It’s Silas McGee’s gold. He just hasn’t found it yet, although he’s searched for his mother lode for more than 30 years in the remote high country of British Columbia. Strangers with a similar bent for gold had best stay away: folks like that may never come out of McGee’s mine alive. Charlton Heston directs from a script by Fraser Heston and plays the double roles of mad recluse Silas and his even stranger twin Ian in this gritty survivalist adventure. Nick Mancuso and Kim Basinger in one of her earlier film roles, play the duo who end up in McGee’s world after their aircraft develops engine trouble…and who find much greater trouble when they begin to suspect his claim could hold a fortune. Fraser Heston served as Producer with Martin Shafer and Andy Scheinman, and Peter Snell teamed up with Heston again as Executive producer.
It's a little-known film, but Mother Lode
presents some primo examples of large-scale acting from a large-scale movie star: Charlton Heston, then beginning the late-baroque phase of his career. Heston also directed (from a script by his son, Fraser Heston), and he's clearly having a ball as an old, bearded Scotsman who's been prospecting for gold at an isolated site in Canada for decades. Like any good star turn, he waits a half-hour before making his screen entrance, leaving the exposition to Nick Mancuso, as the world's worst seaplane pilot, and Kim Basinger, who've gone up north from Vancouver looking for a missing friend. And maybe looking for gold, too, because the siren call of gold is very much part of the cornball appeal of this old-fashioned picture. Chuck Heston, loving his Scots accent, snarls out plenty of dire warnings about gold as a harsh mistress, just as you'd expect from a movie like this. His character is so tough he grabs the boiling, overflowing coffeepot with his bare hand and never flinches. (And because it's Charlton Heston, you believe it.) Mother Lode
may not be a world-beater, and the turns of the plot don't always make a lot of sense, but the foursquare style actually holds up reasonably well. Second-unit director and stuntman Joe Canutt (son of the famous Yakima Canutt) earned his pay, with extensive British Columbia aerial shooting and a startling plane crash; as Fraser Heston reveals in the half-hour making-of featurette, that crash was an actual accident on the first day of shooting, resulting in a script rewrite to accommodate the footage. Mostly, this one's for dyed-in-the-wool Charlton Heston fans, who will find plenty of nuggets here. --Robert Horton