Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

The General

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on March 25, 2011 at 6:25 PM


Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman


IDEA:   It's the beginning of the Civil War, and engineer Johnny Gray has had his train stolen by Union spies. He sets off in hot pursuit to recapture it - and the girl he loves.

BLURB:   The most exciting, sustained chase sequence in cinema can be found in a silent picture from the 1920s. That film would be The General, Buster Keaton’s hilariously orchestrated depiction of locomotive antics near the start of the Civil War, in which nearly all 75 minutes of its running time is devoted to death-defying, breathless action set pieces on and around moving trains. If the elaborate stunts in this movie were shot today the same way they were back then, they’d still inspire gasps of awe in the audience; a timeless power created without an ounce of CGI. “Creative” is certainly the word to describe this American classic, but it doesn’t stop there. Watching working man Keaton swing limberly from one end of his train to the next as he effortlessly (and comically) sweeps obstacles off the track is as gratifying a thrill as can be found in any movie, past or present.

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