AFI Top 100 Movie: The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush is a 1924 film featuring Charlie Chaplin in his famous “Little Tramp” role. In brief, he travels to the Yukon to participate in the titular Gold Rush, but is quickly caught up in the sort of zany antics you might expect from an old timey slapstick comedy.

I caught this on Netflix Streaming before it expired on the 15th. I’ve never watched a silent film before but it wasn’t as painful as I might’ve imagined. A few things struck me. First, it’s clearly impossible to experience this movie the way it would have been experienced in 1924. For one thing, many of its jokes felt really cliche, but I suspect that many of them were more original at the time and have since been reused to exhaustion. Second, whether the film was always of poorer quality or whether it’s the result of degradation by the time the film was transfered to its present form, the graininess and seizing pace of the film speed made many of the scenes unintentionally creepy. I found this fairly distracting particularly during the scenes in the isolated cabin. Third, the social standards have shifted so much in the last 90 or so years that it’s hard to understand whether the villain is seriously out of line or just mildly dislikable by 1920’s values. That last point has been kind of a recurring theme as I’ve gone through some of these older movies.

In all, I thought it was a satisfying film, and it’s impressive what Chaplin can do without dialog. For the cultural experience alone, I recommend giving this a shot at some point.

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