Southern railway engineer Johnnie Gray (BUSTER KEATON) loves his steam locomotive The General and Annabelle Lee (MARION MACK).
When civil war breaks out in America he, along with her Father (CHARLES HENRY SMITH) and Brother (FRANK BARNES), goes to enlist in the Confederate army. Unfortunately Johnnie is turned down flat as his job on the railroad is more important to the war effort than as a soldier. This earns the contempt of the Lee family, who believe Johnnie to be a coward and he is spurned by Annabelle.
Meanwhile Northern General Thatcher (JIM FARLEY) and his chief spy Captain Anderson (GLEN CAVENDER) hatch a plan to steal a Rebel train deep in enemy territory, then travel back to the Union lines while causing as much damage and disruption to the Southern cause as possible.
Anderson and his small group of spies successfully commandeer The General with Annabelle unwittingly still on board and the task of saving the day falls to Johnnie. Can he rescue Annabelle, steal back The General, thwart the Northerners and make it back to the Southern States alive?
Undoubtedly one of KEATONS most famous films, THE GENERAL is basically one long chase but proves to be a supreme textbook case of slapstick humour at its best. All the cast enjoy themselves immensely and MACK, in particular, is game for a laugh in everything the plot throws at her.
KEATON, who also Directed, does not waste a minute and whether clamouring around the train, hiding under a table (in a very funny scene) or inspiring the troops, ensures plenty of laughs are to be found.
There is also a climactic battle scene during a river crossing and despite being very tame by modern standards - and certainly even compared to the horrors shown in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT released a mere four years later - KEATON still finds a humorous and novel way of dispatching a troublesome Union sharpshooter!
Unfortunately there are no Special Features on the disc but despite this, THE GENERAL is nevertheless a cinematic masterpiece and easily ranks alongside WINGS and METROPOLIS as one of my all-time favourite films from the Silent Era!