Starring: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender
Directed by: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
Written by: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
Rating: Unrated (US) Running Time: 1 hr 19 min
After watching The General, and doing a little research, I was amazed to read about the poor critical and box office attention this film received when it was released at the theaters in 1926. I can only surmise this film was way ahead of its time, because I loved it.
To be honest, I haven’t watched many silent films, and only vaguely remember enjoying old Harold Lloyd movies as a kid during the 70’s. So I was wondering how a Civil war comedy made 88 years ago was going to sit with me*. To my genuine surprise and delight, I thought it was amazing, and I was blown away with how well the action was staged. Which was a relief because I hardly wanted to give what is now widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, a bad review!
Obviously planned, but felt organic, the action scenes build and develop in unpredictable but believable ways. I was so impressed when the action hit the train tracks, and our hero Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) takes after Union soldiers who steal his beloved General locomotive. Nicely paced, very inventive, and often funny, it was great to watch Johnny take on the Union army single-handed and get the upper hand either intentionally or accidentally.
This is really funny too, and I loved Keaton’s skill as a purely physical comedian. During more subtle moments when he tricks two kids to stop following him around, to the brilliant and clearly dangerous stunts he performs. At one point I swear he invented Parkour!
*Article date May 27th, 2014
So of course being that this movie was made in 1926, it’s silent – no audible dialog! Any dialog you do get is provided as captions on the screen. There is music however, to punctuate the action as the movie plays through, but for the most part, you’re here to watch, not listen. But don’t worry as I have no doubt you’ll be able to understand what’s happening, and this film is totally worth 79 minutes of your life!
The scale of this production is huge, and some of the stunts are really impressive even by today’s standards. A regular streaming show on your TV, laptop or tablet will service this film well enough.
I loved how the action developed when the cast of characters get onto the train tracks. Inventive, fun and always surprising, I just found it all very entertaining.