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Charlie Chaplin: The Gold Rush [DVD]
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The Gold Rush, Charles Chaplin famously said, is "The picture I want to be remembered by." In 1998 leading movie critics and experts voted and remembered, choosing this 24-carat comedy as one of the AFIs Top-100 American films.
Chaplins irrepressible Little Tramp seeks riches in the Yukon in this all-time classic presented here in Chaplins later sound-era re-release version (Disc 1) and a remastered original silent version (Disc 2). Leave it to the Tramp to turn hard times into hilarity as he savours a thanksgiving feast of boiled shoe, slip-slides inside a house teetering on a cliff, choreographs a whimsical dance of dinner rolls, and faces all manner of perils with pluck and fortitude. The Gold Rush is a cinematic wonder. Remember. And enjoy.
Chaplin's personal favourite among his own films, The Gold Rush embodies all the trademarks of his mix of slapstick, satire, social commentary and sentiment--a perfect showcase for his ever-popular Little Tramp. Set during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898, the film features a comic reworking of the gruesome Donner Party story, where a group of snowbound immigrants resorted to eating their clothes and then each other to stay alive.
It opens with a grand shot of gold prospectors snaking up the side of a mountain. We then see the Tramp, typically estranged from the rest of the group, making his own way across the snow. Seeking shelter in a blizzard, he finds the cabin of the dangerous criminal Black Larson (Tom Murray) and when another prospector, Big Jim McKay (Mack Swain), comes along, the two of them take charge of the cabin and eventually drive him out. Starving on Thanksgiving, the pair decide to dine in style when the Tramp cooks one of his shoes, famously acting as if he's cooking a fine piece of meat; twirling the laces up like spaghetti and savouring every last nibble. When he finally escapes, the Tramp ends up in a local town and falls in love, only to be rebuffed on New Year's Eve. When a chance meeting reunites him with Big Jim, the two go back in search of gold hidden near the cabin.
Despite its unlikely origins, the story is shaped into a classic comedy containing many famous set-pieces, including the cabin teetering on the edge of a cliff and the Tramp morphing into a chicken before the starving Big Jim. Ultimately it's Chaplin's endearing and amusing persona that makes this material genuinely enduring.
On the DVD The Gold Rush comes to DVD in a decent transfer with good mono sound and the option of Dolby Digital 5.1. The second disc of bonus features opens with an introduction by David Robinson, who chronicles Chaplin's work on the film, which was interrupted when his clandestine affair with his 15-year-old leading lady meant that, due to her becoming pregnant, the filming had to close for a few months while a new female lead was found. The original 1925 version of the film, before Chaplin updated it with the addition of sound in 1942, appears in full. The Chaplin Today documentary illustrates the influence of the film on director Idrissa Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso, whose own work follows similar themes, as well as going behind the scenes on the original production. Trailers, posters and stills round off this worthy addition to the Chaplin Collection. --Laura Bushell
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