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(International version - TOP - U.S. Version - BOTTOM)

(aka 'The Iron Trail" or "The Trans-continental Railroad')

directed by John Ford (uncredited)
USA 1924

The 1924 blockbuster that launched John Ford into Hollywood's emerging A-list of directors, The Iron Horse is an epic mythification of the American railroad's birth: a rambunctious blend of historical drama and Western actioner, revenge story and saloon comedy, noble biopic and all-bets-off tall tale. Neighbour to the pre-presidential Abe Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, young Davy Brandon accompanies his father westward to realise the elder's dream of a rail line bridging the ends of the continent. Years after Brandon Sr.'s murder and scalping by a two-fingered Cheyenne half-breed, the adult David (played by George O'Brien, three years before his lead role in Sunrise, here in the first of ten films he made with Ford) joins in the effort now underway to lay track and accommodate "the iron horse". Once more stir the blood and butterflies of Davy's past as Ford guides his characters' fates towards final convergence, like the merging of the tracks from east and west. With its expressive compositional prowess, incredible stunt work, and generous humour, The Iron Horse anticipates the bounteous universe that Ford would go on to calibrate perfectly in his greatest works. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present The Iron Horse in its US, full-length version for the first time on DVD in the UK. The first smash hit in the career of one of Hollywood's greatest and most enduringly popular directors: John Ford (The Searchers, Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, etc.), The Iron Horse was one of the great blockbusters of Hollywood's silent era, with over 6000 extras at work on the film, it is the grandfather of all Westerns.

***

The epic silent Western, made as Fox's response to The Covered Wagon and effortlessly surpassing it. A paean to Lincoln and the notion of Manifest Destiny, it recounts the building of the first transcontinental railroad. Gangs start from both coasts, rebuffing Indian attacks, thwarting greedy landowners, initiating a sweeping trail drive and moving whole towns along the line. After battles against the rigours of blizzard and desert, the final spike is driven home as the hero avenges his father's murder and wins back his childhood sweetheart. Visual glories (and stirring piano accompaniment) sweep aside objections to the tedious passages, the psychological ineptitude, and the racist portrayal of Indians, Irish and 'coolies'. As in Stagecoach, each scene and each character looks fresh struck at the mint of myth, while every frame asserts that this is the making of America and of the American cinema.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

***

Springfield, Illinois. Brandon, a surveyor, dreams of building a railway to the west, but Marsh, a contractor, is sceptical. Abraham Lincoln looks on as their children, Davy Brandon and Miriam Marsh, play together. Brandon sets off with Davy to survey a route. They discover a new pass which will shave 200 miles off the expected distance, but they are set upon by a party of Cheyenne. One of them, a white renegade with only two fingers on his right hand, kills Brandon and scalps him. Davy buries his father... Years pass. It is 1862 and Lincoln signs the bill authorizing construction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways. Marsh is principal contractor and Miriam is engaged to Jesson, the chief engineer... Crews of Chinese, Italians, and Irish work to build the railway while resisting Indian attack. When the pay train is delayed by Indian ambush, the Italians go on strike. Miriam persuades them to return to work... Marsh needs to find a shortcut through the Black Hills. To finish on time, he needs to shorten the route by 200 miles. Bauman, the biggest land owner, wants the route to stay the same - through his land. Marsh has entrusted Jesson with finding the new route. Bauman has Ruby, a saloon girl, persuade Jesson to do otherwise... Davy, now a pony express rider, recalls his father's discovery. He sets off to find the pass. He goes alone, except for Jesson...

Excerpt of summary written by David Steele on IMdb HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 28th, 1924 - USA

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DVD Comparison:

 

BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL vs. 20th Century Fox (2-disc - International and U.S. versions) - Region 0/ Region 1 - NTSC vs. Masters of Cinema (2-disc - International/UK and U.S. versions) - Region 0 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

 

The Iron Horse (The Ford at Fox Collection) is also available in John Ford's Silent Epics (Just Pals / Four Sons / The Iron Horse / Hangman's House / Bad Men)

           

or The complete Ford at Fox Collection (DETAILS HERE)

Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL 20th Century Fox - Region 0 - NTSC Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 2:13:44 2:12:32 (International) + 2:29:25 (US) 2:12:36 (International / UK) + 2:29:30 (US)
Video 1.25:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.22 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.10 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.63 / 7.7 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

BFI

Bitrate:

Fox (International)

Bitrate:

Fox (U.S. version)

Bitrate:

Masters of Cinema (International / UK version)

Bitrate:

Masters of Cinema (U.S. version)

Audio Silent - Musical accompaniment in (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby)  Silent - Musical accompaniment in (Dolby Digital 5.1 / 2.0)  Silent - Musical accompaniment in (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby)  OR

Silent - Musical accompaniment in (Dolby Digital 5.1) 

Subtitles English intertitles English intertitles (French, Spanish optional subtitles)

International offers English, Spanish, Castellano, Quebecois, French, German, Italian, none

