“Won’t anything stop that train?”
A Union soldier (John Lupton) receiving one of the first Congressional Medals of Honor reflects back on the leader (Fess Parker) who organized him and others as spies while boldly attempting to steal a Confederate train known as the General — a plot ultimately foiled due to the persistence of the General’s conductor, William A. Fuller (Jeffrey Hunter).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Civil War
- Fess Parker Films
- Flashback Films
- Historical Drama
- Trains and Subways
Based on the same historical episode (known as “The Great Locomotive Chase”) which inspired Buster Keaton’s The General (1926), this Disney live-action film is distinct in hewing closer to the authentic details of the event and telling the story from “the other [winning] side”. Given that the ending of the episode is known, the excitement lies in seeing the attempted act carried out (and fought against by Fuller) with such skill and bravery. Attention to historical detail with the trains is impressive as well; see TCM’s article (or Wikipedia) for more information on how similar trains were found and rented. Unfortunately, Parker — best known for playing Davey Crockett in Disney’s TV mini-series — is as dull as can be in the lead role; it’s difficult to see how he might have grown his career, given the limited range and affect he displays here. Faring much better is Hunter as Fuller, though he’s on the hissing side.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Numerous exciting, well-filmed action sequences in realistic locations and with well-matched replicas of the trains
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a fan of the topic and historical era.