Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The 1914 version ofThe Spoilers, the first of five movie adaptations of Rex Beach's two-fisted Alaska Gold Rush novel, was probably the best feature-length effort ever turned out by the old Selig Polyscope company. Certainly it was one of the most authentic-looking "Klondike" pictures to come out of Hollywood (right down to the ankle-deep mud in the streets). William Farnum plays a prospector who, along with several of his cohorts, is cheated out of his stake by duplicitous gold commissioner Tom Santschi. Things come to head with the now-legendary fight scene between Farnum and Santschi--the real thing, performed without pulled punches or stunt doubles (the two combatants were hired as "technical consultants" for the fight sequence in the 1930 remake, though it's likely that this was merely for the benefit of the publicity department). Undeniably primitive (especially in its sub-titling, with the names of the speaking characters printed on the cards), The Spoilers has a rough-hewn charm that is lacking from the slicker remakes of 1923, 1930, 1942 and 1955.