None - intertitles are original English
Features

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.25:1

Edition Details:

• John Ford Bio  (text screens)
• Sleeve notes by Ed Buscombe

DVD Release Date: June 24th, 2002

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 23

Release Information:
Studio: Fox

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Two versions – 'International' and United States (both dual-layered)
• Feature film with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (International newly composed by Christopher Caliendo) has optional Spanish/French subtitles over intertitles
• Commentary by Author & Film Historian Robert Birchard (International disc)
• “Scoring The Past: The Iron Horse Sessions with Christopher Caliendo” featurette (International disc) (9:02)
• Restoration comparison (International disc)
• Vintage program (in Ford Collection only)
• Advertising gallery (International disc)


DVD Release Date: December 4th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 28 on both

Release Information:
Studio: Masters of Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Two versions – 'International/UK' and US (both dual-layered)
• Feature film with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (International newly composed by Christopher Caliendo)
• Audio commentary for the UK version of the film by scholar Robert Birchard
• New and exclusive 20-minute video essay by Tag Gallagher, author of John Ford: The Man and His Films
• A lengthy illustrated booklet containing vintage press and publicity material


DVD Release Date: September 26th, 2011

Keep Case
Chapters: 28 on both

Comments:

ADDITION - Masters of Cinema - September 2011: MoC have the Fox transfer - it is as identical as I can determine for both versions. Each one offers dual-layering. Both International/UK versions have the Christopher Caliendo composed score and both have the commentary by Historian Robert Birchard. Much is a duplicated but I'll list the differences as I see them:

No subtitles on the UK edition

• MoC loses the 9-minute "Scoring The Past: The Iron Horse Sessions with Christopher Caliendo",  the restoration demo and advert gallery

• Masters of Cinema gain a new 20-minute video essay by Tag Gallagher, author of John Ford: The Man and His Films

• MoC have included a lengthy illustrated booklet containing vintage press and publicity material

 

Tag's excellent essay and the amazing booklet (I have in PDF format at present) seem very much worth the indulgence if you don't already own 'Ford at Fox' or the single - but serious fans of the director will want this package as well.

 

***

ADDITION: The Iron Horse (The Ford at Fox Collection): . What a shame for the profiteers who have been flogging the picture-boxed BFI edition at Amazon UK for exorbitant prices. The Fox package contains:
• Two versions – 'International' and United States (both dual-layered - see description below)
• Feature film with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (International newly composed by Christopher Caliendo) has optional Spanish/French subtitles over intertitles on US -
International offers English, Spanish, Castellano, Quebecois, French, German, Italian, none (and available for the commentary as well)
• Commentary by Author & Film Historian Robert Birchard (International disc)
• “Scoring The Past: The Iron Horse Sessions with Christopher Caliendo” featurette (International disc) (9:02)
• Restoration comparison (International disc)
• Vintage program (in Ford Collection only)
• Advertising gallery (International disc)

Fabulous package by Fox that blows away the old BFI in every regard. As well as both discs being dual-layered Fox have alleviated the combing but while the discs are both progressive there is some very minor ghosting (it really takes a keen eye to notice). The Birchard commentary (only on the International version) is great. The US version has moments where it is a bit rougher but it also has moments where it is much sharper. It should be noted the International is region 0 and the US is region 1.

This will be another justifiable reason that the Fox Collection will be DVD of the Year.

  Gary W. Tooze

NOTE:

There are two wildly different versions of this film. According to Tag Gallagher (Ford's biographer) the BFI version is the inferior one. He did a review of it in Film International, watching both versions on two different monitors at the same time.  Aside from changing some names (and the dedication), the BFI edition (which was put out by Fox) uses a second take for virtually every shot, and in each instance the second take is very nice but also a bit inferior, and almost always farther away (sometimes extreme long shot in BFI, full shot in US).  In addition there is some exciting montage during an Indian attack which is omitted in the BFI version. Tag wasn't keen on either Lanchberry's score or MoMA's William Perry but recalled that David Shepard did a new score (using much of the original score) for a Japanese release of the US version.



DVD Menus

 
 
 

Menu Fox - US version

 

Masters of Cinema Disc 1

 

 

Masters of Cinema Disc 2

 


Commentary Subtitle Sample on the Fox International version

 

1) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 

Intertitle Sample

 

 

1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 


1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 


Screen Captures

 

Another sample from the US version

 

1) Fox (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 


1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 


1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 


1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 


1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 


1) BFI (International version) - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Fox (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Fox (US version) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema (International version) - Region 0 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Masters of Cinema (US version) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: some scenes in the International are not in the U.S. version

 

 

DVD Box Cover

 

The Iron Horse (The Ford at Fox Collection) is also available in John Ford's Silent Epics (Just Pals / Four Sons / The Iron Horse / Hangman's House / Bad Men)

           

or The complete Ford at Fox Collection (DETAILS HERE)

Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL 20th Century Fox - Region 0 - NTSC Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC


 

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Gary Tooze