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The Klondike gold strike of 1897 inspires fortune-seekers to head for Alaska. Joe and Jim, brothers from South Carolina; Lars, escaping a shrewish wife in Michigan; a poor farmer from Kansas; weathered prospectors from Nevada; and countless others leave San Francisco by ship. The Bulkys head north to open a restaurant, bringing a poor relative, Berna, along to help. On board Berna meets Larry and falls in love. The overland route to Dawson City is hazardous and arduous. Each person must carry their own food, a ton of it. That means traveling 80 miles back and forth to advance one mile, carrying 50 pounds a trip. The Chilkoot Pass is one of the worst sections of the trail. In the spring the trekkers take to the rivers, swollen by melting ice. Whitehorse Rapids proves the last and biggest obstacle to reaching the gold fields. But that's not the end of the hardships. Claim jumping, blizzards, fires, and Berna's honor at stake are to be faced before striking it rich. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[Looking at his remaining matches in the freezng cold]
8 matches... 8 fires. We can fight hunger... but we CAN'T fight the cold!
Don't worry, partner. We've been through worse than this.
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One of the best of the "last period of silent films" takes a look at various characters who leave their peaceful homes and go into the dangerous and deadly Klondike in hopes of striking gold. Delores Del Rio and Ralph Forbes play a young couple who have everything ahead of them but the husband's greed gets them into one dangerous situation after another. This MGM production was highly troubled to say the least and a lot of this is due to a dangerous stunt where four stunt men were killed trying to ride boats down some very dangerous rapids. Two of the bodies were never found and if you've seen the documentary Hollywood there's a very haunting story about how badly the stunt went wrong. No film is worth anyone being killed and when you see this scene and the men who were killed you can't help but wonder why anyone would even attempt to ride these rapids and seeing the stuff in the actual film was quite eerie. The film certainly makes you feel the bitter cold of the territory as director Brown has no problem at putting you right into the middle of this gold craze. I really enjoyed the start of the film as we travel a map of the U.S. and hit various states where we see the people hearing about the gold rush and leaving their homes. The next sequence has then in San Francisco where they're about to board a ship and on the ship we see how these characters all plan on making millions yet none of them realize the danger and terror that is ahead. I thought the film did a terrific job at making you feel and understand what was striking the country during 1898 when people thought their futures were in Alaska yet none of them realized the only thing waiting their was death. The "stories" of the characters really don't add up to too much as it's pretty much your typical disaster film stuff. What does work is the amazing footage of the wilderness as well as some terrific action scenes. The before mentioned rapid scene look amazing but knowing four people were killed takes away the entertainment. Another scene has hundreds of people being killed during a snow slide and I must say that while the effect is easily seen today, the scene still packs quite a punch and the effect certainly grabs one. The cast do a fine job with their roles but then again the film isn't too worried about the story or their performances. The main thing going for THE TRAIL OF '98 is the amazing stunts and the way that the director really puts you right there just as if this was a documentary on the events.
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