Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

(Please note the films reviewed on this site contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.)

  • Roaring Rails (1924) - Plot Summary - Silent era melodrama. When a mother is killed by a battle explosion in WWI France, soldier "Big Bill" Benson (Harry Carey) saves her young son and takes him home to America with him after the War. He returns to his old position as train engineer with Central Pacific railroad and is now devoted "Pop" to the adopted French boy he's dubbed "Little Bill" (Frankie Darro), his new constant sidekick. But the kid sneaks onto the train one day and almost falls off, causing Big Bill to become distracted and get in a big train wreck with another train (hmm, it looked pretty bad but both manage to live through it!). He's to be put on trial for his negligence at the throttle, but the kid pleads for his dad and the charges get dropped - though he is sacked from his railroad job! Now Big and Little Bill are bums on the road, stealing rides on rail cars, the kid dressed every bit like Jackie Coogan in "The Kid", with cap, and ragged outfit, and little hobo sack over his shoulder. When the kid steals some food from a rail yard diner, Big Bill returns to the diner asking for work to pay them back and "kind and friendly" (as the title card tells us) waitress Nora (Edith Roberts) befriends him and helps get him employed by Overland Union, a rail company trying to complete a rail line to get rights to a new route. Unfortunately, the company foreman, "Red" Burley, is not only a big bully but a very bad man who is taking money from the rival Central Pacific company to cause landslides and whatever else it takes to keep the line from being completed. Well, when Big Bill is asked by his company boss to "board" Little Bill the mischief maker somewhere or lose his job, the kid overhears and runs away ending up on this bridge that gets exploded on purpose by Red. Oh dear, the child's eyes have been badly injured and only an expensive operation can save him from permanent blindness! Soon murder is afoot and Bill takes the blame on purpose in hopeful exchange for his boy's operation. But he gets duped - and now the big climax involving getting the train through the route (engulfed by fire started by guess who?!) before the deadline his only hope to save himself and the boy!

    Review - A rip-roaring silent in high melodrama that features everything from a train wreck to a bridge explosion to blindness to murder to a train roaring through flames! The film definitely gets better as it gets into the second half, the climax ending quite well done. Of course, there's a bit of a romance that develops between Harry Carey's character and the pretty young woman Nora (she also becomes quite devoted to the boy), but it's really a fairly minor side plot to all the intrigue and melodrama that fills most of the story. Restored by George Eastman House, the tinted print looked quite nice as a whole, with good contrast throughout. I wasn't so sure about this one in the earlier parts of the film, but did end up thinking it was pretty good - and I do love silent melodramas! Rating - * 8/10 stars *

    Director: Tom Forman
    Film Genre: Western Action / Melodrama
    Film Runtime: 60 minutes

Links / Resources


10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

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