Posted on 12/02/12 08:49 AM
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.