In 1882, Alfred Nichol, owner of the Nichol Railway Company, is building a railroad through the Canadian Rockies. He sends his irresponsible playboy son, James Nichol, to Hong Kong to check on the company's recruitment of Chinese laborers to work on the railroad's construction. One of the laborers James brings back is a orphan boy named Little Tiger. Unknown to James, Little Tiger is actually a young woman, who is masquerading as a boy to eke out a better living for herself. She is desperate to make it to Canada to find her missing father. Professionally, Little Tiger is tasked with being a tea boy to the other laborers on the construction crew, although she really wants to work on the more lucrative explosives team as, working at a firecracker factory in Hong Kong, she learned the finer details of explosives from a master. She also learns of some improprieties within the construction camp. Personally, Little Tiger falls in love with James, an unforbidden love even if she exposes her ... Written by
Not long ago, I was watching Cecil B. DeMille's film UNION PACIFIC and started thinking that they should make a new film about building the Canadian railroad. Sure, we have Pierre Burton's THE NATIONAL DREAM but that to me seemed too documentary like and lacked a human element like UNION PACIFIC. I also thought it would be good to have a large part of the plot involve the Chinese contribution. About a month later, I heard about a project called IRON ROAD that was nearly ready to air on CBC. Needless to say, I anticipated this miniseries. After seeing it, it held some similarities to UNION PACIFIC: the romantic element, the sense of urgency to get the railroad done, etc. Even Barbara Stanwyck's Irish accent is echoed by Ian Tracy who plays a villain to rival the best Lloyd Bochner or Kenneth Welsh villain. The movie was not what I expected but it was entertaining. Betty Sun's character Little Tiger is one of the strongest female characters I have seen in a while. A 19th century Chinese woman with her skills (martial arts, explosives expertise, psychology) would be truly amazing. Couple that with the fact that she refuses to be Luke MacFarlane's Celestrial mistress makes her a heroine par excellence. Betty Sun gives a forceful performance as does MacFarlane, an actor many Americans will know as Scotty Wandell from "Brothers and Sisters". The miniseries does connect to this dynamic era in Canadian history but should have universal appeal with its handsome stars, romantic subplots, mystery, martial arts action, and cliffhanging (literally, at times) suspense. It is the NATIONAL DREAM doubled. It deals with two nations' dreams: Canadian pioneers' dream to unite their country by rail and Chinese immigrants' dream to make a good life for its citizens, free from gangsters and corrupt leaders. The Chinese workers dealt with poor wages (the Irish workers made twice as much as them), dangerous conditions (working with short fused dynamite), political prejudice like the exorbitant head tax they had to pay after the railroad was built. Despite this, they saw potential in this new land and their efforts will never be forgotten, thanks to movies like this.
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