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A police officer on vacation travels around on his motorcycle targeting nearby occupants of and travelers through China Lake.


Robert Harmon


Robert Harmon (screenplay), Robert Harmon (story) | 1 more credit »
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Napier ... Donnelly
William Sanderson ... Little Germ
Mickey Jones ... Big Guy
Gilmer McCormick Gilmer McCormick ... Helene
Lindsey Fields Lindsey Fields ... Kitty (as Lyndsey Fields)
James Luisi ... Watch Commander
Ed Brodow Ed Brodow ... Field Supervisor
Michael Ray Lloyd Michael Ray Lloyd ... Assistant Watch Commander
Jeanne Jarvis Jeanne Jarvis ... Waitress
Enoch Anderson Enoch Anderson ... Policeman
Stephen Barns Stephen Barns ... Policeman
David Breaux David Breaux ... Policeman
William Calkins William Calkins ... Policeman
Harley Corber Harley Corber ... Policeman
John Cuellar John Cuellar ... Policeman


A police officer on vacation travels around on his motorcycle targeting nearby occupants of and travelers through China Lake.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Thriller







Release Date:

6 April 1983 (USA) See more »


Box Office


$3,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby | Mono



Aspect Ratio:

See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Robert Harmon would go on to make The Hitcher (1986). See more »


Followed by The China Lake Murders (1990) See more »


Music for 18 Musicians
'Steve Reich'
Courtesy ECM Records
See more »

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User Reviews

As close to perfect as shorts get!
23 July 2016 | by the_bluesmanSee all my reviews

'China Lake' is a great short movie that photographer-turned- director Robert Harmon, who later became well-known with 'The Hitcher' (1986), self-financed, wrote, produced, shot and directed over the course of a couple of years in the early 1980s. The preparation of the shoot took many months as Harmon was looking for the perfect locations to stage his road thriller and he succeeded. The final cut of the movie includes plenty of beautiful footage with fascinating lighting.

The short movie stars Charles Napier ('Rambo: First Blood Part II,' 1985) as maniac cop Donnelly, whose vacation activities each year include going on a vicious killing spree on the desert highways around the small town of China Lake. Donnelly's motorcycle rides through the desert are shot masterfully by Harmon and feature a number of scenes filmed from unusual camera angles.

'China Lake' must have impressed certain people in the film industry as it got Harmon the directing job for 'The Hitcher,' and it was also remade a couple of years later as a full-length television movie by the name of 'The China Lake Murders' (1990). In the remake, Charles Napier's character is played by Michael Parks ('From Dusk Till Dawn,' 1996), who is great in the role of the maniac cop. Napier's portrayal of Donnelly is very different from Parks' character in the television movie but equally charismatic and frightening in a different way.

'China Lake' is a very ambitious short movie that is as close to perfect as shorts get.

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