Klondike … my Review

“For a director there are commercial rules that it is necessary to obey. In our profession, an artistic failure is nothing; a commercial failure is a sentence. The secret is to make films that please the public and also allow the director to reveal his personality.”  – John Ford


My opinion? 


Not quite Good. Not quite Bad.

Possibly damned by mediocre praisings.

I don’t make movies. So I’m no expert. I only know what I see. And how I feel about it.

I was happy to see that Klondike was a success – commercially. I like people to do well. And I like assurances that further Western style projects may ensue. Nothing ensures that more than money success.

klondike gold 2

Artistically? Another matter.

On the outset – in looking at any such production: the actors. production values, money, cast, concept, writing, logistics etc. etc. you would think/hope – that any film’movie/mini-series/TV Show coulda/woulda/shoulda been successful – though GOD KNOWS that there are a ton of things that go wrong – sick actors, bad weather, bad writing, poor Directing, equipment breakdowns, lack of time, short of money etc .etc … All of the above – and a hundred other things. And then “There’s always the unexpected” as Jack Hawkins so wisely noted in Bridge on the River Kwai.


As a matter of fact, when I look at all that is involved in putting any such production together, I’m often amazed that anything can come out of such collaborations at all. But, amazingly, something often does.

Richard Madden (Haskell) just came from a supremely high quality production where all components have come together in glorious fashion: Game of Thrones. (And we eagerly await it’s coming new season).

Sadly, however, such quality does not bear fruit in the Klondike. Except for one expensive orange.

Metacritic Score

The Metacritic score of 74 by the criics is generous in my opinion. I fully concur with the Users score of 6.4.

How so?

When it all comes down to any kind of rating in these things, Blame, Shame or Fame, it all usually falls directly on the Director. Bang.

Was he good or bad?

Other elements can interfere of course: poor script, bad dialogue, lousy screenplay, evil weather, actor injury/sickness – a hundred things to fight through. BUT … all we see is the movie/mini-series/TV show … and whether we liked it – or not.

My initial impression of episode 1 is that things seem to be rushed – a lot seemed to be getting jammed into a very short time frame.

This is common problem with such productions – especially TV productions – that may have definite budget and time restrictions. Then you’ve also got to get this damn thing Edited – and on the shelf. Post production. And Logistics are huge. No Director wants to be worrying about production details. He wants to focus on the artistic end of things – and the actors. Not whether the tracks are missing for the camera.

I’m trying to be generous.

As the story progressed, there seemed to be peripheral side events/stories that (to me) added nothing to the venture. The side event with the Natives (for instance) sometimes seemed like a distraction. And was poorly executed.

As well, some the climactic scenes were weak and poorly conceived: a native runs out of forest onto a huge frozen lake while being pursued by horsemen. ?? Who are shooting at him with handguns from horseback – from a distance – when it is clearly evident he cannot get away. There is just one of several feats that challenge our credulity …

Several climatic events are unsatisfactorily resolved. Our very evil bad-guy, Tim Roth, is dispensed with by freezing to death … somewhere? But we don’t really see it – and after all the carnage, killing and injustice he created I felt cheated. Anti-climatic. I would have had him end up in Haskell’s toilet … or some such more worthy demise.

tim roth klondike
Tim Roth – Bad Guy

I also scratched my head at some production concepts: we are informed at the outset that the story is “based upon true events”. OK. But we are not told until the very end that most of characters in Klondike were actually REAL people who had been through these misadventures in Dawson – the Klondike – except for Jack London of course – who most of us would know as the famous author. I would liked to have known about this at the outset because it would have pulled me in to the story and characters more – and also helped explain some of their irrational and illogical behaviours – since us humans often don’t behave all that rationally. 

Ah well. Still glad it happened. Still glad I watched.

Just wished it had been the epic I hoped for.

klondike billboardBut the marketing was brilliant.

Klondike IMDB
IMDB says different.

