Classic: Charlie Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush'
The Gold Standard in Silent Comedy Comes to Blu-ray
"The Gold Rush" (Criterion), Charlie Chaplin's 1925 frozen north comedy classic, is just as funny today as it was over eighty years ago, and just as mawkishly sentimental.
Drop him in a muddy Alaska boom town and he's little more than a lovestruck adolescent stepping through emotional trap doors—he lives in a romantic dream world while the social reality rebuffs his awkward, mooning advances. Give him a prop and a stage, however, and he brings elegance to vaudeville, whether he’s eating a boiled shoe or scrambling across the floor of a cabin teetering on the edge of a cliff.
The Little Tramp is not just another prospector hiking into the Alaskan interior with hundreds of ill-equipped dreamers and scruffy roughnecks, he's the pluckiest of them all. He meets deprivation and starvation with ingenuity and farce, but he believed in the underdog romance of his story. I believe in the slapstick ballet of his physical comedy.
In 1942, Chaplin cut more than 20 minutes from the original 1925 silent version and re-released the film with sound narration, a new score, and a different final shot. This was Chaplin's preferred version and thus was better preserved and most version most readily available, but the silent version is the original, the actual "director's cut" of the film, and is still the superior version, without the second guessing of Chaplin, who has a tendency to sentimentalize the film even more in his 1942 cut.
Both versions have been on DVD before, in a marvelous set released by Warner in 2003. Criterion remasters both for their new DVD release and Blu-ray debut, including a new edition of the reconstructed 1925 original restored in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, and new recording of Charlie Chaplin's score arranged and conducted by Timothy Brock.
Chaplin biography Jeffrey Vance provides commentary for the 1925 version of the film, and Criterion offers three new-to-disc featurettes: "Presenting The Gold Rush," a 15-minute piece featuring Vance and silent film historian Kevin Brownlow (who helped restore the 1925 version); "A Time of Innovation: Visual Effects in The Gold Rush" (20 minutes), featuring visual effects specialist Craig Barron and archival interviews with Chaplin cinematographer Roland Totheroh; and "Music by Charles Chaplin" (25 minutes), with silent-film composer/conductor Timothy Brock discussing Chaplin's work as a composer and his work adapting Chaplin's original silent movie scores for the Chaplin Estate.
From the earlier Warner release comes the 26-minute documentary "Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush," made for French TV in 2002 and featuring interviews with Senegalese director Idrissa Ouedraogo and actresses Lita Grey and Georgia Hale (originally conducted by Kevin Brownlow in 1980).
See some choice clips in Criterion's "Three Reasons" video below, after the jump.