The General Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 28, 2014
The only problem is that Keaton was in the wrong side of the war.
Super Reviewer
July 25, 2014
A true classic in every sense of the word, hysterically funny like few others and featuring some of the most exciting locomotive chases ever filmed, as well as an epic-scale production, a beautiful score and a cinematography in sepia that feels like a travel in time.
Super Reviewer
½ December 7, 2012
A humorous, beautifully shot and constructed silent film concerning a railroad engineer (Buster Keaton) who wants badly to serve the Confederacy in the Civil War but is turned down. When his train and girl are both stolen from him by Union spies he is compelled to try to rescue both. While not as skilled in the realm of slapstick humor as the great Charlie Chaplin, Keaton proves himself to be a capable comedian. It is not as moving and memorable as "City Lights" or some of Chaplin's silent films, but this is still a really well done movie that is consistently funny and entertaining, and it shows that it has a heart as well given its clever finale.
Super Reviewer
½ June 9, 2011
*Side note* If you've been reading my reviews recently, it is just by coincidence that the most recent films I've seen were from the silent era, or, in the case of The Grey, and the Gold Rush, about trying to survive in a frozen landscape.

Also, like The Gold Rush, this is a film that's considered to be one of the best ever, silent or otherwise, and a top comedy as well. ANd personally, just like The Gold Rush, I'm going to sin again and say that this is overrated and that I wasn't totally in love with it, but still recognize it as being very important and enjoyable, even if, as just a movie it wasn't quite my cup of tea.

Heck, you might be able to take my review of the Chaplin film and just swap out his name for Keaton's, and the review would basically be the same. Well, not really, but close. Instead of being a slapstick comedy based on history, this is a historical film that, while funny at times, isn't really a comedy, but still had some amusing moments and really made me appreciate the logn dead old school way of filmmaking on display here.

Based on a true story, this is the tale of a train engineer named Johnnie Gray who, rejected by the Confederate Army, and dumped by his lady for seemingly being a coward, decides to win the Civil War himself on his own terms. When his beloved train The General is stolen by Yankees, he becomes a one man army determined to get it back, beat the enemy, and re-win the heart of his lady at all costs.

Okay, so maybe I was a little harsh. This film is a comedy, and the above scenario I just described is humorous, but Keaton's style of humor is very deadpan, and it just didn;t always seem that funny to me. I like dry, deadpan stuff, but maybe the fact that this is silent is why some of it seemed lost on me. Actually it's not just a comedy, but a wild adventure/romance too.

Keaton was basically the Jackie Chan of his day, doing all of his own stunts, and staging some really spectacular and amazing set pieces, ones that are still thrilling to this day, and not jsut because of the fact that they're all done practically. That helps though. Like Chaplin's stuff, the best bits from this have all been parodied and referenced many times over, and I once again spent a lot of time saying, "Oh, so THAT's where this comes from!). See, I told you the reviews were interchangable.

