The General Reviews
Really, really impressive scenes with the railway engines and a physically incredible Keaton.
Perhaps the most exciting silent film I'd seen up to this point. Masterful direction. It rarely drags on or wanes. This is the unfortunate curse of most silents -- excessive & boring melodrama. Not here. Keaton was amazing.
One of the greatest of all silent films.
I went into watching the movie with high expectations; after all it seems everybody who see's this comes off with a sense of them seeing something amazing. The film for me was maybe not perfect in fact quite a bit from it but I did find the movie to be a great one and coming to that conclusion took me quite a little while. I finished it thinking "You know it was good but nothing like what people say about it", but then it came to me the day after seeing this that this is more than good, it is very good and a movie that I really liked. The reason that came to me was Keaton who to me now is the master of doing your own stunts and succeeding, Buster Keaton gets all my praise and he actually makes this rather dull at times plot a hundred times better.
So what does that plot have to offer? ,well not an awful lot to be fair although it does give you a few thrills coupled with laughs here and there but never gut busting in my opinion. The story is set in the American civil war of the 19th century, we see Buster Keaton as a train engineer turned down by the Confederacy because he is just too important in what he is doing (but no one bothers to tell him that). Keaton's character of Johnnie Gray has trouble though, Union spies are coming and they plan to steal a train and intend to burn all the bridges back towards their lines. The story of course has much more to that but it really is the kind of movie you just have to watch yourself to see what happens because well for a film like this, a lot happens.
Buster Keaton alongside Clyde Bruckman directs this and does a great job yet again, not only is Keaton a fine actor but at directing and even partly the writing too he is just one fine silent movie creator. I think his skills come out most with Bruckman also when he is doing the of course famous stunts he did himself, it is not only the biggest I enjoyed the most though such as the him sitting on the train wheels as they move, just fantastic. When Keaton runs around the train he is fantastic but at times he runs from the end of the carriages to the front and jumps and grabs onto things and just propels himself into the right place, how he never broke his entire body I will never know but the added speed of the movies of the day makes this even more beautiful to see.
If you're coming to silent movies as a new viewer or if you consider yourself a connoisseur of the era then both can enjoy this, is it Keaton's best work? , well some will say yes and me myself actually say no for now. What really shows how good Keaton can be is the fact that this movie is considered one of the best silent movies ever and yet could maybe be outdone by some of his other work. That previous point proves to me not only is Keaton one of the finest actors and maybe even directors of the silent's, but also that he could travel forward in time and fit right in with the movies of today.
The General is perfectly paced, and with direction that captures incredible train sequences and a brilliant performance by Keaton, and a perfectly constructed script and a score that goes right along with it, the film exceeds the standard for movies at the time with electrifying action sequences and timeless, classic comedy.