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21 June 2011

[Silent Film Marathon] 6# The General (1927)

Directed by: Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton
Screenplay by: Al Boasberg , Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton
Genre: Comedy
Runtime: 75 Minutes

I have to write this review again as after my second viewing, I feel that the film is very genius and is among the great comedies of the silent era. Now I understand why people love this one so much. The General is extremely clever as it follow a locomotive chase and starring Keaton himself; he did an excellent job with his terrific slapstick and athletic ability. Much like Chaplin, it is clear that Keaton is also one of the geniuses of comedy and here is a film that says that to an extent. Featured in many top 100 silent comedy lists and at the number one spot in one I saw, The General is a clever comedy classic. Many praise this films surprising antics, and very clever slapstick humour, and right they are. I may not like it as much as some, but after my second viewing  I agree that it is a brilliant comedy film.


Plot:
It is 1861 and Western & Atlantic Railroad train engineer Johnnie Gray (Buster Keaton) is in Marietta, Georgia to see one of the two loves of his life, his fiancée Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) (the other being his locomotive, the "General"), when the American Civil War breaks out. He hurries to be first in line to sign up with the Confederate Army, but is rejected (without explanation) because he is too valuable to the Confederacy in his present job. He comes home to find his wife won’t speak to him until he is in uniform as the two guys he signs up with said he didn't even get in line. Apart for a year we meet Johnnie again working on a train and he bumps in to Annabelle, who still wants nothing to do with Johnnie. She hops on the train to meet her wounded father and the train stops for the passengers to get something to eat. During this time enemy spies steal the train and Johnnie tries to catch the train. From this point on it’s a huge locomotive chase full of great slapstick and clever humour.
Johnnie going after the train.

Another great piece of comedy
Keaton is a talented comedian as he is a stunt man. The film has plenty of moments where our character Johnnie could have easily been killed, but Keaton pulls it off by clever ad inventive situations. Right in the centre of chaos, Johnnie manages to pull through throughout all the situations that happen and the film is very funny no doubt. Many of the scenes in the film were terrifically inventive. One of the most memorable scenes is when Johnnie is on the front of the train and he knocks the block of wood of the tracks with the block of wood he was holding. It was cleverly funny and everything that happened on the locomotive was wild, frantic and most of all, dangerously funny.  Eventually on the journey Johnnie discovers that the enemy have his love interest and soon rescues her. So alongside Johnny is his female love life for a very wild locomotive journey. Johnny is a character whose two life interests are locomotives, and Annabelle who towards the end of the story shows to be a loving, clever and sweet guy. 
One of the film's hilarious moments.
Overall:
Thanks to me like Keaton, Chaplin and all those other early comedians, we have comedy like it is today. So this like many of the comedy classics of the silent era, are responsible fo the birth of comedy. Keaton was great creating the centre of chaos in the story with his character who cleverly wins at what he is doing, but by luck. The train's obvious limitations provide him with ideas. An entire Southern retreat and Northern advance take place unnoticed behind him, while he chops wood. It’s a terrifically inventive film that sits well next to the greatest comedies of all time. Overall it is a divine silent comedy as silent comedies come and is one exciting locomotive chase.

My Rating: 8.5/10

1 comment:

  1. You mentioned "other comedians". Check out the films of Harold Lloyd sometime, especially Safety Last! and The Freshman. He was actually more popular than Chaplin and Keaton in the 20s.

    ReplyDelete

 

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