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Klondike (Blu-ray Review)

KlondikeThis three-part mini series/ (6 episodes) – (set in the late1890s) centers on the friendship of two adventurers, Bill Haskell and Byron Epstein, as they travel Northwest during the Klondike Gold Rush. Along the way they must navigate harsh conditions, unpredictable weather and desperate, dangerous characters.  

 

Klondike

The Series 

There’s gold in them thar hills! Yes, plenty of it and it’s in the ground waiting to be dug up. This is the simplistic notion that two best friends and college students from Connecticut, Bill (Richard Madden) and Byron (Augustus Prew), will hold on to until they’re able to claim their stake. I’ll say that the beginning of the show starts off like many other shows before it. Two friends with their entire lives ahead of them leave everything behind, with just the clothes on their backs and what little money they have in their pockets to go find the dream. The dream of riches, that is. Granted, this epiphany of striking it rich only happened, because Byron lost a table game and was about to get beaten into a pulp. While partaking of booze at a local pub they run into a man who strikes it rich and tells the lads that there’s plenty of gold there as long as it’s not being reported in the paper. Once word gets out that there’s gold up in the Yukon there it’s over.

You don’t have to tell Bill and Byron twice, because as soon as they finish their comped drinks it’s off to big blue yonder up north. The events leading up to the arrival of the town are neat and I had a lot of fun hanging out with Bill and Byron but things quickly go south when the elements take notice and decide to try and bring their world crumbling down. After months on the trail the boys make it to a small tent/town called Dawson City where many folks have struck it rich and many folks have not. The man with the plan who seems to know everything and conquers at will is The Count (Tim Roth). He owns many properties and many claims to plots of land that have yet to produce gold.

Another important player in Dawson City is the beautiful Belinda Mulrooney (Abbie Cornish) who seems to be the polar opposite of The Count in terms of temperament for violence but with an equal cutthroat sensibility when it comes to business. She too owns many properties in Dawson along with many claims that have yet to produce. One thing that I was really fascinated by that I don’t think has really been explored in films dealing around the gold rush, etc., is that of claims. Claims are seem to be pure speculation. Bill and Byron acquire a claim but there’s no guarantee that there will be gold once they begin digging on the plot of land that they hold claim too. It’s pure speculation on everyone’s part but people are willing to die to acquire as many claims as they can in order to increase those odds of striking for gold.

I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the entire history of The Yukon gold rush or the source material that Klondike was adapted from. The book is called The Gold Diggers by Charlotte Gray, so whether they embellished the miniseries for entertainment’s sake, I don’t know. I do know that I was kept entertained throughout the entire series with only one small complaint. When Klondike originally aired it was split into three parts with chapters. The Blu-ray is split into 3 chapters without parts, which means that you’ve got three 90-minute mini-movies. The problem is that towards the end of each of chapter we get these endings that seem to lag just a bit. Characters get killed off or subplots end and you think that the credits will roll any second. Wrong. There’s still like 20-25 minutes left to go. That was very jarring and it reminded me of the extended edition of Return of the King with its multiple endings. I didn’t mind those, though, but Klondike doing that was slightly awkward.

Klondike also features a really cool ensemble cast of film and stage familiars that include Sam Shepard, Tim Blake Nelson, and Martin Csokas. They’ve also injected real world history into the mix by giving Jack London a cameo in the film and fit that into what he would write later on in his distinguished career. Klondike also has Ridley Scott serving as executive producer with Discovery Channel funding the entire endeavor. In fact, this is the first ever-scripted mini-series Discovery has ever produced. If they’re able to maintain this type of high quality in their projects to come it will make for some great television. I do look forward to what they in store for us next. As for this program, I have only one question: What would you do for a Klondike bar?

*snare* 😉

Klondike

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: The video presentation on Klondike is a bit peculiar, because it looks great for the most part but suffers from many instances of softness, especially towards the end. Sharpness and contrast levels are fine and I did not spot any instances of postproduction tinkering.

Depth: There are some lovely compositions throughout Klondike and the Blu-ray takes advantage of this. The level of depth is epic and you almost feel like you’re there riding down the Yukon River.

Black Levels: Here’s another problem like the aforementioned softness of the image, several scenes throughout also crush during some nighttime scenes. I don’t know what happened there. It’s not a deal breaker but it’s clearly visible.

Color Reproduction: Color reproduction is epic and I noticed only minimal banding and no pixilation. You will see many scenes that are absent of color, usually the mountain climbing snow scenes, before being injected with a lovely glow once folks are out of the snow and ice. Interior shots also shine as they have a very warm glow that I like.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are nice and natural until someone comes down with a deadly disease.

Noise/Artifacts: There’s only a bit of dirt here and there but it seems like it’s inherent to the source.

 

Klondike

Audio

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The lossless surround soundtrack handles the epic journey with relative ease. You will feel the desolation of everyone who set out to find fortune in Klondike as they take on everything nature throws at them. One would think that because this is a Discovery Channel production that it would be light and unremarkable. You’re in for a treat to the senses.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel does its part as it handles avalanches, horse chases and other assorted low-end happenings without any problems.

Surround Sound Presentation: There many instances of things buzzing and whizzing by in he rear stage. You’ll hear gunshots from rifles swoop over your head from front to back and back to front.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean, crisp, and clear.

 

Klondike

Extras 

Klondike is a wee bit light on extras. We get three featurettes that feature the cast and crew talking about what went into the making of the miniseries and what was taken from history and such. It’s standard fare.

  • Klondike: Behind the Scenes (HD, 21:16) – This is the “deluxe” featurette where the producers, director, cast, and crew talk about the grueling 2-month shoot and what they were hoping to achieve in recreating the events at Klondike. 
  • Discovering Klondike (HD, 10:36) – This is the condensed version of the previous featurette – I thought I had accidentally clicked on the first one again when I watched it, because most of the footage and interview segments are the exact same as the ones in the first featurette.
  • Cast Interviews (HD, 11:14) – Here’s another featurette that focuses on the cast but strips away all of the making-of stuff. Yes, it’s still pretty redundant, because some of the interviews in this segment also appear verbatim in the previous two featurettes.

 

Klondike

Summary 

Klondike was very entertaining and the fact that it was taken from actual events made it even more absorbing. The assemble cast and thrilling situations made for a pretty cool series. My complaint, as I mentioned before, was that instead of combining the six episodes into three they should have left alone. It gets jarring after a while, because you can obviously see where one episode began and where one ended. The tech-specs are above average and I’m a little baffled as to why they would edit the same featurette three times. In any event Klondike is highly recommended.

Order Klondike on Blu-ray!

Klondike

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

2 Responses to “Klondike (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I dug this miniseries.

  2. Brandon Peters

    Thanks for covering this, G!