The Gold Rush appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the film’s age, the presentation looked quite impressive.
Occasional issues related to softness appeared, as wide shots could come across as a little indistinct and mildly blurry. However, the majority of the movie appeared accurate and reasonably concise. I saw no issues due to jagged edges or moiré effects, and I witnessed no artifacts like edge haloes or digital noise reduction.
Black levels looked nicely deep and dense, without any notable concerns. Contrast levels were positive; faces appeared a little too white at times, but that looked related to the photographic style. Low-light situations were accurately displayed and seemed appropriately well defined.
Despite the very advanced age of Rush, the print came largely free from flaws. Probably the biggest intrusion stemmed from some white flashes that popped up sporadically. Some flickering also appeared at times. Other than the occasional spot or speck, however, the film looked free from any other form of physical defect. The softness left this as a “B+”, but I still thought it was a pretty terrific presentation given its era.
I also felt pleased with the monaural audio of Gold Rush. Not that the film gave us a slambang affair, of course, as it remained modest in scope. Chaplin’s narration sounded fairly natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music showed good clarity as well; the score didn’t boast the greatest range, but those elements came across as pretty well-rendered.
Few effects appeared during the film. In fact, I recalled little more than some gunshots and also the creaking of the house on the edge of the cliff; otherwise the soundtrack limited itself to music and narration. The effects we got seemed pretty strong; they were clean and fairly well defined.
No parts of the mix displayed noticeable distortion; the track sounded free from significant edginess or shrillness, as no background noise appeared throughout the film. Overall, the audio of The Gold Rush worked pretty well for its age.
The Blu-ray includes both the original 1925 version of the film (1:29:14) and the 1942 reworking of the movie (1:12:24). Chaplin took his previously-released flick, lost dialogue cards, added music, effects, and narration, and made a few other changes to it such as a minor alteration to the ending.
Note that my ratings for the picture/audio of the Blu-ray examined the 1942 cut; since that’s the one I’d evaluated when I checked out two prior DVD versions, I thought it made sense to stick with it for consistency. I watched the 1925 edition as well, however, I found it to present a rougher visual experience – which didn’t come as a surprise given the borderline “lost” nature of that one.
As explained in the Blu-ray’s menu, “by the 1940s, the silent 1925 version of The Gold Rush was no longer in circulation. And over the next 60 years, most of the film’s original elements were destroyed; only degraded, pirated copies could be found. In 1993, filmmakers David Gill and Kevin Brownlow completed a reconstruction of the 1925 film, one as close to the original as possible.”
This means that the 1925 could look significantly uglier than the 1942 one, though most of it seemed fine. After all, both used a lot of the same footage, so much of it should appear similar. Exceptions occurred, though, so don’t expect the same level of clarity and cleanliness from the 1925 cut.
On the other hand, the 1925 version offered superior audio via its use of a 2007 score composer Timothy Brock created based on Chaplin’s music for the 1942 edition. Brock’s score got the DTS-HD MA 5.1 treatment and sounded very good. The audio focused on the front speakers and provided nice stereo spread across those channels; the surrounds added some general support as well. To recreate the 1925 theatrical experience, this cut lacked effects or speech, of course.
Do I think one version of the film surpasses the other? Not really. The purist in me wants to opt for the 1925 edition, but I have no major complaints about the 1942 cut, either. I’m happy both appear here, in any case.
Alongside the 1925 version of the film, we can check out an audio commentary from Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at the project's roots/influences and development, story/characters/themes/interpretation, sets and locations, cast and performances, music, cinematography, effects and visual design, some biographical notes about Chaplin, changes for the 1942 version, the film’s release/reception and a few other areas.
Expect a thorough discussion of the film here. Vance touches on a wide variety of appropriate subjects and does so with verve and enthusiasm. He ensures that we learn a lot about the flick and its creators in this engaging chat.
Some featurettes follow. Presenting The Gold Rush fills 15 minutes, 52 seconds with remarks from Vance and filmmakers Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. They discuss the 1925 flick but mostly look at the 1942 update as well as the fate of the 1925 cut and its modern restoration. The latter elements are the most interesting, as they give us a good perspective on the challenges that came along with the recreation of the original 1925 edition.
Chaplin Today provides an examination of The Gold Rush, though it starts in an odd manner. The 26-minute, 57-second piece opens with loose information about a modern African gold rush, and we hear from filmmaker Idrissa Ouedraogo, who talks about his work and his feelings about Chaplin. While not inappropriate, this feels like a weird way to begin the program.
From there, “Today” mostly becomes a more standard documentary. We get notes about the influence of the infamous Donner Party on the film, the shooting of the scene in which Chaplin morphs into a chicken, the movie’s general genesis, locations sets, casting, and various production notes. We hear older comments from actors Mary Pickford, Lita Grey and Georgia Hale, and we even see a snippet from a Fatty Arbuckle flick that inspired Chaplin’s legendary “roll dance” sequence. Although it progresses in a haphazard and illogical way at times, “Today” includes enough good material to merit a look.
With the 19-minute, 12-second A Time of Innovation: Visual Effects in The Gold Rush, we find info from visual effects expert Craig Barron; we also get archival audio from Gold Rush cinematographer Roland Totheroh. The program looks at the various visual techniques – photographic and effects – that were utilized for the film. Barron covers the material well and delivers nice insights into the state of early visual effects.
Music By Charles Chaplin lasts 24 minutes, 58 seconds and delivers info from composer Timothy Brock. He talks about aspects of the Gold Rush score as well as other musical works related to Chaplin and his films. Once again, we get a thorough, informative piece that offers useful notes.
After this we discover a series of trailers. We get four of these, all of which tout the 1942 version of the flick. We find one each in English, French, German, and Dutch. Lastly, the set features a 24-page booklet. It delivers an essay from critic Luc Sante as well as a 1942 Time review by James Agee. As always, the booklet adds class to the package.
When I initially watched it years ago, I must admit I expected to dislike The Gold Rush. Instead, I found it offered a pretty witty, entertaining and charming little film. The Blu-ray presents age-defying visuals as well as good quality audio and a solid set of supplements. This becomes the best home video incarnation of the silent classic to date.
To rate this film, visit the Chaplin Collection review of THE GOLD RUSH