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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Choke Canyon
Choke Canyon
Code Red // PG // January 1, 1986
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted September 13, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

From the director of The Gumball Rally and Cleopatra Jones And The Casino Of Gold comes 1986's Choke Canyon (or, as the onscreen title calls it, On Dangerous Ground), a goofy mix of sci-fi and desert laden action starring Stephen Collins, Lance Henriksen and Bo Svenson. Can the star of 7th Heaven beat Frank Black and an original Inglorious Bastard?

In the film Collins plays a scientist named Dr. David Lowell who wants to use the power of Hailey's Comet to develop a source of limitless energy to make the world a better place. He's got a nice little set up out in the middle of nowhere in Choke Canyon. All is going swimmingly for our cowboy/scientist until The Pilgrim Corporation, the company that Lowell rents his space from, decides to cut his lease short. You see, they don't care about his experiments, they want to take the land back to use as a toxic waste dumping ground.

The Pilgrim Corporation's efforts to remove Lowell from the land are spearheaded by a sinister businessman named Brooke Alstair (Lance Henriksen) involve sending in some Ford Bronco driving thugs to make Lowell's life miserable but he outsmarts them and it doesn't take Alstair long to realize Lowell's tougher than he though. We then meet a mercenary (Bo Svenson) who is hired to take their efforts to the next level, causing Lowell to up his ante as well by kidnapping the daughter (Janet Julian) of the Pilgrim Corporation's C.E.O. It all leads up to a lot of helicopter chases and neat desert cinematography.

Choke Canyon does try to throw a few unexpected twists and turns into its otherwise fairly standard 'good guy against evil corporation' plot but it's not quite enough to make up for the rather sluggish pacing of the first half of the movie. Stephen Collins isn't half bad as the leading man, making you pause and wonder with he didn't become a bigger star than he did, and you can't help but hope the guy can take on the evil suits and win, but there just really isn't a whole lot of substance here. Thankfully there's some very nice cinematography courtesy of Dante Spinotti (the guy who shot L.A. Confidential and other big time Hollywood movies) that at least helps provide the illusion that Choke Canyon is a good movie. Bo Svenson and Lance Henriksen, fine and talented character actors the both of them, are pretty good in their roles here but they just aren't given all that much to do. Henriksen isn't used to anywhere near his full potential while Svenson's character is introduced too late in the proceedings for him to be all that interesting or all that integral to the storyline.

So you're left with a reasonably well acted film that's very nicely shot and which does feature a couple of fairly memorable action set pieces - there are some cool aerial sequences here that do impress - that unfortunately wind up dragged down under the weight of its own script. Director Charles Bail's pre-directing career as a movie stuntman obviously helped prepare the director to handle the action scenes here but unfortunately didn't prepare him to wrap those scenes with much in the way of interesting characters or an original plot. The picture is watchable enough, it's hardly difficult to get through, but once it's all over with so little of it is memorable that it feels completely disposable.

The Video:

Code Red presents Choke Canyon in a good 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There are a few scenes where the skin tones look a little orange but aside from that the color reproduction looks pretty accurate and while the black levels probably could have been a bit darker, this is probably more to do with the source material than the transfer. Detail is fine for an older low budget feature and only mild print damage is noticeable. You can't really call it reference quality but given the age and obscurity of the picture there's really nothing to complain about here, the movie looks pretty good.

The Audio:

The audio chores are handled by a English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track. There's the odd pop in the mix and some unfortunate fluctuations in the levels. Sometimes dialogue is a bit muffled and tough to understand. The score and sound effects all sound okay but those level balancing issues are a bit irritating, though hardly a deal breaker, you may just need to reach for the remote now and again. The film shows its age in that it has got a fairly limited range but you can't fault it for that.

The Extras:

The main extra is commentary track with the film's producer, Peter Shepherd, who talks about casting the picture and shooting it on location out in the desert. Moderated by Lee Christian, this is a fairly lively talk that covers pretty much everything you'd want it to, from the script to how Sylvester Levay was to work with and more.

Aside from that, there's a mediocre ten minute interview with Bo Svenson who talks about his experiences working on this picture and some of his other credits. A trailer for the feature is included as are trailers for a few other releases. Static menus and chapter selection are provided.

Overall:

Code Red has done a fairly decent job on this release but the film itself isn't all that good. As a time killer it's fine and Lance Henrksen and Bo Svenson are fun in their respective roles but I can't imagine Choke Canyon as a film that people are going to get much replay value out of it. Rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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