The year after The Gold Rush and Battleship Potemkin, Eisenstein’s teacher Kuleshov turned in his own gold rush masterpiece. It’s far less funny than the Chaplin feature, and far more economical than the Eisenstein – for the bulk it’s just three actors, a cabin and a storm. You don’t see a lot of Russian films set in Canada. I don’t, anyway, but then I don’t see a lot of Russian films – been meaning to correct that. The titles pronounce this as the “third work of the Kuleshov Collective,” the first two of which still mostly survive.

I don’t get the organizational structure here, but “chairman” Hans (Sergei Komarov of The End of St. Petersburg) with two “shareholders” (blonde-bearded Dutchy and black-bearded Harky) are out in the Yukon mining for gold – unsuccessfully, for the most part, along with Hans’s English wife Edith (Aleksandra Khokhlova of earlier Kuleshov Collective film Mr. West) and mustachioed Irishman (proven by fact that he spends his free time playing flutes and dancing jigs) Michael Dennin (Vladimir Fogel, the hero of Chess Fever).

Based on “The Unexpected” by Jack London. London’s stories made for extremely popular film adaptations from 1908 to 1930 – and he lived to 1916, so may have seen some of them. I suppose people back then enjoyed watching lone, underprepared hikers crash through the ice then slowly freeze to death. This group, however, is well stocked for the weather, and just as they were giving up on their present location, Dennin finds a cache of gold. Unfortunately, he makes up for this by developing a dark jealous rage and deciding to kill everybody. He blows away both the shareholders before Hans takes him down.

Edith is upset:

Now the surviving couple have to bury their partners (in a raging storm) then keep guard over Dennin for a whole season until the Law arrives, because Edith insists they not take revenge into their own hands. But Dennin is insane and destructive (he sets the bed on fire during a flood), and Edith seems to fall further into a religious fervor as they all suffer from cabin fever. This is the bulk of the movie’s runtime, the three of them stewing wordlessly in the cabin. It plays very much like a horror film. Kuleshov shows off his pioneering editing techniques, but also some great camerawork, like this post-Nosferatu hand shadow reaching for the gold.

Eventually the couple appoint themselves officials of the Law, give Dennin a British-style trial, sentence him to be hanged, then carry out the execution on a nice spring day. Dennin appears dramatically in their doorway that night amidst a raging storm – a ghost, a shared delusion or something else?

The trial, watched over by a painting of the Queen:

Nice day for a hanging:

I liked the rumbly electronic score by Franz Reisecker, though it provides some weird moments – while Dennin is playing his Irish flute music, the music we hear is despairingly atonal.