The Gold Rush, Blu-ray – The 1925 & 1942 versions (2012)

by | Jun 8, 2012 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

The Gold Rush, Blu-ray – The 1925 & 1942 versions (2012)
Director: Charles Chaplin
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Georgia Hale
Music: Charles Chaplin (and narrator of 1942 version)
Studio: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection 615 [6/12/12]
Video: 1.33:1 B & W, 1080p HD
Audio: Silent or DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 new recording of Chaplin’s score, English PCM mono of 1942 soundtrack
Subtitles: English
Extras: New restorations of original 1925 silent film and 1942 sound version, Audio commentary on 1925 version by Chaplin biolgrapher Jeffrey Vance, “The Gold Rush” documentary on the film’s history, “Visual Effects in The Gold Rush,” “Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush” – 2002 documentary, 4 theatrical trailers, Printed/illustrated booklet with essay by film critic Luc Sante and James Agee’s review of the 1942 version, more
Length: 160 minutes
Rating: *****

Considered by many to be Chaplin’s masterpiece, the idea for The Gold Rush was stimulated by Chaplin looking at some of his friend’s Doug Fairbanks’ collection of 3D views of the actual Klondike gold rush, and also reading about the Donner Party. Chaplin saw the great possibilities of putting the Little Tramp in the Yukon. He even shot some of the footage in a snowy mountain pass, with hundreds of prospectors struggling over it.
The hapless prospector finds himself with a couple others searching for their fortune. Stuck in a mountain cabin, they deal with starvation. One of the miners has hallucinations and sees Charlie as a giant chicken. The cooking and eating of the shoes is one of the major scenes. Back in the town Charlie is smitten with a dance hall girl in what seems an impossible situation. At the cabin again, the amazing balancing on the edge of the cliff scene was all done in-camera by Chaplin’s skilled cinematographer Roland Totheroh. Then of course there is the famous later dancing dinner-rolls scene.
The differences between the 1942 sound version and the 1925 silent original are interesting. Chaplin edited out 16 minutes worth, all the intertitles, and added his own narration track and original score. Actually the narration is not as corny as might be expected, Chaplin doing a sort of stuffy British narrator that doesn’t sound like him. But it does rather distance one from the film. The relationship of the Little Tramp and the dance hall girl is subdued in the sound version; after all she wasn’t very nice to him, and their long kiss at the end of the silent version seems over the top.
—John Sunier

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