Sunday, July 19, 2015

In short: The Force on Thunder Mountain (1978)

A father – let’s call him Horatio because the film never bothers to give the poor guy a name – (Christopher Cain) takes his son Rick (Todd Dutson) and their dog on a week-long hiking trip for bonding reasons. Because Horatio isn’t the brightest, he decides the perfect place for introducing Rick to wilderness life is the area around and on Thunder Mountain, a supposedly cursed place that is avoided by everyone, and has been avoided since pre-Colonial times.

So, not surprisingly, strange and rather dangerous things happen to the hikers: winds out of nowhere blow their camp away, trees just fall down to smash them, lines are cut, and disembodied voices tell Rick to go away. Dad isn’t too bothered by these occurrences, though, and even when one step in the woods suddenly teleports them into a desert, his reaction afterwards isn’t to grab his son and flee for less creepy places, but to declare they’ll really have to check in with the forestry service and ask about this once they’ve ended their trip. Did I mention that Horatio is an idiot?

Things come to a dramatic head when the grandfatherly alien living on the mountain who is responsible for everything (James Lyle Strong) kidnaps Rick to teach him about the Force (oh yes) and yap a lot (and I mean a lot) of other nonsense. All the while, Horatio is spending days in the wilderness looking for Rick without going for help. Seriously. Well, at least someone will learn a valuable lesson once the alien has taught Rick how to use an all-powerful thought translator, one hopes.

Ah, local US filmmaking, how did I miss your unique ability to bore me to death and astonish me in the same film! I have to admit, though, The Force does quite a bit more boring than astonishing, what with it consisting of about 30 percent of library animal footage complete with Horatio monologuing science facts (which I’m sure has nothing at all to do with the fact that director Peter B. Good was involved in a TV show called “Animal World”), 30 percent footage of our heroes strolling through the woods or singing (shudder), and 30 percent of an elderly alien babbling nonsense. The final ten percent do have their moments though, with the really wonderfully strange scene when our heroes just teleport into the desert, some reasonable cool UFO footage, and even one or two sequences that actually make atmospheric use of the impressive forest in Utah where this was shot.

That’s not exactly much to keep a boy (or girl) awake for 90 minutes, of course, but to me, long and pointless scenes of people slogging through nature do tend to have a degree of attraction only explicable by my being a town boy, so there’s that to be said for the film too. I also found the film’s treatment of the whole alien business somewhat charming in its naive kids (or desperately stupid adults) movie kind of way. And if that still doesn’t sound like I recommend The Force on Thunder Mountain half-heartedly to anyone able to find it and then sit through it, I sure don’t know what to add.

1 comment:

martyn bishop said...

The Force On Thunder Mountain makes perfect sense really as it's probably what's really going on in such places! Plenty of aliens about that's for sure! Nice scenary anyway!