The Force On Thunder Mountain
Cast: Christopher Cain, Todd Dutson, Borge West
I miss American National Enterprises. In the late 70s to
the early 80s,
they were responsible for introducing to late night television some of
the cheapest, cheesiest, and most obscure movies ever, both of their
creation and what they picked up to distribute. Though out of business
now, you can still see their movies occasionally. The first time I
across one of their movies, I knew I was in for something
shabby, by the fact they ripped off their logo from Republic Pictures.
(What a source to rip off from!) Bad as their movies (except for Didn't
You Hear) might be, there is usually something about them
makes them kind of fun to watch for fans of obscure movies - if you
at them just the right way.
The Force On Thunder Mountain is one of
their few movies
to have made it to video. Watching it, I have to wonder if it received
any kind of release, because it's barely a movie. It's really a
production; only five people ever appear in the movie, it's set in the
wilderness where it's less of a hassle to plunk down a camera and start
shooting, the almost non-existent props could have been taken out of
actors' closets, and there's only about twenty minutes worth of story,
patched together with endless reels of stock footage. The desperation
is the most interesting part of the movie, but at the same time it
clear that the makers of this movie could barely do anything, and
could only do the slimmest excuse for a story. Maybe this explains why
there is no writing credit of any kind in the opening credits.
The story (what there is of it) starts somewhere in the
(the credits thank the Uintah and Wasatch National Forest Service) in
where two fully toothed prospectors, carrying only shovels, hike up a
to search for gold. "I'm tired!" exclaims one. "Bull feathers!"
the other. A rock slide scares them away, and the scene ends. There is
absolutely no point for this introduction to be here, because we are
later in the movie (which takes place in modern times) about how for
of years, spooky events from Thunder Mountain have scared away Indians
and settlers. On the other hand, maybe there is a point to this scene
all; one of the actors playing the prospectors did double duty on this
movie, being an executive producer. Maybe he demanded something a
extra for his investment.
These stories haven't scared off Christopher Cain's
character, who is
listed just as "Father" in the credits. Back home, work had hurt his
with his son Rick (Dutson), so he thinks that a vacation for just the
of them in a spooky place will do the job. Father is a strange
looking around and flashing his pearly whites all the time, and
at random various statements. When they get out of the car in the
of the woods, Father shouts, "Gosh, this is really fantastic!" He isn't
afraid to shout "Gosh..." this and "Gosh..." that throughout the movie.
This isn't the only clue that he's short in the brain department; he
strange deductions during their hike when weird things start to happen.
When he and Rick hear a voice clearly groaning, "GOOOOO.......
he says "It's just the wind." When Rick shows him a fossilized six-toed
footprint, Father says in a matter of fact voice, "Well, it's not
for a human to have six toes."
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The two of them, with
Jake the family
pooch, start off on their journey. (It's not explained how they fit
food for the pooch in their small backpacks, let alone sleeping bags
food for themselves, but what the hell.) "That's where we're going,"
Father, pointing. We get a shot of Thunder Mountain - DAAAAAAHHH!!!!!
soundtrack blares. Rick also gets into the spirit by also saying,
then adding, "it sure is a long way!". We get the same shot of Thunder
Mountain once again, and once again DAAAAAAHHH!!!!! the
There are two more instances where we see that shot and
hear DAAAAAAHHH!!!!! on
the soundtrack, but I'm getting ahead of myself again. Father, Rick,
Jake start their hike. "Look, an eagle!" We see several minutes of
stock footage. Not long later, "Look there - cougar cubs!" We see
minutes of stock footage of cougar cubs. Soon after, "Look, coyote
We see several minutes of stock footage of coyote pups. Then even
think you get the idea. This movie is packed with stock footage that
even more washed-out than the surrounding footage (though there's
enough to be called "surrounding".) The stock footage isn't just nature
footage - when Rick sees a U.F.O. going behind the mountain, it's
from Invaders From Mars. When the mysterious bearded man
living on Thunder Mountain tells Rick of his extra-terrestrial origins,
the flashback footage of his crashing flying saucer is rendered by
footage of an atomic bomb.
I'm ahead of myself again. Oh, what the hell - there
really wasn't much
more in-between than stock footage, except for several incidents where
Father, Rick, and Jake get into mysterious and spooky situations (such
as briefly warping into a desert and back again) that would have had
sane person fleeing back to civilization after going through two such
at the most. Plus, I doubt you'll ever find - or even want to see -
movie. When Rick's stupidity gets him separated from Father near the
he encounters the truth when he meets Om, that mysterious bearded man
really an alien. Turns out he crashed nearby a thousand years ago, was
stranded on Earth, and had been doing all these mysterious things to
away people from the mountain all of this time. Um, if he was stranded,
then what's the explanation for that U.F.O. that's been around for at
90 years? Om then shows Rick a stone toadstool that can do magical
like burn and unburn a bush, and cut down and put back up a tree, both
done by reversing the footage. (Is this device a "magic mushroom"?) Om
keeps Rick for a day to teach him how to use "the force", as it's
here, because he wants a successor to learn this power. These scenes
reek of child molestation, with such stuff as the two sleeping next to
each other and Om uttering stuff like, "Tomorrow, you'll feel
One thing I never understood about all of this is if Om wanted a
why was he scaring everyone off all of this time? Or why didn't he just
walk to civilization?
Make no mistake about it; The Force On Thunder
a bad movie. I'm certainly not recommending it. But if you look at it
that angle of sheer desperation, it can be interesting at times to
You wonder what everyone - the actors, the director, the producers, and
everyone else - was thinking during the making of it. Did they think
could put this in theaters? What market was this intended for? What
to the people involved here? Whatever happened to American National
They were one of a kind, and only they could have made such a movie.
for availability on Amazon (VHS)
See also: Earthbound, Seven Alone, Star Kid