The Gold Rush – The Criterion Collection #615 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
June 9, 2012 by Dennis Amith
One of my all time favorites… “The Gold Rush” is a delightful, hilarious and entertaining Charlie Chaplin comedy! Featuring both 1925 and 1942 versions of the film, “The Gold Rush” is another five star release from the Criterion Collection!
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TITLE: The Gold Rush – The Criterion Collection #615
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1925 and 1942 versions
DURATION: 72 Minutes (1942) and 88 Minutes (1925)
DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Monaural, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, English Intertitles and Subtitles: English SDH
COMPANY: Janus Films/mk2/The Criterion Collection
RELEASED: June 12, 2012
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Written by Charles Chaplin
Music by Charles Chaplin
Cinematography by Roland Totheroh
Charles Chaplin as The Lonely Prospector
Mack Swain as Big Jim McKay
Tom Murray as Black Larsen
Henry Bergman as Hank Curtis
Malcolm Waite as Jack Cameron
Georgia Hale as Georgia
Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterwork—which charts a prospector’s search for fortune in the Klondike and his discovery of romance (with the beautiful Georgia Hale)—forever cemented the iconic status of Chaplin and his Little Tramp character. Shot partly on location in the Sierra Nevadas and featuring such timeless gags as the dance of the dinner rolls and the meal of boiled shoe leather, The Gold Rush is an indelible work of heartwarming hilarity. This special edition features both Chaplin’s definitive 1942 version, for which the director added new music and narration, and a new restoration of the original 1925 silent film.
Back in 1925, Charlie Chaplin, best known for his role as the “Little Tramp”, produced, wrote and directed one of the most expensive nine-reel films of its time. It was also another silent film that achieved box office success for Chaplin, “The Gold Rush” which became Chaplin’s most successful comedy would be re-released in 1942, in a new re-release.
The re-release inspired by the success of his first talking picture “The Great Dictor” (1940), “The Gold Rush” was a film that was dear to Chaplin (and a film that he wanted to be remembered for) and this new version featured music composed by Chaplin and would also feature a new musical score. Plus added narration and tightened the editing of the film bringing down the film’s duration from 88 minutes to 72 (the 1942 film version would also feature newer footage that was cut from the 1925 version).
The film has been deemed as a Chaplin masterpiece, praised by critics and Chaplin fans and was even selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. The film has also been recognized by the American Film Institute ranking #25 for “AFI’s 100 Year…100 Laughs” and “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies” ranking at #58.
And while the film is beloved in America, the film also resonated strongly internationally. In 1958, an international jury at Brussels selected this work as the second greatest film of all time (after “Potemkin”).
The film would also feature the famous “Bread Roll Dance” which has been replicated in films and television by Robert Downey Jr. in “Chaplin” , Johnny Depp in “Benny and Joon” and most recently in “The Muppets” by Amy Adams. Also, for introducing actress Georgia Hale (Miss Chicago 1922), who would be a big part in Chaplin’s personal life.
And now this beloved classic (both the 1925 and 1942 versions) will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection in June 2012.
“The Gold Rush” is set during the Klondike Gold Rush (between 1897-1899, over 100,000 people traveled to north-western Canada prospecting for gold) and The Tramp or “The Lone Prospector” (as portrayed by Charlie Chaplin) travels to the Yukon.
Despite the terrible cold weather, The Tramp still manages to find gold but with the storm getting worse, he finds a cabin. But inside the cabin is where an escaped fugitive named Black Larsen (as portrayed by Tom Murray) is hiding out. And as the Tramp makes his way into the cabin, before Black Larsen can kill him, another prospector named Big Jim McKay (as portrayed by Mack swain) has arrived to the cabin and protects the Tramp and sends a warning to Black Larsen with his rifle.
And as the three men stay inside the cabin due to the harsh weather, the three know they are running out of food. But as Black Larsen goes to search for food, he manages to kill two authorities that are looking for him and also manages to find a large gold deposit that belongs to Big Jim McKay.
As the weather has gotten better, Big Jim and the Tramp part ways and while Big Jim goes to get his gold, he finds Black Larsen trying to steal it. The two fight and Larsen hits Big Jim in the head with a shovel and as Black tries to steal the gold, the cliff underneath him begins to buckle and both Black Larsen and the gold fall off the cliff.
As for the Tramp, he arrives at a gold rush town, broke with no money and decides that prospecting is not for him. While at a saloon, he falls for a beautiful saloon girl named Georgia (as portrayed by Georgia Hale). Georgia has grown tired of the men that hit on her at the saloon, especially by Jack Cameron (as portrayed by Malcome Waite). So, in order to get away from Jack, she pretends that she is interested the Tramp, which makes the Tramp quite happy.
Meanwhile, Big Jim McKay has awaken after his injury but has lost his memory of where the gold is kept. And now has wandered into the town hoping to get clues of what happened to it. When McKay finds the Tramp, he tells him that if they find the gold, both will be millionaires!
