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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 <email@example.com>
Silent epic with enough strong scenes to make it watchable
This silent movie from 1928 is an epic drama centered on the real-life Klondike gold rush of 1897-98, with portions of it real (e.g. the treacherous ascent up the Chilkoot Pass), and others making up the story of the fictional characters. Among the prospectors are a couple who meet and fall in love, played by Dolores del Rio and Ralph Forbes. Their chief nemesis is a schemer played by Harry Carey, who always seems a step ahead of everyone else. There are several other prospectors who provide humor (usually quite dated) as well as the pathos of their situation, enduring one hardship after another.
The movie is drawn out and styled as an epic, 'big' film. I found it somewhat tedious in big patches of the first half, but it grew on me. Director Clarence Brown ('A Free Soul' and 'National Velvet' among four other Oscar nominations) includes some decent special effects in scenes such as an avalanche and a man being lit on fire, and heightens emotional tension with slow zooms into the actors' faces. In a scene that made me smile, Carey sits down to a steak dinner and has plates of beans brought in around it, so that he can eat a 'real meal' in front of them, having lived on beans for six months. Despite the cuteness and simple dialog in the film, there are moments of real grit, including betrayal, an implied rape, and scenes on the rapids which actually killed four stuntmen. There are parts which definitely stand up close to 90 years later, and it's worth sticking with.
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