(refer to pages 34, 35, 48 & 49 in On the Trail of the Last of the Mohicans)
Lake James, Linville Falls, & Dupont State Forest - Burke & Transylvania Counties
Without question, this is the most complex scene - locations-wise - in the film. It is a heavily edited sequence, with much physical, shall we say, "discomfort" for the actors, and some of that becomes apparent on screen - minor continuity errors.
It was difficult to piece together, until I discovered that the huge falls existed only in the recesses of the Directorís mind. Once that became known, the rest was easy. Discussing this sequence to groups at our Mohican Gatherings has always been somewhat special to me as I watch the looks of, "So THATíS how ..." appear on folksí faces. Here is the sequence, broken down, step-by-step:
- Exiting Massacre Valley, our heroes emerge many miles away at the red clay shore of Lake James near the Fort site.
- After commandeering the canoe, they meet Major Heyward on the lake, in the cove between the canoe "launch" and the Magua/Montcalm meeting place across the way.
- Scenes are then shot out on the lake, with views of Shortoff Mountain, the southern terminus of Linville Gorge, visible in the background.
- Hawkeye shouts, "head for the river!" Well, the "river" is simply the cove they had previously come from!
- We then find ourselves at Linville, in the real river, just upstream from the upper falls.
- The canoes then approach, and then go over, the falls. Before and after, they are at Linvilleís upper falls.The shots of canoes laden with stuntmen are done at Dupontís Hooker falls.
- As they exit the canoes and push them, empty, over the falls, weíre back at Linville, just downstream of the upper falls.
But, what of the second falls? The big ones that caused them to jump ship. Where are those? Well, the lower falls at Linville, of course, right? Wrong! Sort of. Computer imagery accounts for these. They simply donít exit! More on this as the scene segues to Under the Falls.
It should be noted here that the script called for a whitewater chase, not over-the-falls sequences as were eventually filmed. To that original end, the gorge up on the Nolichucky River was selected for this scene. Film crews, stuntmen, canoes, all went up there, in Mitchell County, to shoot. It is not known, to me or anyone Iíve spoken to on this, whether any of that footage made it into the film, or even exists at all.
All these locations, as discussed elsewhere, are readily accessible and free ... with the possible exception of those in Michael Mann's creative imagination!