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The Great Locomotive Chase
IMDB Rating: 7.1/10 from 665 votes
Release: 8 June 1956 (USA) /

The Great Locomotive Chase

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Family
Director: Francis D. Lyon,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: This is based on a true story. During the Civil War, a Union spy, Andrews, is asked to lead a band of Union soldiers into the South so that they could destroy the railway system. However, things don't go as planned when the conductor of the train that they stole is on to them and is doing everything he can to stop them. Written by <[email protected]>

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Critic Reviews


As I have mentioned previously there are a limited number of commercial films about the American Civil War. Most people will instantly say GONE WITH THE WIND, but much of that film deals with the ante - bellum South before war begins, and an hour and a half deals with Georgia under Reconstruction into the late 1870s. There is the twin films GODS AND GENERALS about the rise and fall of the magnificent military partnership of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, and GETTYSBURG. There is also THE HORSE SOLDIER about Grierson's Raid into Mississippi during the Vicksburg Campaign. There was the "Shiloh" segment of the HOW THE WEST WAS WON about the battle there. There was THE RAID about the attack of the Confederate Raiders from Canada on St. Albans, Vermont in the summer of 1864. Quantrell and his raiders appear in several films, most notably DARK COMMAND. There is also the prototype for GONE WITH THE WIND about the collapse of southern society called SO RED THE ROSE.

It is notable that the emphasis is on raiders from the southern states or with southern sympathies (William Quantrell or Cantrell, or the St. Alban Raiders). But there are two films on one incident where the raiders were Northern raiders - the raid led by John J. Andrews in his celebrated February 1862 snatch of the locomotive "The General" in an attempt to damage southern railroad tracks and bridges in Georgia and Tennessee. The incident has ended up being the most discussed military operation of the land forces of the Civil War in film. First it was immortalized in what may have been the funniest war comedy ever made, Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL (1927). But Keaton, using the Andrews raid as a start, changed the story by having the Union raiders succeed for awhile in bringing the Confederate locomotive to Union lines and has his southern hero "Johnny Gray" steal it back. Unfortunately, Andrews and his raiders never had such luck. Indeed their fates were quite savage in reality.

This 1956 film by Walt Disney is not as well known as Keaton's classic, but it come closer to being factually correct. It shows the planning of the scheme by Northern spy Andrews and his picked crew, how they stole the "General" in a surprise act when the train was getting refilled, and how they ran it for a twenty mile chase until the train reached the end of it's coal supply. Here the reality of the story gets more savage. Andrews and his men fled into the forests of Tennessee, and were tracked down by Southern troops who recaptured most of them. Andrews and several others were hung. The other captured raiders were sent to prison camps.

For people who only think of Fess Parker as Walt Disney's "Davy Crockett" may be fascinated to see he played another role for that producer - and did a good job at it. And like the last episode of the series about the "King of the Wild Frontier", Parker's character died heroically, but violently again.

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