Jack London … The Call of the Wild …


Jack London 4

jack london 2

jack london

jack london books“Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.” ― Jack LondonThe Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

Klondike … Tales of a Gold Rush …

Everything about the Klondike Gold Rush seems over-the-top and inflated. But I don’t believe it is. Gold Fever and the infamous history of gold strikes on a world-wide scale tell the same tale – of what men will do in the quest for the yellow metal – be it the Transvaal, California or from Kalgoorlie to the Klondike, it’s a history written in blood and lust. Few are tales of success – mostly of tragedy, failure and broken dreams – and incredible exploits. And surely great fodder for Western lore and Film.

A number of excellent and readable books have emerged over the years. One such book is that written by the eminent Canadian author Pierre Berton:

The Last Great Gold Rush 1896-1899. 

klondike pierre berton

I single Berton’s book out not just because it is excellent, but because he was born in Whitehorse, Yukon. The Klondike was his back yard. Who better to write the definitive book on it’s History?

Pierre Berton 2

dawson chilkoot klondike

KLONDIKE … Calgary Herald Mini Review …

klondike calgary heraldhttp://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2014/01/22/discovery-channels-alberta-shot-klondike-hits-ratings-gold/

Posted by Eric Volmers

The Discovery Channel’s expensive gamble on gold-rush fever — and Alberta — is paying off big time for the network, bringing it its biggest Monday prime-time numbers in the U.S.

The six-hour miniseries, which finishes its three-night run tonight (Wednesday), reached 1.9-million viewers in Canada and 3.4-million American viewers. Shot in Alberta last year, it stars Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Sam Shepard, Tim Roth and Augustus Prew.

The miniseries, loosely based on Charlotte Gray’s historical book Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike, tells the story of gold-rush fever in Dawson City. Reviews have been mixed — although it earned a respectable 73 per cent approval rating on metacritic, which aggregates reviews — but critics who enjoyed it were lavish in their praise.

The San Francisco Chronicle said “With a cast headed by Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden, Klondike grabs you with terrific performances, an unusually rich script, magnificently sweeping visuals of jagged mountains overlooking valleys of ice and snow, and such a convincing attention to period detail, you’ll believe you’re back in Dawson City at the end of the 19th century.”

While the Hollywood Reporter said it mixed “sweeping, awe-inspiring images of nature with the up-close ugliness of dank, mud-packed streets, Klondike stands out instantly with its large canvas.”

klondike poster 1
“Maybe that wasn’t the break I was looking for … “
breaking bad
You can lose more than your shirt in a gold rush

Gold Diggers




KLONDIKE … Update / Reviews …

klondike reviews
“It’s all downhill from here …”

klondike metacritic

klondike reviews 2



Updated 12:50 pm, Wednesday, January 15, 2014

“Haul out all the plays on the word “gold” because
that’s what the Discovery Channel has struck with its
very first scripted content, the stunning six-part
miniseries “Klondike” airing over three nights beginning
on Monday …”

klondike reviews 4

Gold and Survival, Yes,
but Scripts and Stars, Too

‘Klondike’ Brings Law and Drama
to the Frozen North

klondike reviews 5“What wuz you saying about downhill … ?”


” … The series, which begins on Monday night, is full of the same brutal weather and dubious quests as Discovery’s reality shows, but professional actors — Richard Madden, Sam Shepard, Tim Blake Nelson, Abbie Cornish and Tim Roth among them — make it a much more compelling attraction than any of that other fare …”

Klondike on Discovery … update

Begins January 20.

My Favorite Westerns: If you’re going to shoot a Western period piece – in the mountains – in the winter, why not choose the most brutal winter we’ve had in years?? Because that’s exactly what they’ve done with Klondike.
Maybe the weather is different up there in the mountains? but down here in Calgary we’ve had at least 3 blizzards – so far.
So I gotta believe a lot of the hardships that will be depicted in Klondike won’t require a great deal of acting.
Anticipating a good show – with a lot of snow.

