Hydropower Saves The Fugitive

The fugitive movie poster

1993, Warner Bros.

I had the chance to re-watch an early 1990s blockbuster, The Fugitive (1993), starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. Ford plays a doctor wrongfully accused of murdering his wife.  He is unexpectedly freed from the transport bus taking him to prison and becomes an unexpected fugitive.  Jones plays an intrepid U.S. Marshall who pursues Ford with a vengeance reminiscent of Javert from Les Miserables.

One of the most famous scenes from the movie is a chase through tunnels buried within a hydroelectric dam. Without revealing too many spoilers, I’ll admit the dam helps Ford escape in a surprising way.  One can see excellent footage of the dam starting at about 35 minutes into the film, including nice shots of the spillway, penstock, and powerhouse.

Producers filmed this scene at the Cheoah Dam in North Carolina. Built between 1916 and 1919, the dam was the world’s “highest overflow dam” at the time of completion.¹ The Tallassee Power Company, better known as Tapoco, operates the Cheoah Dam.  Because of its location along the Little Tennessee River, it reminds me of the movie Wild River (1960), which also takes place along the Tennessee River.

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