Unless you are a silent film enthusiast or an aficionado of Westerns then you are probably unfamiliar with THE IRON HORSE although the phrase describing locomotives is well known. It was made in 1924 by the Fox Film Corporation hoping to cash in on the success of Paramount's THE COVERED WAGON from the year before. Like that film, THE IRON HORSE was conceived on a grand scale using as its subject the building of the first American transcontinental railroad. It was the movie that put John Ford on the map as a filmmaker to be reckoned with where he would remain for the next 40 years. But for years no decent print of the film was available for viewing. All early Fox Films original negatives were destroyed in a fire in 1937 which makes this restoration by Photoplay Productions and the BFI all the more remarkable.
The print isn't perfect but it's a far sight better than the old VHS version from the Killiam Collection. The picture quality is good, proper color tints have been added, and there is a quality film score composed by John Lanchbery. The movie is not without its share of flaws including excessive length (134 minutes), an uneven balance between comedy and drama, and a mixed bag of performances with Madge Bellamy being the weakest. George O'Brien as the hero and Fred Kohler as the principal villian still hold up well today and while the storyline is overly familiar to us now, it features many things that would later become cliches'. Incidentally Kohler really had only three fingers on the one hand having lost the others in a mining accident before he became an actor. If you are at all interested in silent films or Westerns or director John Ford then THE IRON HORSE is a must have.