Thanks to a couple of movie crazed bloggers living in Canada, Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings, there exists the O’Canada Blogathon which celebrates all sorts of film related topics that have to do with the country I’m proud to call home. I believe this is the fourth year that the ladies have donated their time and energies to all things Canadian besides ordering up a large double double of Tim Horton’s coffee.
Which brings me to this Charlton Heston directed feature made in the interior of British Columbia that also sees the iconic actor taking the lead opposite a young Kim Basinger and Nick Mancuso. Raised in Canada, the Italian born Mancuso has long been associated with this country’s acting community which includes appearing at the world famous Stratford Festival here in Ontario, just twenty minutes from my doorstep.
Mother Lode is a beautiful looking film written and produced by Chuck’s son Fraser with second unit work done by Joe Canutt, son of famed stuntman Yakima. Interestingly, it’s Joe who doubled for Heston in the now famous chariot race in Ben-Hur while dad, Yakima, worked the second unit for director Willy Wyler.
“You stay the hell out of my mine, Laddie!”
With a hint of what is to come a barely breathing man is pulled from the rubble of a collapsed mine only to have a pick axe planted firmly in his chest. Cut to a rebellious Mancuso walking off his job and in quick order, meets up with Kim and they’re off to track his pal and her boyfriend who seems to have gone missing while hunting for gold in the forested mountains of B.C. It’s the plane trek inland that allows Heston to strap a camera to the plane’s pontoon as it journeys over some glorious looking lakes and forested areas of our west coast province. Mancuso’s plane isn’t exactly reliable and an emergency landing brings the pair into contact with crusty John Marley. He’ll serve as the character who warns of going any further up river looking for gold. People have been known to disappear.
The filmmakers happened upon a stroke of luck when filming the pontoon plane approaching a secluded lake that will serve as the backdrop for the majority of the film. It actually crashes and cartwheels landing upside down and sinking. Thankfully no one was hurt but the footage is so impressive it was inserted into the film with a quick rewrite from Fraser Heston. Insert the actors swimming to shore and it won’t be long before they hear the sound of bagpipes coming from higher up a cliff face. The duo will meet a heavily bearded Chuck Heston sporting a Scottish accent shortly thereafter.
Think of Bogie still alive and protecting his Sierra Madre mine after thirty years. That’s what you get from an effective Heston who threatens one moment before going soft on the couple and talking of the years of struggle battling the mine that runs beneath “his” mountain. He’ll verbally spar with Mancuso talking of little gold left but enough silver to make a meager living. Mancuso isn’t buying it and Heston is wary of just what the young couple are looking for.
“This country is no place for a Bonnie Lass like you.”
Mother Lode offers plenty of thrills and scares that combine well with the feeling of claustrophobia deep down in Heston’s mine that has numerous shafts and off shoots that one can get lost in. And it’s not just gold one might find down there. Beyond the unsavory Heston, there’s still a mystery involved here that you just might not see coming and I won’t play spoiler. Let’s just say that Heston the actor is having a hell of a time with this one between his Scottish accent, his chewing the scenery and his ……… No I’m not gonna say it. As a matter of fact this might be Chuck’s most outright villainous role. Mother Lode proved to be the second film of three directed by Heston and for my money the best of the lot. The others being Antony and Cleopatra along with A Man For All Seasons.
Though this film came at a time when Heston’s movie career was winding down that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t give it a go. It’s extremely well filmed both above ground in the skies and forests and below in the makeshift mines that the set designers staged. Is there a Mother Lode of gold deep in the mine below Heston’s creepy log cabin? Might be but you’ll have to get a copy and find out for yourself. Kim Basinger fans might not even be aware of this early effort that predates Never Say Never Again and her Oscar winning role in L.A. Confidential so they too may want to seek this one out that is available on DVD.
Digging in to the vault here I found a couple of things to share. Below is an article I snipped from the local paper years ago when I used to fill a scrapbook full of movie articles that featured my big screen heroes of which Heston has always been included.
Secondly here’s the original one sheet that rests safely at Mike’s Take with a special thanks to Brando for locating it in the vault or should I say mineshaft that runs below my house just loaded with movie memorabilia? Careful I might go Heston on your……
Previous titles I’ve featured in the O’Canada Blogathon are as follows….. James Cagney in Captains of the Clouds, Oliver Reed caught in The Trap and a Canadian concert film Across This Land With Stompin’ Tom Connors.
Now please take the time to check out the other contributors and there movie topics associated with the Great White North.