Denver and Rio Grande (1952)

Passed   |    |  Adventure, Western


Denver and Rio Grande (1952) Poster

A romanticized history of the building of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in the Colorado mountains.


5.8/10
411

Get More From IMDb

For an enhanced browsing experience, get the IMDb app on your smartphone or tablet.

Get the IMDb app

Reviews & Commentary

Add a Review


User Reviews


6 December 2012 | oldblackandwhite
8
| Rival Railroads Collide Head-On -- Literally And Figuratively
Denver & Rio Grande is one of those entertaining 1950's "B-plus" Westerns -- that is a "B" picture cast but top-notch "A" production values. This Technicolor oater about a right-away shooting war between rival railway companies actually qualifies as a minor classic of the genre. Not for the dramatic acting or Frank Gruber's average screen play, but because of high powered action sequences in, on, and around authentic 19th Century railroad rolling stock, all enveloped in gloriously scenic Colorado Rocky Mountain locations.

Unlikely leading man Edmond O'Brien is one of yours truly's favorite actors, whether he is in a lead or a supporting role. But Eddy looks somewhat uncomfortable in his Western togs, even a little peaked at times, as if all that Rocky Mountain sunshine and fresh air disagreed with his constitution. Could be he was wishing to be back in one of those dimly lighted, smoke-filled, noir bars which were his more typical cinema habitat. A much more familiar face to the celluloid Western environment, tall, stiff actor Sterling Hayden is cast against type here as the ruthless leader of the bad guys. You may have thought Hayden was stiff in his more typical heroic roles, but as a villain in Denver & Rio Grande, he's so wooden it's difficult to distinguish him from one of the telegraph poles. Dean Jagger, as real-life railroad builder General William J. Palmer, adds a touch of class to the cast, but doesn't have much to do. He looks like he's about to go to sleep through most of the picture, but as always, he has his moments. On the other hand leading lady Laura Elliot (aka Kasey Rogers), best known for her role in popular TV sitcom Bewitched, shows a little spark as the General's pretty secretary with a grudge against O'Brien. The ever reliable J. Carrol Naish, often seen as a gangster or a cynical cop, refreshingly gets a sympathetic, clean-cut role as the nattily attired railroad construction engineer. But never mind, the real stars of this picture are gorgeous Rocky Mountain scenery and the thrilling, nostalgic steam locomotives.

If the dramatic acting of the fine cast did not seem up to par, you can blame flabby direction by director Byron Haskin, who was more of a special effects technician than a director anyway. But once the action sequences start, Haskin is in his element. Denver & Rio Grande is nothing if not action-packed, and isn't that what we all love in Westerns? When the two railroad companies get serious about going after each other, they employ military tactics along with prolific volleys of (mostly inaccurate) gunfire from railroad cars to take and re-take miles of track and telegraph stations. One of the top action scenes is the actual "head-on collision of two bull locomotives", as it was heavily advertised at the time of the picture's 1952 release. The result is not disappointing, though Haskin cheated a bit with a dynamite explosion at the point of impact to make the shock of collision more spectacular. He really had to. Those old locomotives were such solidly constructed masses of steel, they could have just bounced apart without showing much apparent damage or the desired boiler explosions. By the way, as a minor point, this much ballyhooed train wreck does not happen at the climax of the movie, as stated by Leonard Maltin and others. It is one of the events building toward the climax, and it occurs quite some time before the end of the picture.

Denver & Rio Grande is a nicely turned out Western. The sets are very good, though most of the scenes are filmed in the great outdoors. Costumes are true to the time, place, and occupation of the characters. Particularly impressive were the authentic looking six-gun leather and the colorful variety of hats. The chubby O'Brien liked to foster an everyman image, and he did little to improve his unglamorous looks. Here his rough working man outfit includes a floppy black hat which looks as if it has been roundly stomped on by a couple of overweight saloon floozies. But it is the trains steaming around the mountains, the water tanks, stations, piles of cross-ties, telegraphs, and other supporting railroad equipment that really grab the eye. The excellent train sound effects made all of this as stimulating to hear as to see.

For all its flaws this is a highly entertaining picture. If you are a fan of exciting, flavorful Western action with chugging, puffing, hissing, clanging, whistling, steaming, smoke-belching, greasy, sooty, oil-dripping, jerking, screeching, cinder-flinging Nineteenth Century trains -- and how could anyone not be -- Denver & Rio Grande will take you where you can find it!

Critic Reviews


More Like This

Silver City

Silver City

Warpath

Warpath

In Old California

In Old California

Run for Cover

Run for Cover

Arrow in the Dust

Arrow in the Dust

Fighter Attack

Fighter Attack

Night Passage

Night Passage

The Black Whip

The Black Whip

Bend of the River

Bend of the River

Flaming Feather

Flaming Feather

Big House, U.S.A.

Big House, U.S.A.

The Lady Gambles

The Lady Gambles

Did You Know?

Trivia

The yellow "bumblebee" paint scheme seen on the locomotives is not accurate for the era depicted (they were originally black). The yellow paint scheme was first created for the 1949 Chicago Railroad Fair, where D&RGW locomotive #268 was displayed in the yellow paint scheme. It was used again in the movie, along with several locomotives painted similarly.

Locomotive #268 wore the yellow paint scheme from 1949 until its retirement in 1955. It was the last of the D&RGW's many 2-8-0 locomotives to be retired, and the only one to wear the yellow paint scheme while in service. It is now on display at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum, once again in its famous "bumblebee" paint (a new paint job - it was painted black for many years before it was restored).

The "bumblebee" paint scheme has become part of the D&RGW's legacy. Although #268 is considered the original "Bumblebee", other locomotives have used the paint scheme over the years, and numerous miniature models have been made with the yellow paint scheme (including models of locomotives that never carried it in real life, even for the movie).


Quotes

Jim Vesser: We've been surveying this route for three weeks!
McCabe: And so have we.
Bob Nelson: Don't get hot-headed Jim. Looks like it's for the courts to decide.
Jim Vesser: There's nothing in my orders that says I have to wait for any courts to make up their minds. We're going through.
Bob Nelson: Not ...


Goofs

When the train slams into the landslide the image is of the train moving along and then suddenly stopping. But this is just the film itself being skipped a few times and then being stopped to display one frame to give the illusion the train had run into something. This is obvious because the movement of the wind blown tree branches and flowing of the river completely freeze when the train comes to a stop.

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Adventure | Western

'90s Shows That Need a Reboot Now

Which of your favorite '90s TV shows deserves a reboot? Throw it back with "Sister, Sister," and more picks that need a revival now.

See our picks list

Around The Web

 | 

Powered by ZergNet

More To Explore

Search on Amazon.com