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This review is from: The General  [DVD] (DVD)
Buster Keaton was perhaps the greatest of of the silent comedians. He was remarkably deadpan, and you were often left wondering if there were any emotions beneath that stoney face. He failed to make the transition to talkies and was largely forgotten until there was a retrospective of his work in Paris in 1962. Once again he came to the publics appreciative eye, and deservingly so. "The General" is the finest of his films. It was included in Barry Normans 1992 book of his "100 best films of the century", and who am I to argue with this very respected critic.
"The General" is very loosely based on a real incident from the American Civil war when Union soldiers hijacked a railway engine from behind Southern lines. Disney used the same story, but less effectively in the 1956 film "The Great Locomotive chase". In the Keaton version he is a devoted engineer whose pride and joy is stolen by rebel soldiers. If that were not bad enough, Keatons fiancee is also aboard. A double whammy. The chase is on. Showing commendable bravery and resourcefulness our hero manages to rescue both. Of course there are numerous thrills and spills as he does so. His remarkable agility is shown to great effect in many hair raising stunts. It is quite obvious that he eschews the thought of any stunt double.
I am not a great lover of silent movies although I have tried hard. But as always there are exceptions to the rule, and "The General" is that exception. I sat down and enjoyed every moment of this lovely restoration. Not only do we have a brilliant chase movie that gives "Apocalypto" a run for its money, but the sight gags just keep coming and coming. Perhaps only Laurel and Hardys "Sons of the Desert" has made me laugh out loud as much. But visually it is also a treat with all that railway hardwear on display. The amazing stunt with the engine and the bridge must be one of the most spectacular in movie history. Up there with the blowing of the bridge in "The Wild Bunch". Oh, and who can forget that very annoying revolving cannon.
"The General" is a remarkable piece of work and a wonderfully innovative film, It is a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. If I am honest this is probably not the best print available at this time, but on the plus side it is available at a bargain price at the time of this review and still worth every penny.