THE IRON ORCHARD – A DVD Review by John Strange


THE IRON ORCHARD – A DVD Review by John Strange

The early days of oil production in Texas spawned thousands of tales about the men who braved the heat and hard conditions of West Texas in pursuit of riches.  Taken from the novel of the same name by Tom Pendleton, this story of Jim McNeely follows the man from Fort Worth, Texas to the western plains of Texas as he grows from “boll weevil” roughneck (the new guy in the oil fields who knows nothing about the job) to successful wildcatter and then successful oilman living “high on the hog”.

Jim McNeely (Lane Garrison) is much like so many of the men who gambled their savings in order to strike it rich.  Like the men who rushed to the California and Alaska goldfields, the oil drillers sought to find wealth from the ground.  Unlike those who pursued gold, these men had to get mineral leases from property owners and then, following their own instincts or those of their petroleum geologists/engineers, drill into the earth.  Sometimes they drilled well after well, striking nothing but water or worse, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a colorless/odorless gas that can kill the men on the drilling rig.

In The Iron Orchard, Jim has early successes which allow him to grow rich. The riches allow him to keep looking for investors and new drilling locations.  It is almost a sickness that men like Jim develop.  They are always looking for the next lease, the next gusher to make them money before they move on to the next challenge.

This life takes a toll as the film shows Jim enduring.  His family life takes a backseat to oil.  He doesn’t realize it as it happens but this is still the case.  The drama in this film is not just out in the oil fields, it is in the hotels, offices, and fields where Jim and his kind pursue the money to attack that next challenge but at home as well.

This film has been compared to Giant.  Maybe so but only in that the film has a lot of drama and is centered on the Texas oil business as far as I am concerned.  Giant was a good film, so is The Iron Orchard, but the two deserve to be treated separately on their own merits.  The new film is able to touch on subjects that its predecessor would have shied away from due to the era it was made.  The differences are mainly due to the different styles and morals of their times.  Their storyteller filmmakers had different base stories and talent from which to mold their films.

Director Ty Roberts and cinematographer Mathieu Plainfossé styled their film with an excellent eye toward giving us not only a wonderfully told narrative but a visually stimulating one as well.  This is one of those small budget films that took hold of the ball and blasted their way to a touchdown (it’s Texas so, yes, I had to throw in a football analogy) using friends, relatives and whatever it took to make the film.

This is a DVD review so I have to talk about the disk and its presentation.  First up, the only extras we get are the trailer and the director’s commentary.  I had hoped for more but the commentary with director Ty Roberts and lead actor Lane Garrison discussing how the various moments of the film came about from planning to shooting during their 24-day shoot was excellent.  The commentary is chock-full of anecdotes and stories.  I always love a good commentary because it fills out the story and normally answers questions I might not have even formulated yet.

The only odd thing about this DVD is probably nothing, but I suspect I got a bad disk.  If you put the disk into the player, the main menu pops up just fine.  But if you are like me and sometimes leave the disk in the player and come back to it later, the menu that comes up is a bit bewildering.  It shows four items with the names Title 1, Title 2, Title 3, and Title 4.  With some playing with the titles, I discovered that the first one takes you to the main menu, the second plays the film, the third plays the film with commentary, and the fourth plays the trailer.

I suspect that this problem is what delayed the film’s arrival for review and that the PR company mistakenly sent me one from the wrong box of disks.  When I find out, I’ll update the review and let you know!

Despite this, The Iron Orchard is a good film and one worth watching.  I congratulate this group of Texas actors and filmmakers on a job well done!


Directed By:

  • Ty Roberts


  • Ali Cobrin, Austin Nichols, Lane Garrison, Hassie Harrison, Lew Temple, Donny Boaz, Allan McLeod, Gregory Kelly, Timothy Lee DePriest, Temple Baker, Tristan Riggs, Gary Teague, Shelley Calene-Black, Emily Garnet, Rooster McConaughey


  • Film with Commentary – Director Ty Roberts and Lead Actor Lane Garrison
  • Theatrical Trailer



  • 112 Minutes


  • Santa Rita Pictures

Release Date:

  • 08/06/2019


  • A/1 (U.S. and Canada only)


MPAA Rating:

  • R (for language and some sexual content)

Selig Rating:



Selig Rating Scale:

BRAND NEW: Should add to your DVD collection at any cost

SALE ITEM: Worth owning, but try to catch it a sale

SECOND HAND: Plan to get it, but wait to buy it used

RENTAL: Worth taking a look at, but not owning

COASTER: Pick it up at a garage sale and use it for drinks

PULL!: Makes a great Trap Shooting target

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