Chicago Sun-Times - 08/31/1997
"...THE GENERAL is an epic of silent comedy, one of the most expensive films of its time..."
USA Today - 11/05/1999
"...THE GENERAL goes beyond comedic parameters to surpass GONE WITH THE WIND as the greatest Civil War movie..."
Premiere - 12/01/2003
"...Keaton's brand of comedy -- the poker-faced everyman character, the elaborately constructed stunts that seem to work accidentally -- has influenced all generations of comic actors..."
Uncut - 03/01/2006 5 stars out of 5 -- "Every stunt takes place before the camera in real-time....THE GENERAL remains a breathless, beautiful delight."
Entertainment Weekly - 11/21/2008
"[I]t's still a wonder to see the quicksilver Keaton executing mathematically precise, guffaw-inducing gags and pratfalls. A sublime comedy..." -- Grade: A
A.V. Club - 12/09/2009
"Perhaps the first action comedy, Buster Keaton's defining 11926 classic THE GENERAL makes great use of Keaton's laws-of-physics defying body and face..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Comic genius Buster Keaton achieved an artistic milestone with the 1927 silent adventure, The General. Based on a true story, this Civil War tale not only starred Keaton, but was written and co-directed by him as well. Keaton, as confederate railroad engineer John Gray, attempts to thwart the theft of his beloved locomotive, "The General," by Union spies. He springs into action when he realizes the "other" love of his life, girlfriend Annabelle Lee, is taken captive. His adventure turns from drama to hilarity in a memorable and poignant fashion. Buster Keaton displays the deadpan countenance and brilliant comic timing that made him one of America's most beloved comedians and an icon of his era. One of Keaton's favorite films, The General is known for its masterfully composed action sequences and brilliant recreation of the Antebellum South. It is recognized by critics and movie afficionados as one of the greatest silent comedies of all time.
The two things engineer Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton) loves most in the world are his Southern belle sweetheart and his locomotive. When Northern spies steal the latter, the intrepid Confederate single-handedly takes on the entire Union army in order to get it back. Against a backdrop of magnificently photographed Civil War battle scenes unfolds one of the great chases in movie history. Set almost entirely aboard moving trains, Keaton's THE GENERAL is physical comedy refined to elegant perfection and widely considered to be the actor-director's greatest film.
Keaton created this great comedy out of an authentic episode of American history - a story about the famous Civil War locomotive. This silent gem was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. Running times vary by supplier.
THE GENERAL was an original selection to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1989.
"The General" is a silent film. The Image laserdisc and Kino video release feature an orchestral score by Carl Davis.
Remade in 1956 as "The Great Locomotive Chase" starring Fess Parker.
Based on an actual incident, though in real-life the locomotive was stolen by the Confederates. Keaton decided to switch it around, making the Union soldiers the bad guys. He felt that putting his hero on the losing side would make him more sympathetic.
"The General" was filmed entirely on location in Oregon, the only place where Keaton was able to find both suitable scenery and the single-gauge railroad track he needed to run the antique trains. Keaton was a great train enthusiast and an absolute stickler for authenticity -- he always felt that he would get more laughs if his comedy evolved logically out of realistic situations. "The General" was unlike any other comedy ever made in that it was designed to look like a historical epic. Keaton used the Civil War photographs of Matthew Brady as a guide and "The General" remains one of the most convincing depictions of the Civil War ever put on screen.
"The General" was Buster Keaton's favorite of all his films, and his pet project -- he poured his entire heart and soul into the production, sparing neither cost nor effort. The spectacular climax where the enemy locomotive crosses the burning bridge and crashes into the river below was done in one take using a real train. Onlookers from miles around gathered to watch the scene being filmed. Afterwards, the fallen train remained in the river bed for years, untouched. Production values like this made "The General" one of the most lavish and expensive movies of its day. But it was a critical and financial flop at the time. Reviewers and audiences panned the film, complaining that it did not provide enough laughs. Over the years public opinion on "The General" has been completely revised. Not only is it considered Buster Keaton's greatest film, it widely recognized as one of the true masterpieces of American cinema.
Genius at work
Movie Lover: John Walter from
Middle Village, NY US -- September, 4, 2009
Inspired by and very loosely based on an actual Civil War incident, this may not be Keaton's best work but it shows what a comedic genius he was. OK, the sight of the Confederate battle flag being waved in victory might be politically incorrect today or prove offensive to some but watch Keaton at work. He masters every form of comedy in the film: slapstick, sight gags, pratfalls, double takes and innuendo. His timing is perfect. He does his own stunts and one wonders how he survived what he did. And Marion Mack, his female costar, is superb as the delicate southern belle. The scene of her sweeping the locomotive is a gem. This film has made me a huge fan of the late Mr Keaton, a true giant of comedy. I loved it!
Movie Lover: from
San Francisco, CA US -- October, 19, 2004
this is one of the Classic Buster Keaton films, and has to be in anyone's collection. The comedy is grand, and everything works superbly well. This is a great introduction to Silent film comedy if you're not yet a Silent film buff, and it's great for the kids as well, so if you need a film that can really be fun to watch with the whole dang 'family unit', or just by yourself, you can't miss with this one...
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