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Rugged Gold

Set in the mid-'50s, "Rugged Gold" was financed by a web of New Zealand, U.S. and Canadian interests, with N.Z.'s South Island satisfactorily subbing for Alaska. Cineastes may be surprised to find Michael Anderson -- director of "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Logan's Run"-- at the helm.

With:
Cast: Jill Eikenberry, Art Hindle, Ari Magder, Graham Greene, Davina Whitehouse, Tony Groser, June Bishop, Helen Moulder, Sam Tyson-Hogg, Christopher Douglas. Brought to the wilds of Alaska by her prospector husband, widow Martha Henderson (Jill Eikenberry) learns to cope with both the fates and the elements. Based on Martha Martin's autobiography, "Rugged Gold" is at its best when showing her dealing with adversity, and is least convincing when dramatizing various relationships. Though at times it threatens to resemble a two-hour "Lassie" episode, pic is solid family entertainment.

Set in the mid-’50s, “Rugged Gold” was financed by a web of New Zealand, U.S. and Canadian interests, with N.Z.’s South Island satisfactorily subbing for Alaska. Cineastes may be surprised to find Michael Anderson — director of “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Logan’s Run”– at the helm.

Art Hindle co-stars as Don Martin, the rugged prospector who marries Henderson and drags her from her complacent existence (think Cliff Robertson or William Devane).

Still in mourning two years after her first husband’s death in a troop carrier crash, Martin seems to divide her time between raising 10-year-old son Lloyd (Ari Magder), lunching with her lady friends and writing a journal that takes the form of letters to her late spouse.

Graham Greene is featured as Martin’s grizzled and grumpy partner who has no truck with women or children — at least initially (it’s the Gabby Hayes or Walter Brennan role).

Catching sight of Martin’s rough-hewn wooden cabin, Martha sees the reality behind the idyllic picture Martin has drawn of Alaska; by the end of the show, she’s come to accept Martin’s view — despite having come through a bitter winter virtually alone after husband and child mysteriously disappear after an argument.

There’s also a dog, who’s some help for a while, and an enormous grizzly bear , who’s no help at all.

Acting is sometimes a bit stiff, possibly the result of dealing with by-the-numbers script attributed to “Sarah James,” a pseudonym applied after uncredited rewrites of Anna Sandor and William Gough’s original script.

Eikenberry is valiant as all get-out, but Greene is saddled with a part well beneath his capabilities. New Zealand scenery looks great, though some of the exteriors have a flat, soundstage look to them.

Rugged Gold

(Sat. (10), 8-10 p.m., Family Channel)

Production: Filmed in New Zealand by Alliance Communications Corp., the Gibson Group, Official Canada/New Zealand in association with the Family Channel. Executive producers, Dorothee Pinfold, Doris Keating Schlesinger, Barbara Alexander, Jean Deshormeaux; producer, Ray Sager; co-producers, Adrianne Anderson, Dave Gibson; director, Michael Anderson; writer, Sarah James; based on the book "O Rugged Land of Gold" by Martha Martin.

Crew: Camera, Pierre Letarte; editor, Ron Wisman; production designer, Kevin Leonard Jones; art director, Rob Astley; sound, James Porteous, Mike Baskerville; music, Dick Le Fort, Eric N. Robertson.

Cast: Cast: Jill Eikenberry, Art Hindle, Ari Magder, Graham Greene, Davina Whitehouse, Tony Groser, June Bishop, Helen Moulder, Sam Tyson-Hogg, Christopher Douglas. Brought to the wilds of Alaska by her prospector husband, widow Martha Henderson (Jill Eikenberry) learns to cope with both the fates and the elements. Based on Martha Martin's autobiography, "Rugged Gold" is at its best when showing her dealing with adversity, and is least convincing when dramatizing various relationships. Though at times it threatens to resemble a two-hour "Lassie" episode, pic is solid family entertainment.

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