The General (1927, Buster Keaton Civil War Period Comedy) – 8/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Producer (Presents credit): Joseph M. Schenck
Buster Keaton: Johnnie Gray
Writer: Buster Keaton
Director: Buster Keaton
Writer: Clyde Bruckman
Director: Clyde Bruckman
Writer (Adaptation): Al Boasberg
Writer (Adaptation): Charles Smith
Charles Smith: Her father
Music 2004 Edition: Joe Hisaishi

General, The (1927)

His request for enlistment in the American Civil War turned down so that he can continue his civilian job of railroad engineer, Johnnie Gray is regarded with contempt by his community and by his girlfriend Annabelle Lee. A year later, Johnnie’s other love, a steam train called The General which happens to be carrying Annabelle, is captured by Union spies. Johnnie gives chase…


Charming Buster Keaton masterpiece, arguably the highlight of his career. For Keaton it’s fairly crisp with a nice pace delivering a clearly told story (surprisingly, based on truth) without the audience sitting around waiting for him to catch up. He also delivers some of the most famed visuals of the silent era with him sitting on the coupling rod, tipping wooden beams from the train’s pilot, standing on top of the train cabin leaning forward and, of course, dropping a real train into a river (the most expensive shot in silent cinema). Perhaps most surprising is the convincing American Civil War setting. Joe Hisaishi’s score for the 2004 restoration is brilliant and entirely fitting; the 1995 score is also excellent if not quite as catchy.

This movie contains war violence.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.


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