This is some good stuff, and it is enjoyable, but yeah, I didn't think it is quite one of the best ever. It's still damn impressive though, and you should definitely give it a watch, if only, once again, for default reasons.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2011
Rejected by the Confederate Army, a train conductor pursues his love and the Union army in his engine, The General.
This isn't just a great action comedy for its time; it's a timeless, great action comedy. Some of the stunts Buster Keaton is able to do make Jackie Chan look like my grandmother. I marveled at how precise his movements are as he slips in and out of the bridge of the engine and later balances himself on the front; that first train chase is truly a fabulously choreographed sequence.
Going into the film and even for the most part during it, I was uneasy about the hero of the film fighting for the Confederacy. And the film portrays the Union as being a bunch of bumbling fools while the Confederate general is stern, heroic, and eventually deals justly with Johnny Gray, Keaton's character. Yes, you can say that in 1926 there was an audience who still referred to the Civil War as "the war of Northern aggression" (hell, there are still some people who say that in 2011), and yes, you can say that the side Gray fights for is tangential to the plot, but I maintain that we should expect visionary filmmakers to be visionaries, people who, despite their contemporaries, still see righteousness. Is it too much to hope that Keaton picked the North as his hero? I suppose so, just as it's too much to expect his valorization of the South not to interfere with my enjoyment of the film.
Overall, if it were possible to pretend that Keaton picked the Jets and the Sharks or the Capulets and the Montagues as the film's rivals, then I would have thoroughly enjoyed this silent classic.
Super Reviewer
August 29, 2011
The film that many consider the perfect comedy from the perfect comedian. Yeah, not really. The General has its moments, but the disengaging storyline and the lack of many, effective jokes results in one of the more disappointing "classics" I've seen.
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2010
One of the greatest silent films ever made, Buster Keaton uses daring action sequences packed with trains, Union and Confederate soldiers, and his damsel in distress, to make the first action-comedy. Though completely silent, there was a great use of train noises in the original music, also performed by organ, to build suspense during these rough hewn and well thought out action sequences. The protaganist, played by old Stoneface himself, is both clumsy and quite brave, as he follows Union spies in his train, as the only engineer not asked to participate in the war, his lady love travelling around with him until she is ultimately captured. As Orson Welles stated: this is the best silent, comedy, action film of all time. I would daringly agree to some aspects of that assessment.
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2011
I would've never heard of this film had I not watched a cable network's list of greatest movies of all time and this silent film (with dialogue and effective sound effects and music) made the list pretty high. I remember seeing clips and how they said it was amazing how Buster Keaton did his own stunts. After finally watching it, I'm not as impressed with the stunts as I thought I'd be. He didn't really do anything any very coordinated and athletic young person such as myself couldn't do, but I was a lot more impressed with the comedy side of it than I would have thought. This movie's very entertaining, especially with how much you'll laugh from seeing Buster and Annabelle's clumsy antics, like how he accidentally kills a soldier then not meaning to fling and lose his sword. This may be the oldest film I've ever seen so far. Highly recommended for those who like the classics.
Super Reviewer
September 27, 2010
"The General" is a great platform for Buster Keaton's many talents. One of his most memorable efforts.
Super Reviewer
September 3, 2010
One of Keaton's best. I can't imagine why it didn't do well in theatres at the time. See it for yourself and you'll see what I mean. This movie is hilarious.
Super Reviewer
½ June 22, 2009
One of the classics of silent comedy starring one of the clown princes of the period, Buster Keaton. Loosely based on a true story from the Civil War, Keaton stars as Johhny Gray, a young train engineer in the Confederate South who retrieves a steam engine -- the General of the title -- when it is stolen by Union soldiers and taken over to the North's side.

This started off rather slowly, and I was beginning to wonder what the big deal was about this film. But as it went along, it got more interesting, more exciting and more creatively chaotic, thanks to Keaton's trademark athleticism and comic timing. Credit his imagination as well, as Keaton had total creative control of the film, and claimed that all the numerous sight gags were improvised during the film's production. I started getting into the film about 1/2 way through, and by the time the battle scenes arrived, I was glued to the screen.

There are several train "stunts" in the film which are simply incredible -- train crashes, locomotives tumbling into rivers on collapsing bridges, cannon fire and gunfire between characters on different trains. The meticulous planning that had to go into these scenes -- there couldn't have been more than one take per scene, considering the destruction involved -- must have taken weeks, even months. The same goes for the battle sequences, which resemble the scope of the similar scenes in Birth of A Nation.

Keaton claims this is his favorite film, and pretty much anyone who sees it holds a similar opinion. I actually prefer Sherlock, Jr. from a comic standpoint, but for its technical merit, this one is unsurpassed.
Super Reviewer
May 18, 2006
One of my new all time favourite movies. The best silent film ever and one of the greatest comedies ever. Poetry in motion.
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2009
Set in 1861, Buster Keaton is "Johnnie Gray", a mild-mannered railroad engineer who, in true comedic fashion, risks life and limb to retrieve his stolen train engine from a band of Union spies.

