Our Feature Film Fest: 2

Filmed in God's Country

Published: Nov 10 2014, 01:01:am


Prepared for Chuck Davis and The Greater Vancouver Book — June, 1995
[Published in 1997 by The Linkman Press]

[PART 2: God's Country]


THIS IS YOUR PROGRAM guide to a series of 20 movie retrospectives. Together, they include all of the theatrical feature films made in Vancouver and in release as of June, 1995. (Our current program does not include the made-for-TV pictures.) Though we've tried to be as complete as possible, we've almost certainly missed a few. If you know of any, please let us know. [Readers of this website who wish to get in touch with additions or corrections can reach me by using the Reeling Back Contact Me button.]
     Our notes on each picture include its title (and any alternate titles), its year of release, the director, source information, leading players and a brief description.
     The show continues with . . .


THE SCENERY TAKES YOUR breath away. Popularized as "God's Country" by American adventure novelist James Oliver Curwood (1878-1927), B.C.'s spectacular wilderness vistas blinded early generations of Hollywood film-makers to Vancouver's own natural charms. In general, Vancouver Island or the Interior mountains were preferred as shooting locations. Even so, a few outdoors films have used the Lower Mainland's ability to simulate rugged landscapes. Twelve titles that we remember:

ETERNAL STRUGGLE (1923; d. Reginald Barker; based on the 1901 novel The Law-Bringers by G.B. Lancaster) with Renee Adoree, Earl Williams, Barbara La Marr, Pat O'Malley, Wallace Beery. Thinking herself responsible for the death of her would-be seducer (Beery), a cafe owner's daughter (Adoree) flees north, pursued by a pair of amorous Mounted Policemen (Williams, O'Malley) dedicated to getting their woman. Exteriors included the banks of the Capilano and Seymour Creeks in North Vancouver, where stunts were performed by Vancouver Amateur Swimming Club member Calmer Ross.

WINDS OF CHANCE (1925; d. Frank Lloyd; based on Rex Beach's 1918 novel The Trail of '98) with Ben Lyon, Anna Q. Nilsson, Viola Dana, Victor McLaglen. A gold rush tale in which the hero (Lyon) loses all in a shell game and becomes involved with a married woman (Nilsson). Leaving Alaska for Dawson City, he is framed for robbery by her husband and later implicated in the husband's murder. Retracing the location work done a year earlier for The Alaskan, a U.S. film crew shot this outdoors picture in Banff, Alberta, and Lytton, B.C., with some location work in North Vancouver's Capilano Canyon.

THE WILDERNESS PATROL (1928; d. J.P. McGowan; based on the novel by Harold Blindloss) with Bill Cody, Shannon Day, J.P. McGowan, Lotus Thompson. Little more than the title is known about this western about a Mounted Policeman. It starred the Winnipeg-born Cody, a screen cowboy who became a Hollywood B-movie hero in the 1930s. Produced in North Vancouver by British Canadian Pictures Ltd. (a subsidiary of Hollywood's Paramount Pictures established to make "quota quickies" for the British market), the film was optimistically heralded as the beginning of a local film boom. Also known as THE WILDERNESS.

MOTHER LODE (1982; d. Charlton Heston) with Charlton Heston, Nick Mancuso, Kim Basinger. A family production, this wilderness adventure was written and produced by Fraser Heston, the son of its director and star. The woods above North Vancouver's Cleveland Dam stand in for the Cassiar forest, where a young couple (Mancuso, Basinger) crash land, only to be menaced by reclusive, gold-obsessed twins (Heston in a dual role).

CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR (1986; d. Michael Chapman; based on the 1980 novel by Jean M. Auel) with Daryl Hannah, Pamela Reed, James Remar. Separated from her family by an earthquake, a young Cro-Magnon girl is taken in by a Neanderthal "clan." After filming in Cathedral Park and the Nahanni Valley, cavewoman Hannah completed work on this Paleolithic drama on Bridge Studio sets.

