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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Includes both the 1925 silent version and 1942 sound version
  • New audio commentary for the 1925 version by Chaplin biographer and archivist Jeffrey Vance
  • Three new programs: Presenting "The Gold Rush," which traces the film's history from original release to rerelease to 2003 reconstruction and features film historian Kevin Brownlow and Vance; Music by Charles Chaplin, featuring conductor and composer Timothy Brock; and Visual Effects in "The Gold Rush," featuring effects specialist Craig Barron and Chaplin cinematographer Roland Totheroh
  • Chaplin Today: "The Gold Rush" (2002), a short documentary featuring filmmaker Idrissa Ouedraogo
  • Four theatrical trailers

The Gold Rush

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite
1925 | 88 Minutes | Licensor: MK2

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #615
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 12, 2012
Review Date: June 10, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

The first feature-length comedy by Charlie Chaplin-which charts a hapless 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 Chaplin's dance of the dinner rolls and meal of boiled shoe leather, The Gold Rush is an indelible work of nonstop 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 silent 1925 film.

Forum members rate this film 9.5/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion presents both the 1925 and 1942 versions of Charles Chaplinís The Gold Rush, presenting them both in their original aspect ratios of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. Both versions are also presented in 1080p/24hz.

Notes throughout this set (in the booklet, menus, and numerous times in the supplements) constantly mention that Chaplin preferred the 1942 sound version of the film, and considered it the definitive version. He even went as far as trying to destroy the original 1925 version (it luckily managed to survive through copies.) Because Chaplin preferred the newer version he of course took better care of it, so it should come as no surprise that of the two the 1942 version looks best. It presents a far sharper and more detailed version, while also presenting cleaner black and white levels and far more distinct gray levels. The print still has some damage but surprisingly itís quite minimal with the worst offender probably being some minor scratches appearing across the frame. Itís grainy but it looks natural and never overbearing. There are missing frames, some of which seem to be an issue during filming, while other moments apparently have to do with Chaplinís removal of the title cards.

The digital transfer looks exceptional, and presents nothing to worry about: no artifacts or noise, and the image remains film-like.

The 1925 version, the reconstruction and restoration of which was actually approved by the Chaplin estate, was restored by filmmaker Kevin Brownlow and David Gill in 1993. The two had to go to various sources to get the most complete version possible in the best condition possible, even having to go to the sound versions to pull scenes that they couldnít find otherwise. In 2011 both Criterion and Cineteca Bologna undertook the digital restoration of this version and now present it in the best possible way.

It doesnít look as good as the 1942 version sadly, but all things considered it still comes off looking quite nice. The first issue is damage is a bit heavier, more noticeable in certain scenes that donít exist in the sound version. These scenes are littered with scratches, dirt, and marks. Sharpness and detail is okay, nowhere near as good as what we get in the newer version, and the picture can get very fuzzy at moments (Iím guessing a 16mm print may have been used during some sequences,) but itís more than acceptable overall. Frames are also missing, unsurprisingly. Black levels and contrast also arenít as sharp, and at best the darker blacks are a dark gray. Gray levels arenít as distinct and the image can look a bit muddy because of it.

Thankfully, like the í42 version, the digital transfer itself is also strong, presenting no issues such as noise or artifacts, so any issues in the source arenít exaggerated or enhanced. Notes also mention that scenes taken from the sound version had to be reframed because of the soundtrack, which would take up part of the frame. I didnít notice a difference but someone with sharper eyes may notice.

The 1925 version doesnít look great but considering its history (again, Chaplin apparently tried to destroy it) I think weíre lucky we get something that looks as good as what we get here. It has its issues for sure but itís still far more than acceptable. But when we get down to it the 1942 version is actually quite impressive and easily the best version of the two. Though it benefitted from the fact that Chaplin restored the film in í42, for a film this age it still manages to look spectacular.

1925 Version: 6/10 | 1942 Version: 8/10 | Overall: 7/10

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AUDIO

Criterion delivers two audio tracks, one for each film. For the 1942 version we get a lossless linear PCM 1.0 mono track. This track was a fairly big surprise for me. Despite being about 70 years old it sounds fairly clean and new. Chaplinís voice over is incredibly clear with no distortion or noise, and the same can be said of the filmís music. It also has some fairly strong range, and decent volume levels. Overall itís very sharp.

The 1925 version comes with a score (which resembles the score found in the 1942 version) recorded by composer Timothy Brock and presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround. Unsurprisingly, since it was recorded recently, it sounds beautiful. The music fills the environment and perfectly surrounds the viewer, placing them as if theyíre right there with a live symphony while delivering an exceptional level of clarity. Itís loud, has superb range, and never once falters.

1925 Version: 7/10 | 1942 Version: 9/10 | Overall: 8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterionís edition of The Gold Rush, in comparison to their previous Chaplin releases, isnít as loaded in the supplement department but as usual Criterion does an exceptional job covering the film and its history.