Reposted from CBC News site:

Klondike series could bring gold rush for Discovery Channel


Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Tim Roth among big-name stars

CBC News Posted: Jan 12, 2014 11:46 AM MT Last Updated: Jan 12, 2014 1:01 PM MT

Richard Madden, left, and Augustus Prew are several of the high-profile stars in Klondike, which is set to premier on Jan. 20 on Discovery Channel.
Richard Madden, left, and Augustus Prew are several of the high-profile stars in Klondike, which is set to premier on Jan. 20 on Discovery Channel. (Dan Power/Discovery Communications)

Discovery Channel is set to launch its first-ever scripted venture, Klondike, in a bid they hope will help them strike it rich with viewers.

The six-hour, three-night miniseries begins Jan. 20 on Discovery Canada before continuing the following Tuesday and Wednesday. Scottish actor Richard Madden, best-known for his role as the brutally-murdered Robb Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones, is among multiple high-profile stars who have been in Alberta filming for the series.

Abbie Cornish, Tim Roth, Sam Shepard and Augustus Prew also star, while powerhouse producers Ridley Scott, Paul Scheuring and David Zucker have been working away behind the scenes to bring the series to life.

It’s all based on Charlotte Gray’s 2010 book, Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike.

On Thursday, the cast and producers took questions from reporters as part of the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour.

According to Scheuring, who wrote the script, said he wasn’t intimidated to be writing for Shepard, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, “because the part was written, thank goodness, before he was cast.”

Days of Heaven actor returns

Shepard was a last-minute replacement for Chris Cooper, who had to withdraw with an illness right before production was scheduled to begin.

The 70-year-old actor had worked in Alberta before, memorably on Days of Heaven in 1978.

He was apparently hard to reach after Cooper pulled out because he was offline and out fishing, something he indulged in while on location in Alberta.

“Some of the biggest cutthroats I’ve ever seen in my life,” Shepard said about fly fishing “way up there on the Athabasca River.”

No chance of shooting in Dawson City

The producers say there was never any thought of shooting the series right in Dawson City, despite the fact that the picturesque Yukon town retains much of the look it had back in the gold rush days of the 1890s.

The usual lure of tax grants and funding — from the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Film Development Program — lured production to Alberta.

And it was damn cold, says Brittish-born Prew,

The actor plays Byron Epstein, who teams up with Madden’s character, Bill Haskell, as the two childhood friends set out to make their fortune along with thousands of others during the peak year of the Klondike gold rush.

“We were in period costumes, no thermals,” Prew said of his experience on location in Alberta last April through July. “I went on holiday right after to Turkey. It was lovely and warm there.”

‘Brutal’ shooting conditions in Rockies

The cast, producers and crew faced a 40-minute snowmobile ride followed by another 40-minute trek — sometimes by helicopter — for scenes shot in a tiny town high up in the Rocky Mountains, northwest of Calgary.

There are Canadians in the cast, including Brian Markinson (Da Vinci’s Inquest), who is currently shooting Fargo in Calgary, and Saskatchewan native Michael Greyeyes.

While Prew said the relatively isolated mountain-top locales could be “rather meditative,” he won’t miss the 18-hour days.

“I only saw my hotel six hours a night,” he said.

According to Zucker, one of the series’ producers, much of the shoot “was brutal. There was so little time to shoot such a big thing and it took four months of 18-hour days.

Despite that, the real-life struggle and challenges look good on screen.

“We wanted to emphasize that it was miserable,” Zucker said. “A lot of that was in the script and I pushed it even further. It is about the battle with nature and we didn’t want that to look easy.”


‘Klondike’ Mini-Series Update …

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you a fortune.”



Excellent trailer.
Many may recognize lead actor Richard Madden,
who has tossed aside his sword from Game of Thrones
(assuming he’s still alive in that saga)
to take up a pick and a pistol.
for Klondike




What’s a guy to spend all this gold on … ?


KLONDIKE Sam Shepard
… for that by which ye judge …

Official Discovery Channel Webpage for Klondike