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The General (1926) [Blu-ray] [Region Free] [US Import]
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Union spies pursue an engineer who chased them to recover his stolen train. Silent. Directed by Buster Keaton.
Buster Keaton's career reached its creative apex with this rousing comic adventure. Not merely one of the finest silent films, this remains one of the great film comedies of all time. The Great Stone Face stars as Southern railroad engineer Johnny Gray, a man with only two loves: the sweet Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) and his trustworthy engine, the eponymous General. When Fort Sumner is fired upon he is one of the first to enlist, but when the war office rejects him (he's too valuable as a trained engineer) his sweetie rejects him as a coward. Johnny has the opportunity to prove his bravery when Yankee spies steal his engine and inadvertently kidnap Annabelle, and Johnny pursues with all the resources at his disposal: handcar, bicycle and finally railroad engine. Keaton's love/hate relationship with technology and machinery shines as he becomes one with his beloved locomotive and wrestles with a finicky cannon that threatens to blow his engine off the tracks; with tremendous dexterity, he nails the humour with inimitably deadpan takes. Spunky Marion Mack makes a perfect partner for Keaton, not merely a foil but a gifted comedienne in her own right. Other Keaton films contain more laughs and inspired comic stunts, but none combines romance, adventure and comedy into a solid story as seamlessly as this silent masterpiece. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It tells the tale of a railroad engineer in the South during the American civil war, whose beloved train `The General' and girl are stolen by Northern spies who are planning to cut off the South's supply lines before the North makes a big attack. Johnny Grey first pursues his two loves into the depths of enemy territory, and then in turn is pursued back to his homeland, giving us a stone cold classic chase comedy.
As well as allowing Keaton's love of trains full reign as he demonstrates (and probably invents) all the classic railroad and chase visual gags, this film stands out for other reasons. Based on a true story (no, really!), the attention to detail in recreating the period is superb. Also, much like John Ford's work in monument valley a few years later, the beautiful landscape in which Keaton was filming is as much a part of the story as the actors. The film manages to be the personal story of one man, but also has a grand epic quality to it. Finally there are the stunts. No-one was better than Keaton, and he was never better than in this film.
Sadly, this was much misunderstood upon its release in 1926, mainly because it makes the Confederates the heroes of the story, a viewpoint that did not find favour in the America of the time. Also, it was unusual for this style of comedy in that people do get hurt, and in the final battle scene are seen to die on screen. The scenes of troops coming through the woods in the early morning mist was probably quite disturbing to a nation for whom the first world wa was still a fresh memory. Subsequently it was a commercial failure that ended Keaton's creative independence. Luckily it has been reassessed and is now recognised as a classic.
This two disc special edition is the bees knees. I believe it might even have elicited a smile from the great Stoneface himself to see the film treated in such a fashion. The film itself is presented in a beautifully restored print, looking fresh and sharp, allowing Keaton's amasing stunt work and the amazing scenery to be seen in detail. The new score from Joe Hisaishi is a joy, and really compliments the film. There are various documentaries regarding the filming, restoration andrescoring of the film. There is also Keaton's last film, the railroader, almost a follow up to the General. This a really nice touch to the set.
Classic film with a superb presentation. Five stars no hesitation.
Modern day CGI 'Epics' cannot possibly equal this superb movie.
Good film not the best of Buster Keaton but still very enjoyable. Never knew he had shot such big productions
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