Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Iron Maiden ( 1962 )

Meet The Iron Maiden....vital statistics 28ft - 8ft - 12ft, weight 16 tons....and he loved every inch of her! 

This clever tag line from the poster of The Iron Maiden perfectly captures the true passions of British men. They love cheeky humor and a shapely bird, but when it comes to a finely crafted machinery, women will always take a back seat. In this case, the machinery referred to is a 1914 iron engine, lovingly known by its owner Jack Hopkins ( Michael Craig ) as "The Iron Maiden". 

Hopkins is a passenger airplane designer whose most recent design, a futuristic supersonic airliner, has caught the attention of two rival airline firms. Hopkins has no interest in striking a deal with either firm, because his primary passion is his beloved steam engine, The Iron Maiden. In just a few days the Annual Steam Rally will be taking place, and Hopkins wants to get his engine cleaned and ready for the long journey to Woburn Abbey.

Paul Fisher ( Alan Hale Jr. ), the American owner of TransGlobal Airlines, is especially keen on purchasing the plane but first wants to meet its designer, for he always makes a deal based on the man behind it, not the product itself. 

Unfortunately, upon his arrival in England with his wife and daughter, his first encounter with Mr. Fisher turns out to be a literal smash, when Hopkins crashes his Iron Maiden into Mr. Fisher's new Cadillac. Mr. Fisher is adamant in his dislike for Hopkins, until he steps behind the Iron Maiden himself and helps her win the annual race. 

The Iron Maiden is a genteel British comedy along the lines of Genevieve ( 1953 ) and The Titfield Thunderbolt ( 1953 ), all of them showcasing some great machines and their passionate owners. Unlike these films, The Iron Maiden fails to rally up the audience to root for its main character. This is largely due to miscasting ( where is John Gregson when he is needed? ) and a poor script. The character of Hopkins is thoroughly dogged about letting nothing and no one stop him from winning the traction engine race, to the point where we are anxious to see him fail. 

All British comedies from this era are great fun to watch, so even these down points don't dampen the entertainment very much, especially since there are some great location shots of England's countryside, the Henley regatta.....and, of course, traction engines. Network's DVD release of The Iron Maiden is beautifully transferred and in vibrant color, and it is always great to see Alan Hale Jr., who was making one of his few film appearances of the 1960s. Also in the cast are Noel Purcell, Ann Helm, Jeff Donnell, Cecil Parker, Roland Culver, and Joan Sims. 

Check out the Bedford Steam Engine Preservation Society's website which features photos from the 2011 show with a rally theme saluting the film "The Iron Maiden".

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