The big supplement is of course is the new high-def restoration of the 1925 silent version of the film. Though Chaplin preferred the sound version and the Chaplin family thought this movie is, at best, a ďsupplementĒ to the 1942 feature, Criterion actually presents the option to watch either version from the main menu, with the menus then splitting for each film, each presenting their own time line and chapter menus.

Some despise the sound version so the very fact the silent version is getting a high-def presentation will more than likely be a huge selling point, especially since Criterion didnít skimp on the presentation. I donít hate the sound version, though admittedly do find Chaplinís voice-over, an attempt to update the film for the sound era, a bit odd and probably unnecessary. But itís not without its own charms and has a few laughs itself. In the end it will come down to personal preference but at least viewers have the option and it looks probably about as good as it can right now.

The 1925 version also includes an audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance while the 1942 version actually gets nothing in the way of unique features. Vance can at times be a little much and loves to exaggerate (he claims heís doing the commentary for the 1925 version because he couldnít possibly compete with Chaplinís narration on the í42 versionógag!) but itís hard to deny the guy is knowledgeable and he keeps the track going at a decent pace. He covers the general production, Chaplinís inspirations, and the problems that came up along the way. He also gets into the various histories of the many performers in the film, even right down to the dog, and he also talks about its reception and Chaplinís altering of the film for the sound era. Itís obvious Vance is reading from notes, and again he can be a little much and a little ďtoo cuteĒ for my tastes, but he has a lot to say about Chaplin and the film and many may find this worthwhile.

Criterion next includes a short featurette about the restoration of the 1925 version under the feature Presenting The Gold Rush. Here Kevin Brownlow and Jeffrey Vance (who again pushes, over and over, that the 1942 version is the one Chaplin called the final version) talk about the production, the conversion to sound, and the restoration of the 1925 version. Thereís also quite a bit about Chaplinís forming of United Artists and the films made there, as well as what happened to most of the silent films after Chaplin closed the American studio. Thereís a bit on the reconstruction of the silent version, but disappointingly not as much as I would have liked. Brownlow does cover the various sources they went to though this does feel skimped over. Despite this itís a decent 16-minute briefing on the filmís history and the multiple versions of the film.

Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush, is a 2002 feature which appeared on the original Warner Bros. DVD. The 27-minute piece looks at the universal appeal of Chaplin, his Tramp character, and The Gold Rush, using an interview with Burkina Faso director Idrissa Ouedraogo to explain this. Though this aspect of it is interesting the piece is otherwise nothing too special, offering a fairly simple recollection of the filmís production and the re-release of the sound version. It looks at a few key scenes in the film and does offer some backstory, but Vanceís commentary does cover a lot of this. Its primary advantage is that it does present archival interviews with Lita Grey and Georgia Hale, but otherwise itís a fairly standard making-of/reflection. Itís been divided into 6 chapters.

A Time of Invention is similar to a feature found on Criterion release of Modern Times, where special effects expert Craig Barron looks at the film and explains some of the filmís clever special effects, from how Chaplin did the opening ledge sequence to the finaleís famous ďshack on a ledgeĒ bit. Barron doesnít have the exact answers but based on his knowledge of special effects at the time he is able to offer how he thinks some of the effects were pulled off. I always like this kind of stuff, and with examples Barron easily explains how Chaplin probably pulled off some of these clever tricks. It runs about 19-minutes.

Finally we get a 25-minute interview with composer Timothy Brock about the music by Charles Chaplin. Brock talks about Chaplinís musical background and gives a history of the scores Chaplin would do for his own films, starting with City Lights. Brock then talks about his own restoration work the new recordings heís made of Chaplinís work. He then talks about the process of adapting Chaplinís í42 score for the slightly longer í25 version and talks about the little intricacies that can be found in Chaplinís music. We even get some footage of Chaplin conducting thrown in for good measure. This was actually a surprisingly fascinating addition on Criterionís part, really opening my eyes to Chaplinís music, which Iíve admittedly overlooked.

The supplements then close with four trailers for the 1942 version, one each for England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, altogether offering a look at how the Tramp was advertised around the world.

The included booklet then provides an essay on the film and its two versions by Luc Sante, followed by a reprinting of the original review by James Agee for the 1942 release. Itís a slim booklet but a decent read.

Again, in comparison to the other Chaplin discs released by Criterion itís a little slim, but the material is mostly fascinating and getting a new restoration of the 1925 version more than makes up for the lack of much else.

8/10

CLOSING

With strong presentations for both the 1942 and 1925 versions of the film, as well as some great material to be found in the supplements, this disc comes with a high recommendation for Chaplin fans and Iím still looking forward to Criterion visiting the filmmakerís other films in (hopefully) the near future.


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