The General (1927)
Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton) is a conductor on the Western and Pacific Railroad and enjoys what he does. He is in love with a beautiful girl (Marion Mack) and wants to marry her, but when the Civil War breaks out, all the men head out to enlist. Johnny is too weak and fragile for the army’s sake and they think he would be more useful on the railroads. Somehow word gets back to his sweetheart that he didn’t try to enlist at all so she wants nothing to do with him, but when he stumbles upon the Union’s plan to destroy the bridges and rail lines, he does his best to warn the soldiers and do his part in the war.
In the world of silent films, Charlie Chaplin was king, but another star was making wondrous silly comedies and that was Buster Keaton. I hadn’t hear of any of his film or really knew who he was, but after seeing The General, it was definitely in the spirit of anything Chaplin would have done. The General is a romance, action, comedy and drama all wrapped up into a nice bow. The silly comedy reminds us of Chaplin’s Tramp, the train falling through the bridge is pretty awesome even compared to movies 80 years later and the romance is the driving force. Are silent films my cup of tea? No, but after seeing this film, I would be more inclined to see more of Buster Keaton if I had the chance. Coming in at #18 on the AFI Top 100 list, The General might be a little over praised, but it crosses many genres and is well made for the time period it was in.
7/10 Stars – Not that hard a watch being silent, it’s funny, charming and has some decent action sequences.
Silent Films would seem to be a thing of the past, but the reality is that they can still be relevant if you give them a chance. There are many silent films I enjoy, especially those staring Charlie Chaplin. This particular silent film, The General, just wasn’t my cup of tea. Honestly it reminds me of movies today that are considered comedies where your main characters seem to do such stupid things that you are actually embarrassed for them. That is what it felt like for me watching this one. It wasn’t a bad movie. Point of fact it has some pretty great parts and was impressively filmed considering the whole thing happened on a train pretty much. However, when every single scene you are saying to your self now why did he do that, it takes some of the fun out of it. Sure Chaplin movies are that way but the Chaplin movies I have seen were funny and this one I just didn’t get any laughs from it. I can however agree with it’s presence on the AFI Top 100 List. I might not rank it as high as 18 but it should have a place on the list for sure.
6/10 Stars – Extremely well made and definitely a crowd pleaser at one point, just not my kind of funny.
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