undoubtedly-inter-
The special effects of the film are
largely a festival' of filters and
mattes designed to give the impres-
sion that Earth has become a
surrealistic dreamland of bizarre
- color. Sometimes the mattes are
sloppy, but the altering of the sky has
a curious, unnerving quality that
defies description. Strange weather
patterns are frightening, and the film
cleverly exploits this property. Even
though the sky looks phony, the

strange colors manage to weave just
enough of a web of believability to
lend an aura of mystery to the pro-
Damnation Alley has a minor flaw
in that it is very unscientific,
however, its most 'serious flaw is
unforgive'ble lapses into poorly
executed dramatic moments. The
"killer cockroach" scene (already a
minor classic of gross horror( is
spoiled by an excruciatingly bad line
of dialogue spoken by Peppard -
"This town is infested with killer
cockroaches!". The worst example
of these moments is the finale, which
I am sure was planned to gladden the
hearts of the-viewers but actually is
sickeningly maudlin and unrealistic.
These sporadic bad sequences, if
ironed out, would drastically im-
prove the film.
No amount of wishful thinking,
however, can compensate for the loss
of "Sound 360." It seems that the
very structure of Damnation Alley
was geared for the sound effects, so it
should come as no surprise that the
film seems shallow without them. It
is a bit unfair to blame the disap-
pointing quality of the film solely on
the absence of a new gimmick, but
the enjoyability of the movie has
been seriously lowered. Films should
be shown as they were meant to be
shown, and anything less is short-
changing both the artist and his'

rock at R
W HAT DOES the world's greatest
electric guitarist do when he
finally receives the acclaim and
kudos that his virtuosity demands?
Simple. He unplugs his axe, picks up
an acoustic guitar, and performs
with a coterie of Indian musicians
with a talent equal to his. Sound too
weird to be true? Not at all. This
happens to be the story of John
McLaughlin and his band, Shakti,
who are making the best music that
McLaughin has conceived in his
prolific career. This opinion was
aptly reaffirmed by Shakti's perfor-
mance at the Royal Oak Theatre on
What helped make Shakti such .a
powerful musical entity Sunday night
was the communication between the
performers. Shakti's musicians sat
facing each other on a small plat-
form. The physical and musical
closeness was reflected in the enthu-
siasm generated for each soloist by
the rest of the band members.
Shakti's violinist maintained pace
with McLaughlin's lightning guitar,
and earned well-deserved panegyric
from the receptive listeners. Shakti's
two percussionists, both showcased
throughout the concert, played a
variety of Indian drums, cymbals,
and various other native instruments
that defy description.
McLaughlin, the former high-
volume guitar screecher, demon-
strated why he is considered the
greatest progressive guitarist alive.
His staccato, rapid-fire solos were
almost inhuman in their brilliance.
By listening carefully, it was possible
to discern similarities between his
present acoustic music and the
electric style of his Mahvishnu
Orchestra. He played similar guitar
riffs with Cobham, Hammer, and
Goodman, but often the beauty of the
sound was mired in the wall of ear
shattering sound his former band
produced. Shakti allowed the un-
treated resonance of his acoustic
guitar to be distinctly appreciated..
SHAKTI OPENED their show with
"Dance of Happiness," a song that
maintained a rapid fire tempo
throughout its entire fifteen minute
length. "India" and "Peace of Mind"
showd a quieter side of the band's
music, as the performers opted for
soft, spiritual melodies, coupled with
McLaughlin's delicate guitar solos.

o al Oak
An interesting aspect' of Shakti's
repertoire was the band's propensity
o avoid repetition in their music.
McLaughlin and company took every
chance to execute innovative and
forceful solos at each opportunity.
Shakti's sound was conspicuously
tight, but the musicians had an extra-
ordinary amount of freedom during
each of their respective solos.
The only drawback McLaughlin
might be suffering with Shakti is
financial. Columbia, his record com-
pany, is evidently not happy with the
band's commercial accessibility,
which is relatively low due to the
genre of music Shakti performs in.
This decreased commercial accessi
bility translates into decreased rec
ord sales. Shakti's new album has
been in the store for a while now, and
Columbia is making no apparent
effort to promote it. But this is an ab-
surd reason for a person not to
explore this type of music. Shakti is
undoubtedly one of the most vibrant
and creative musical forces to
emerge in the past several years. An
opportunity to hear this music should
not be passed up.
J a c k DeJohnette's Directions
opened the evening with a set of ECM
style jazz. The group performed'a
tasty set, but their sound reproduc
tion was lost somewhere between the
microphones and the P.A. system;
which was, to be polite, inadequate.
This drawback was magnified by the
fact that ECM records (who DeJohn,,
ette records for) are undoubtedly
among the finest examples of repro
duced sound in the world. But the'
group strove to overcome these defi
ciencies and were successful for thi
most part. Often, the tunes were'
athematic and polytonal to the point
of being atonal.
MOST OF the pieces were ten to
fifteen minutes in length, and often;
drifted through several phases until,
their conclusion. Besides DeJohnettd
and his eclectic style of drumming;,
John Abercrombie played a rather,
disjointed but effective guitar that,
was undoubtedly indigenous to hii
own mind, a style not easily copied;
Overall, Direction's music turned ouf
to be a pleasant listening experience
for both the mind and the spirit,
Hopefully, the band will attempt a,
sound check before their next per.

