The Criterion Collection releases Charlie Chaplin's 1925 comedy classic "The Gold Rush" on a single-disc Blu-ray package. Although it is originally presented as a silent film, it received Academy Award nominations for Best Sound Recording and Best Musical Score during its 1940s re-release. It was also selected for preservation at the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board in 1992.
This edition features two cuts of the movie, the 1925 version that became one of the highest-grossing comedies of the silent era and the 1942 talkies version that also made big waves for its new generation of audience. The story revolves around the early days of the Klondike gold rush as the Tramp searches for gold, then he finds something more than what he bargained for. This film written, produced, directed, and starred by Chaplin also features silent comedy talents Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, and Tom Murray.
A 35mm copy from a private collector and other preserved fragments of the original 1925 film allowed the reconstruction and restoration of Chaplin's original offering. This leads to some missing frames and variations in picture quality as salvaged footage came from different sources. But despite its fluctuating clarity and other age-related issues, the shots' depth, image fluidity, and color balance are substantially improved to favor the HD format.
The 1942 version looks great with its excellent grayscale and convincing color reproduction. Except for some instances of mild sharpening, the transfer doesn't suffer from serious visual anomalies. Amidst some noticeable grime, specks, and scratches, as a whole, both versions still showcase genuinely astounding cinematography and production design. These presentations also boast stable grain structure for a more organic look.
The disc offers two standard audio tracks. The 1925 version sports a remastered five-channel track, while the 1942 version sports a mono track. No menacing audio dropouts and distortions are heard anywhere in both mixes.
The newly restored and reconstructed 1925 film features a fully symphonic 2007 score by Timothy Brock, which is based on Chaplin's score made for the 1942 re-release. Its five-channel mix handles the musical elements quite well. Meanwhile, the 1942 film features a mono mix with an understandably limited dynamic range and flat low ends. This is a clean and satisfying track targeting the purists' demand for an authentic mix based on the film's original source material.
This Blu-ray edition delivers a couple of extras including an audio commentary by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance, four trailers of the film, a video interview with composer and conductor Timothy Brock discussing Chaplin's scores for his early works, the old-school special effects featurette entitled "A Time of Innovation: Visual Effects in The Gold Rush," the historical featurette entitled "Presenting The Gold Rush," and the documentary "Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush." The package also supplies a 25-page illustrated booklet featuring behind-the-scene stills, cast and crew lists, James Agree's Time review of the 1942 re-release, and film critic Luc Sante's essay. The 1942 version provides viewers with optional English SDH subtitles as well.
"The Gold Rush" is an epic comedy known for having some of the funniest scenes that Chaplin did throughout his career. He frequently expressed his affinity with this film, which is often acknowledged as one, if not the most successful of all his works. Interestingly rich, funny, and dramatic, this classic piece is truly worth watching, especially for Chaplin fans.