Lies, Flies and a Bad Guy Dies
Writer Bret Harte (Robert Hays) retells the story of his time at Captain Sutter's (John Dehner) Mill in California when gold is discovered. Despite the Captain wanting to keep it quite news soon spreads and those dreaming of getting rich quit swarm to the area searching for gold. But it leads to tensions as people are looking to cash in with some more ruthless than others and some even willing to set others up for crimes they're not guilty of.
"California Gold Rush" is one of those movies which starts with a narration, the writer's recollections of his time when he was in California and ended up working for Captain John Sutter. What then follows is a tale full of little events which explain the changing face of things after gold is discovered. As such we get the comical side of things such as Bret being befriended by a quirky old character who has a gold sniffing pig, we also see him getting duped by some comically crafty old characters who talk him in to playing cards.
But alongside the various quirky aspects of the west we also get to see how the discovery of gold changes a place. First you had those seeking fortune swarming in on the place, then you have the dodgy actions of those whose greed made them cheats. But we also have a bad element entering the area who look to steal gold shipments, masquerading as others and so on. Now I could go on but basically we see how from discovering a bit of gold in a river things escalate and sudden wealth turns negative for many involved.
Now remembering that "California Gold Rush" is a TV Movie from 1981 it still holds a touch of charm, yes it lacks the qualities of modern cameras but there is a charm to the whole story telling nature of the movie. In a way with the whole narration side and with Bret Harte being a writer it kind of reminded me in style of "The Waltons" and that helps it to keep you entertained more than to be honest the story does.
What this all boils down to is that "California Gold Rush" is entertaining in a semi quirky way and also a little informative. But this feels every bit an old made for TV movie and sadly lacks a touch of finesse to make it still entertaining visually.