DISTANT THUNDER (1988; d. Rick Rosenberg) with John Lithgow, Ralph Macchio, Kerrie Keane. A U.S. army veteran (Lithgow) suffering from PTSD tries to reconnect with his teenaged son (Macchio). Shannon Falls and the Seymour watershed doubled as Washington State's Olympic Peninsula for this tale of "bush vets," those troubled Vietnam war survivors who withdrew to America's wilderness regions.

THE FIRST SEASON (1988; d. Ralph L. Thomas) with Kate Trotter, Christianne Hirt, R.H. Thomson. A widow (Hirt) and her daughter (Trotter) hire a Vietnam vet (Thompson) in an effort to save the family fishing business. A hull-shattering storm simulated at Vancouver's Ocean Engineering Centre was the action highlight in this Canadian feature focused on generational reconciliation and North Coast commercial fishing.

THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1990; d. Fred Schepisi; based on the 1989 novel by John le Carre) with Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, Roy Scheider. When a British agent (Connery) falls in love with a Russian (Pfeiffer), complications ensue for the American (Scheider) monitoring his mission. Though most of this espionage thriller was filmed on actual Russian locations, the key meeting between U.S and U.K. spymasters takes place at a safe house on Bowen Island.

K2 (1991; d. Franc Roddam; based on the play by Patrick Meyers) with Michael Biehn, Matt Craven, Raymond J. Barry. Vancouver plays Seattle, and Blackcomb stands in for the "Savage Mountain" of the Himalayas that challenges the endurance of rival climbers (Biehn, Craven). Also known as K2 - JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD.

ALIVE (1993; d. Frank Marshall; based on the 1974 book by Piers Paul Read) with Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, Josh Hamilton. Following a plane crash in the mountains, the captain of a Uruguayan rugby team (Spano) and a medical student (Hamilton) take charge of their own survival after rescue efforts are suspended. Though exteriors were filmed on B.C.'s Delphine glacier and in the Bugaboo Mountains, this recreation of the 1972 tale of cannibalism in the Andes included air flight and crash footage shot at The Bridge. Also known as ALIVE: THE MIRACLE OF THE ANDES.

LEGENDS OF THE FALL (1994; d. Edward Zwick; based on the 1979 novella by Jim Harrison) with Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Henry Thomas. A retired U.S. army officer (Hopkins) attempts to instil positive values in his sons (Pitt, Quinn, Thomas). Vancouver's Gastown district was dressed to look like 1920s Helena, Montana, the only urban setting seen in this big skies family saga.

ARCTIC BLUE (1995; d. Peter Masterson) with Rutger Hauer, Dylan Walsh, Rya Kihlstedt. An ecologist (Walsh) working for an oil company comes into conflict with a traditional frontiersman (Hauer), driven to violence by the changing times. They must overcome their differences to survive after a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness.  Montreal-born cinematographer Thomas Burstyn
filmed their adventure on North Vancouver locations that included Britannia Beach.

The above is Part 2 of a 20-part restoration of a Greater Vancouver Book article by Michael Walsh originally published in 1997. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Postings in this Feature Film Festival series include:
Part 1 [Introduction & Vancouver Firsts]
Part 2 [God's Country]
Part 3 [Cybercity]
Part 4 [Documentary]
Part 5 [Youthquakes]
Part 6 [Lovely Couples]
Part 7 [Encore]

Part 8 [Self-Portraits]

Part 9 [Encore II]

Part 10 [Local Heroes]
Part 11 [Directorial Tribute - Jack Darcus]
Part 12 [The B-List]
Part 13 [Things that Go Bump in the Night]
Part 14 [Cabin Fever Dreams]
Part 15 [Law and Order]
Part 16 [Terminal City Comedy Club]
Part 17 [Man's Best Friends]
Part 18 [In Other Words]
Part 19 [Midnight Madness]
Part 20 [On the Road Again]

See also: The seven-part series "Feature Films Made In Vancouver and B.C." from The Vancouver Book published in 1976 —  Part 1 [Introduction; the Silents]; Part 2 [Outside Vancouver, 1932-38]; Part 3 [Outside Vancouver, 1942-75]; Part 4 [Vancouver, 1932-68]; Part 5 [Vancouver, 1969-71]; Part 6 [Vancouver, 1972-75]; Part 7, [Miscellany & Sources].