by Peter Nielsen
“The Lure of gold can make a man do anything! Anything!”
During the opening credits of this movie, we see someone being dug out of, what appears to be, a collapsed mine shaft. After he’s been dragged out, his rescuer buries a pick axe in his chest… It’s brutal… it’s sudden… and the damn movie hasn’t even started yet!
From that we cut to a beautiful aerial shot with the reckless pilot, Jean Dupre, flying around the mountains accompanied by his boss. Their conversation is not an amicable one, and ends with Jean being fired! He doesn’t seem too heartbroken about it though… I think what irks him the most is the fact that he won’t have a plane readily available to him anymore. And he does need a plane, because he wants to go look for his friend, George, who’s been missing for a month, or so. He disappeared somewhere in the wilderness of British Colombia, where he went looking for gold! Jean thinks George may have hit the jackpot, and wants in on it… officially though, he just wants to find his friend, so he goes to his house to find a map George had of the area where the gold was supposedly located.
Jean can’t find the map though, but still has a pretty good idea about where George was headed. George’s girlfriend, Andrea, wants to join him, but has her doubts about how they’re supposed to get there, once she sees the piece of shit float plane Jean has bought. She doesn’t say that out loud though… at least not in those words, but that is what she’s thinking!
Once they take off we’re, again, treated to the breathtakingly beautiful mountain scenery of British Colombia, where the movie is shot! These aerial shots really are something to see… you get a sense of how majestic this area is, but also how much you’re left to your own devices, if something goes wrong. And, of course, something does! Go wrong, I mean!
Deep into the wilderness, when Jean is landing on a lake… due to a slight miscalculation… the plane crashes! Quite spectacularly, I might add! This accident was not in the script, the plane was only supposed to malfunction and strand our two adventurers in the middle of nowhere, but since the crash was filmed, looked good, and most importantly, no one was hurt… they decided to use the footage in the finished movie.
Jean and Andrea strike up camp for the night, but all of a sudden hear bagpipe music coming from somewhere in the woods. They follow it and find an old cabin, which at first glance, appears to be abandoned. It’s not though, and this is where they meet a weird old prospector named Silas McGee.
His social skills are a bit rusty, but he claims he’s been up there for almost 30 years, so that’s not all that surprising, if you think about it! He still makes them a cup of tea, and invites them to follow him down into his mine… Actually it’s more of an order than an invite, and since Mr. McGee is kind of creepy, and also slightly menacing, Jean and Andrea reluctantly tag along. He takes them deep down into the dark, damp tunnels to, partly show off, but mostly to scare them, I’d imagine, because, as weird as he may seem, Silas is not a stupid man and he knows they’re there to look for gold! And you can be damn sure he doesn’t want them snooping around his mine! So he tells them no, he hasn’t seen or heard any other plane than theirs… and no, he hasn’t really found any gold up here, only silver… and no, he hasn’t heard any bagpipe music… they must have imagined it! So it would be best if they just left!
Unfortunately for them, Jean can’t seem to let go of the thought of finding gold, and doesn’t want to leave! Greed is a hell of a thing, huh? And after he finds George’s plane at the bottom of the lake, he figures out that Silas has been lying to them and things kind of goes even more downhill from here!
I can’t remember if I actually watched Mother Lode back in the day, because this would have been right up our alley, but as I said, I’m not sure… I sure do remember the VHS cover though!
The movie was directed by Charlton Heston, who also plays the part of the old prospector, Silas McGee. I’m sure you’ll recognize Mr. Heston from movies like Ben Hur, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, The Omega Man, and many others, and he’s really good in this one too. It looks like he enjoyed the part, and I think Mother Lode was the last movie where he was one of the main leads… after this one he only did supportive roles. He’s actually pretty scary in Mother Lode, because you never know what’ll set him off… there’s something simmering just under the surface of his grimy, bearded exterior.
Charlton Heston also did a great job with the movie itself… it looks great! The contrast between the beautiful aerial shots and the dark, claustrophobic mine scenes is striking. Mother Lode is a father and son collaboration, because Charlton Heston’s son, Fraser, wrote and produced the movie!
Jean and Andrea, are played by Nick Mancuso and Kim Basinger respectively. Mr. Mancuso’s been in Death Ship and Rapid Fire, and has also done lots of TV. Miss Basinger is, as always, very easy on the eye, and this one was actually her second movie, but she would go on to star in 9 ½ Weeks, Batman, Blind Date, Cool World and L.A. Confidential, to name a couple!
You might also recognize John Marley as Elijah, one of the locals that Jean and Andrea run into a couple of times… He’s the kind of actor with the familiar face you instantly recognize, but can’t instantly place! He’s been in The Car, Cat Ballou, Hooper, and a crap ton of TV.
So… would I recommend this movie? Yup, you bet! If you enjoy a good thriller set in the wilderness, you’ll definitely like Mother Lode. The scenes down in that damn mine are worth the price of admission alone. It’s not enough that it’s dark, cramped, and dangerous… Silas is also lurking around somewhere, and as I stated earlier… he does not want you snooping around his mine!
Greed is a hell of a thing! It’ll make a man do crazy things!
Until next time, my friends…