Being a long-time Charlie Chaplin fan, I never thought that anyone could ever come close to equaling his mastery of physical comedy. I was wrong. Buster Keaton's brand of humor is uniquely original and just as awe inspiring as any Chaplin production I've ever seen. Both men were brilliant performers.

In my opinion, The General is more than just another old movie, it's a national treasure.
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2008
Very funny movie. One of the few taht actually made me laugh out loud. Well worth watching.
Super Reviewer
½ May 8, 2008
When Union spies steal a locomotive, engineer Johnny (Buster Keaton) must recover the stolen train singlehandedly. Despite the presence of Keaton and a few pratfalls, it's an adventure, not a comedy. The stunts are impressive but the movie doesn't transcend its time, and is mainly of historical interest.
Super Reviewer
½ August 13, 2007
Not my favorite Buster Keaton, but I liked it.
Super Reviewer
February 15, 2011
Buster Keaton's 'The General' is a funny, affectionate film with innovative cinematography and one of Keaton's best performances.
Super Reviewer
June 21, 2007
Keeps the suspense and humor rolling!! Set during the Civil War with the protagonists being from the South. At first Keaton is chasing Northern spies, trying to prevent them from returning to the North with his train. Then he's trying to flee back to the South with news of the approaching Northerners. All the while, trying to show his loyalty to Dixie and win the heart of Annabelle Lee.
Super Reviewer
June 21, 2011
Arguably, Buster Keaton's masterpiece. But whether or not it is, it is a classic film, that is very recognizable, and is ground breaking work for it's time. Almost perfect entertainment, and brilliant chases, make one of the most enjoyable films you could ever watch.
Anthony L.
Super Reviewer
September 2, 2011
Throughout his career, Buster Keaton made silent classics such as Steamboat Bill Jr, Seven Chances and Go West spanning from 1923 to 1949. Although many of his films were masterfully made, The General is surely the most well-known. Both starring and directing, Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, an engineer that longs to enlist in the army. Scoring an astonishing 8.3 on IMDB and 92% on rottentomatoes, The General is a silent classic that proves to be very important to the evolution of film.

Working as an engineer, Johnnie Gray is persuaded to enlist in the army by Annabelle, who is his lover, but after a failed attempt, she refuses to speak to him. A year after his failure, Anabelle gets news that her father has been wounded in the war and she takes a train to visit her father. The engineer of that train is Johnnie, who still has not obtained a position in the army. When his train gets hi-jacked, Johnnie takes an exhilarating adventure into enemy lines that produces laughs and thrills.

Being a slapstick comedy,The General does exactly what it is intended to do: make the audience laugh. Made in 1926, this film is still a laugh riot for audiences of all ages. Buster Keaton gives a phenomenal performance alongside Marion Mack (Annabelle) and together, they give some of the best performances of the silent era. Comparing this film to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Buster Keaton carefully plans out great shots and better characters. Being very simplistic and one-dimensional, the characters in this film are hilarious. Though there are many excellent aspects to this film, the soundtrack on this DVD doesn't represent the appropriate soundtrack used in silent films. I preferred the soundtrack from the copy I saw before viewing this film in school.

In all of his films, Keaton has a certain artistic elegance, something that modern filmmakers lack. The plots to his films are significantly better than slapstick nowadays such as The Three Stooges (2011). Keaton's style is an inspiration for comedic directors such as Woody Allen, one of the most unique and masterful comedic directors in film history. The characters in The General have a certain charm, one that is evident in other comedy classics like Duck Soup. Although it may not be the most complex of films, Keaton makes it easy to follow and interesting enough for the avid movie watcher. It may not measure up to The Gold Rush but The General was a big, an important step forward in the realm of slapstick comedy films.

Being one of the greatest films made in the 20?s, The General is a nostalgic look back into the history of film. This film is intended to make people of all ages laugh and I believe that is has done so for 86 years. Buster Keaton remains one of silent comedy's greatest ranking with Charlie Chaplin. I am sure I will revisit this film many times because of its great entertainment value and importance to the evolution of film.
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