Charlton Heston and Brian Keith in The Mountain Men (1980)


(director: Richard Lang; screenwriter: Fraser Clarke Heston; cinematographer: Michel Hugo; editor: Eva Ruggiero; music: Michel Legrand; cast: Charlton Heston (Bill Tyler), Brian Keith (Henry Frapp), Victoria Racimo (Running Moon), Stephen Macht (Heavy Eagle), Seymour Cassel (La Bont), David Ackroyd (Medicine Wolf), Cal Bellini (Cross Otter), Ken Ruta (Fontenelle), John Glover (Nathan Wyeth), Victor Jory (Iron Belly), Danny Zaplen (Blackfoot Chief); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrew Scheinman/Martin Shafer; Columbia Pictures; 1980)
“Doesn’t even cut it as a made-for-television movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Mountain Men is scripted by Charlton Heston’s son Fraser Clarke Heston and directed by Richard Lang. It’s beautifully shot in Panavision by cinematographer Michael Hugo in and around Bridger-Teton National Forest and Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming, but has little else to recommend it. It suffers from superfluous profanity and violence as it tells a dull story about two grizzly and crabby early 19th-century trappers, the stoic Bill Tyler (Charlton Heston) and the clownish Henry Frapp (Brian Keith), and their frontier adventures with Indians and their bickering friendship. It’s one of those vanishing-breed flicks, in this case the end of the fur trapping era. The mountaineers are heading through rough Indian territory to attend a rendezvous (sell their pelts) with fur dealer Fontenelle on the Popoagie River. The subplot has them rescuing a Native American, Running Moon (Victoria Racimo), who is caught by the trappers in a battle between Blackfoot and Crow, and refuses to return to her ruthless Blackfoot warrior hubby Heavy Eagle (Stephen Macht). Running Moon relates that being that warrior’s squaw is just like being a slave. Heavy Eagle comes after them with the intention of having the trappers’ scalps.

The film lacks any sense of intelligent dialogue. Its best conversation goes like this: Henry Frapp: I thought you got lost again. Nathan Wyeth (an enterprising young flatlander heading to the Oregon Territory to do some beaver trading): Haven’t you ever been lost? Henry Frapp: Hmmm… been fearsome confused for a month or two, but I ain’t never been lost!

Well, this film is lost in its ineptitude. Lang, who previously was involved only in made-for-television movies, in his feature movie debut shows that he doesn’t know how to get a good story across. Fraser Clarke Heston’s script is shallow. This wannabe Western doesn’t even cut it as a made-for-television movie.


REVIEWED ON 7/12/2005 GRADE: C –