Theme Song: Choke Canyon was originally released in Europe as On Dangerous Ground. The Mike+The Mechanics song “Silent Running” was retitled “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” and tacked on as the theme song. Youtube.
Regardless of all that, there’s some pretty righteous synth going on throughout the film. The credit is given to Sylvester Levay, also known as a founding member of German disco group Silver Convention (“Fly, Robin, Fly”).
Interesting Dated References: Answering your personal CB radio while doing bicep curls with a free-weight and not breaking pace even though you are visibly upset by the bad news you are receiving via said CB transmission.
Best Line: Any line where the scientists talk about Halley’s Comet like it’s some sort of trendy product placement.
Social Context: Choke Canyon is about an environmental scientist who thinks he can transform sound waves into energy. Unfortunately our protagonist decided to test his experiments on land rented from a nuclear power company which decided to use the land as a toxic waste dump. Oh, and also the scientists must do an experiment on the night Halley’s Comet flies over, or he’ll lose all his work.
All of that sounds like a great plot synopsis for some sort of mutant-crime-fighter-80s movie, but that’s not what the makers of Choke Canyon do. Nope, instead we just get a pretty straightforward account of a scientist’s struggle against The Man. All of these great 80s elements: Nuclear power, a comet, sound wave energy experiments … no mutants.
Summary: So here’s scientist David Lowell at work on his sound wave supercomputer. I know it’s hard to tell what’s going on because the print of this movie is fucking blurry and super dark. We’re just going to have to deal with it. David farts around with his computer and rants to some other female scientist about how he’s on the verge of creating an infinite renewable energy source.
Then we see the fat cats at Pilgrim Oil Company having a board meeting about where to dump a giant, black ball of nuclear waste. Lance Henriksen suggests they do it right on top of their property in Choke Canyon, currently being rented by Lowell.
The oil company fails at Plan A, which was to try to bribe Lowell off their land. The failure of Plan A is total bullshit because scientists accept bribes almost as easily as doctors and strippers. Plan B is to blow everything the fuck up, tear down all the buildings on the property, and force Lowell into the mountains.
Then on what seems like the following night, Lowell attacks the newly rebuilt nuclear waste facility and leaves ridiculous notes about how they need to “rebuild his equipment,” yet he never specifies which equipment or even offers a list of the needed materials.
The next day Bo Svenson is unleashed as some type of bounty hunter who tries to find the hall of the mountain-scientist-nerd king.
I’m 100% convinced the makers of this movie where trying to cash in on the Halley’s Comet hysteria that briefly engulfed America in 1985/86. They’ve reference Halley’s Comet in this movie at least 200 times.
Lowell spends the rest of the movie in that bad “Western Cowboy” costume you bought the year you thought you were going to start going to costume parties in character, but never followed through.
After several plodding minutes (including Lowell kidnapping the head of Pilgrim Oil Corp.’s daughter), Lowell flies off in a helicopter with a giant ball of “nuclear sodium,” which he intends to deliver to Congress, or something.
There are literally 45 minutes of aerial stunts as some dudes from Pilgrim Oil Corp. use a Red Baron bi-plane to try to grab the giant, dangling, black ball of nuclear sodium. Totally ridiculous.
After successfully blowing the whistle on Pilgrim Corp and delivering the giant one-ball scrotum of nuclear sodium to Congress, Lowell is able to return to his laboratory just in time to catch Halley’s Comet.
The experiment is so successful Lowell starts making out with the daughter of the Pilgrim Corp. executive, even though he has had her locked up for days and all she has been drinking is sugary soda and she clearly has not brushed her teeth.
This movie is dedicated to Richard Holley, who appears to have been some type of aerial stunt expert. This was his last credit, so that means he probably died during the filming of one of the many aerial stunts in this movie.
Poster and Box Art: Choke Canyon has a nicely painted 80s-action cover. I’m 100% surprised the artist was able to do the cover without spotlighting Halley’s Comet, which as the makers of this film wanted you to know, is featured prominently in this film.
Here’s a good example of how foreign markets will take U.S. posters and recreate them for their marketing. On the left is an U.S. poster for Choke Canyon, and on the right is a German poster featuring a very similar repainted composition. The biggest difference seems to be the woman in the lower left.
Availability: Choke Canyon is available on DVD through Code Red DVD. It looks like they even got some bonus footage and interviews. No word on interactive menus.