Will the Tramp become rich and will he get the girl?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“The Gold Rush” is presented in black and white (1:33:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that I am reviewing the DVD version and for those who want better clarity and definitive picture and audio quality will want to opt for the Blu-ray release.
With that being said, the DVD version looks fantastic. While I have not seen the Park Circus Blu-ray release in the UK, I can say that the 1942 version of the film looks amazing. Black levels are nice and deep, white and grays are well-contrast and while you can see the grain on the DVD version, for those who own the previous DVD release will enjoy this MK2 HD restoration.
As for the picture quality, according to the Criterion Collection, “The Gold Rush” features a new high-definition digital transfer of the 1942 release created on a Spirit Datacine at Scanlab in Paris from a 35 mm duplicate negative, under the supervision of MK2.
As for the audio for the 1942 version, the audio is presented in monaural. Chaplin’s narrated dialogue and music sounds clear and understandable. I didn’t detect any audio anomalies during my viewing and according to the Criterion Collection, “The Gold Rush” was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm optical soundtrack negative at L.E. Diapason in Paris. Additional restoration was done at Criterion, where clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, and crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.
As for the 1925 version of the film, as the 1925 version was abandoned due to Chaplin feeling the 1942 version was the definitive version of the film. In 1993, with the support from the Chaplin family, filmmakers Kevin Brownlow and David Gill completed a major reconstruction of the original silent film. Brownlow and Gill’s reconstruction comprises footage from various sources, some unevenness between scenes and shots remains. Additionally, numerous shots could be recovered only from sound prints, where the optical soundtrack was visible in the frame. According to the Criterion Collection, the company reframed the shots while retaining as much of the image as possible.
The new digital restoration of this reconstruction was jointly undertake in 2011 by Cineteca di Bologna and Criterion. According to the Criterion Collection, a new digital transfer was created in 6K>2K resolution from Brownlow and gill’s 35 mm reconstruction duplicate negative on an ARRISCAN film scanner at L’Immagine Ritrovata at Cineteca di Bologna. The data was then digitally restored by Criterion, which spent over 500 hours cleaning up thousands of instances of dirt, scratches, jitter and flicker using MTI’s DRS, Pixel Farm’s PFClean and Image Systems’ DVNR. The restored data was then recorded out to Fuji ETERNA-RDS 35 mm duplicate negative stock using an ARRILASER 1 film recorder at L’Immagine Ritrovata for preservation.
As for the audio for the 1925 version, the soundtrack is presented in 5.1 surround sound and the score for the 1925 version was adapted and expanded by composer Timothy Brock from Chaplin’s score for the 1942 version. It was recorded by Brock and the Orchestra Citta Aperta in 2011.
English subtitles are presented in English SDH.
“The Gold Rush – The Criterion Collection #615” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – The 1925 version features audio commentary by biographer Jeffrey Vance.
- Presenting the Gold Rush – (15:51) Kevin Brownlow and Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance recount the journey of reconstructing the original 1925 film.
- Chaplin Today: “The Gold Rush” – (26:53) A documentary directed by Serge Le Peron in 2002 on the making of “The Gold Rush”a nd featuring interviews with actress Georgia Hale, Mary Pickford and more. Plus observations by filmmaker Idrissa Ouedraogo.
- A Time of Innovation: Visual Effects in the Gold Rush – (19:07) Visual effects expert Craig Barnes looks at the technique used to create some of the classic set pieces in “The Gold Rush”.
- Music by Charles Chaplin – (24:56) Classical music composer and conductor Timothy Brock discusses Chaplin’s musical achievements and his own work reconstructing Chaplin’s scores.
- Four Trailers – (9:11) Featuring the four trailers that were featured in England, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Featuring optional English subtitles.
- 26-Page booklet – “The Gold Rush” comes with a 26-page booklet with the following essays: “As Good as Gold” by Luc Sante, “James Agee on the Gold Rush” (James Agee’s review that was published in April 6, 1942 for Time Magazine).
I consider “Gold Rush” to be one of the few Chaplin films that a cinema fan must watch in their lifetime.
For me, the first time I watched “Gold Rush”, I was absolutely captivated. Sure, we get to see “The Little Tramp” and Charlie Chaplin’s physical comedy displayed in this film, but there are just too many things that I can still remember of this film. From the visual effects of a storm making the cabin seem as it was going to be crushed, the Tramp and Georgia dancing while Chaplin is tied to a large dog, the Tramp and Big Jim McKay starving to the point that they must eat a cooked shoe and of course, one of the most well-known scenes in cinema, “The Bread Roll Dance” which has been replicated several times in film but yet never accomplishing the greatness of the original.
“The Gold Rush” is a comedy that makes people laugh because of its humor but also captivates us because many people can identify with the Tramp, a man who has not much to show for his life, in love with a beautiful woman that many desire. The feeling of thinking you are loved, the feeling of not being with that person on New Year’s Eve. In a way, you can call this an early romantic comedy but done in a way that Charlie Chaplin is best known for.
