John Ford’s 1942 spectacular The Iron Horse is available as a single disc or in various Ford at Fox sets.
Justifiably famous for a variety of reasons, the film tells the story of the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad. It allowed Ford free reign to throw in everything he had. By this time, Westerns were fully established, partly to Ford’s credit, so it wasn’t necessary to reinvent the wagon wheel, nor was it necessary to invent the epic. In fact, The Covered Wagon, released the year before, was likely the reason Fox chose to move forward on this picture. In any case, Ford’s ambition was beyond reckoning: his casting worked for the most part, the sentiment was mildly overripe and the humor thick, but the visual aspects and the sheer breadth and scope of the production are staggering. When they say, “a cast of thousands,” they’re being modest here—the story of the production would make a great movie all in itself.
The international version of the film is shorter and slightly the better for it. Both that version and the U.S. versions are included in the DVD package. My two cents worth is that Christopher Caliende’s new score is a bit too bright and too busy, but then therein lies the great advantage of watching silent movies at home: you can accompany a picture like this with Motorhead’s greatest hits or Mozart if you want to, and no one will be the wiser.
To catch a brief film clip of The Iron Horse, visit Amazon.com and click on the picture.