The Dead at

their best live


HE ERA OF THE Grateful Dead
is over. Haight-Asbury is now just
another street corner in San Francisco,
not even considered a memorial,
although no one is going to be able to
build a gym there for quite a while. At
the Dead concert on Tuesday night,
Cobo hall was only half filled; that's
right, half filled.
In fact, the valiant boys in blue were
out in extra force this night and had
nothing to do. The only real deadheads I
saw were a group of six people on the
back floor who danced their hearts out
through every song and were definitely
in a state of utopia. Anyone willing to
stand out like that deserves to be men-
tioned. The average agof the crowd
sponsored by
M higan Union
6 :~
w 4 a is
(vocalist, ,comrie s, etc.)
Cuell*CBN (! ; e)
763- 01 weeksuas 9-2
for op ointment to a dition

was easily over 25. There were no punk
rockers here; these people had come to
see a band that represented an earlier
part of their lives. I heard a lot of
reminscing about Monterey Pop
Festival and Hendrix, etc., symbols of a
time gone by.'
So how was the concert? It con-
sisted of two sets, the first of which
started before 8. The first set was good
but not great; it sounded like the triple
live album recorded in Europe. Part of
the problem was that it sounded like:
Nothing outstanding, neither good or
bad, nothing to get the crowd on its feet.
Another problem was the empty seats.,
AH, BUT THE second set reaffirmed
the Dead's right to the throne of the
mystical kingdom of freakdom. Anyone
who considers themselves to be a
member of this culture should see the
Dead at least once in.their lives. Having
seen them once they will undoubtedly
make plans to see them again. I know I
Halfway thru the second set, which

was much more inspired to begin with,
the introduction to "Truckin','
released the inhibitions of the audience
and it became a true Dead concert.
Their theme song got everyone out of
their chairs and up to the front of the
stage, banners (literally) waving in the
air. The band closed out the set with
"Round and Round", and I have never
heard a better interpretation, with all
due respect to Chuch Berry.

The last few Dead albums have been
disappointing to say the least. It is in
concert that this band excells, and they
certainly did Tuesday night. The Dead
no longer represents the band of the
people; they are just a good rock and
roll band. The atmosphere as everyone
was walking out was one of satisfaction,
and "its good to see them again"
feeling. And it was. I wish I would have
had enough money for a T-shirt.

r rrr n i r rw nruririm ....

"Live At The Palladium"
7.98 series


Jewels From



I ,

Off ice of
EVENTS presents
" Sat. Nov. 5
Crisler Arena 8 pm
Reserved Seats $8.50 $7.00

Deniece Williams Tickets available at
Pockets Office in Ann Arbor,
Sun. N
Hill Au

the Michigan Union Box
Huckleberry Party Store in



ov. 6
ditorium 8 pm
ed Seats $7.50.$6.50 $5.50

Nov. 11 & 12
by Alfred Uhry & Robert Waldmar
A Musical Based Upon Eugene Labiche'
Italian Straw Hat
Nov. 13 mat. & eve

Bay City Rollers , : Sampler 5
"Rollin" "New Wave" , .


Iggy and the Stooges
"Metallic KO"

"8o1 Live"

Tickets available at the Michigan Union Box
Office in Ann Arbor, and Huckleberry Party
Store in Ypsilanti.
Lda Fri. Nov. 11
t iCrisler Arena 8 pm
Reserved Seats $8.50
Tickets are available at the Michigan Union Box
Office in Ann Arbor, Huckleberry Party Store in
Ypsilanti and all Hudsons.
Fri. Nov. 18
W 11VJ"I ill Aud. 8 pm
ReevdSeats $6 $5 $4
Tickets available at the Michigan Union Box
Office in Ann Arbor, Huckleberry Party Store in
Ypsilanti and all Hudsons.
Sat. Nov. 19
Crisler Arena 8 pm
Reserved Seats $7.50 $6.50

These 'and many more Jena Imports are


now preciously
sale priced!

k, b I "T





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