It’s the persona of the Tramp that many people loved about Chaplin back in the day and it’s what audiences love about his character role today. There is always hope within Chaplin films and no matter what era this film is shown or which generation watches it, it’s a film that all can watch, laugh and be entertained.
Which leads us to two films. The original 1925 version and the re-edited 1942 version. The great news about this Criterion Collection release is that it includes both films. Part of the chatter on online when “Modern Times” was released was the debate amongst Chaplin fans who adored the original version and despite Chaplin wanting the newer versions of his films to be the definitive versions to see, many people disagree with Chaplin’s choices.
Some will say that these re-edits were done not just because it was being re-released for the movie distributors sake (to capitalize on Chaplin’s films) but it was a new Chaplin that felt differently about life and a man who certainly has lived through many hardships before and after the making of these films.
In the 1925 version, there was a focus on Chaplin’s character, the Tramp, who was in love with Georgia. The former showcased a touching scene between the Tramp and Chaplin at the end, while the 1942 version removes the entire scene. There were other edits done to the film that included the Tramp trying to woo Georgia and being fed misinformation by Jack Cameron, another man who wants Georgia and other scenes as well. And the biggest difference is the 1942 version features a new score by Chaplin and also narration by him.
Which version is better? Personally, I felt that this was a re-release that was much better than the original, although I preferred the ending of the original. Why was the touching scene cut? While there have been many opinions of why Chaplin did it, my feeling back then and now, happens to relate to his personal life. It is known now that both Chaplin and Georgia Hale had an off-an-on relationship after this film was made. Of course, to make things problematic, he was also with several women (and married) during the time that “The Gold Rush” was created.
In 1925, Charles Chaplin was one of the greatest talents in America, a powerful man but also a man who was naive of where his relationships would take him. Married to a young woman named Lita Grey and literally forced into a marriage that he didn’t want to be in (Lita wrote in her memoir that her grandfather forced Chaplin to marry Lita due to her pregnancy and threatened to kill him if he didn’t), Chaplin’s mid-’30s had his fair share of problems. But yet, he was able to be romantic with his co-star, Georgia Hale which would lead to a friendship and relationship between both individuals for many years.
But by 1942, Chaplin was 52-years-old, he was no longer the same man. Accused of “un-American activities” and suspected as a communist by the FBI, needless to say that his life had become more problematic to the point that his problems went from troubles with a woman to problems with the United States government and with other women in his life.
But did those personal problems in his life lead to the changes of “The Gold Rush”? What we do know that the ending of the 1925 version features a touching and definitive ending for The Tramp and Georgia, while the ending of the 1942 version does not. And as romantic at heart, I enjoyed the 1925 ending because it was romantic. And perhaps cutting that scene out was possibly personal as he also had cut out Georgia Hale from his life. Or perhaps the notion of a man and woman always having a happy ending was not plausible, especially of how things have went for him…Chaplin himself had been with different women, but he himself had not found a happy ending (note: A year later, in 1943, Chaplin would meet and marry Oona O’Neill at the age of 54 and the two would remain married up to the day of his death).
But what we have are two films that should appease fans of the 1925 or 1942 versions. Unlike “Modern Times” which sent some fans in a furor because the extended dance scene was not included (despite Chaplin himself making the cut), there are silent film fans who believe middle-aged Chaplin and much older Chaplin were different and even if older Chaplin made these cuts and called them definitive, there are fans who believe that these re-releases or cuts shouldn’t have been done.
So, the good news is that there are two versions of “The Gold Rush” included with this Criterion Collection release.
And even better news is how magnificent this film looks. Sure, I’m reviewing the DVD version and not the Blu-ray version of the film, but I can still see major improvements from the previous DVD (and also the hideous public domain copies), that fans of Chaplin or those who are curious, will still love this release! Otherwise, I have no doubt in my mind that the best version to get of these two films are on Blu-ray. But what you have with this release are two films that went through many hours of restoration and in Criterion’s part, over 500-hours dedicated to cleaning the film up for release.
And both the Blu-ray and DVD release both include a good amount of special features and an audio commentary as well.
Overall, “The Gold Rush” is one of my all-time Chaplin favorites. Is it his best film? Chaplin has too many films in his oeuvre that can be considered great but for a comedy, I really enjoyed “The Gold Rush” (both versions) a lot and the many scenes from the film, I just love watching over and over and I have not grown tired of watching it!
Chaplin’s physical comedy and writing was fantastic, Georgia Hale was impressive and the visual effects for its time was amazing. There are too many things that I love about this film and I’m glad that both versions have been released on Blu-ray and DVD.
I truly believe that for older Chaplin fans and newer Chaplin fans… “The Gold Rush” from the Criterion Collection is one release that you will not regret buying. It’s a delightful, hilarious and entertaining comedy that I’m sure many of you will feel it’s a comedy that is not only worth watching but also a release worth owning!
“The Gold Rush – The Criterion Collection #615” is highly recommended!
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