I have not seen many silent films. I’ve only seen three Chaplins and this (I really want to see Metropolis, but I’m waiting for the restored version). Access to these types of movies where I live is not very good, but The General is one movie that I’ve always had access to, but always kept putting it off despite all I had heard about it. However, not that I’ve seen it, I wondered why I put off for so long as I’ve could have enjoyed this masterpiece so many times already.
The General is the story of Johnny Gray, a train conductor who loves only two things: his engine and Annabelle Lee. One day he returns home and is with Annabelle when her brother comes to announce that the Civil War has started and that he is going to enlist. Her father does the same thing. Johnny then decides to enlist because Annabelle asks her to. So, he hurries to the recruitment office to be the first to enlist, but they wouldn’t take him because he is more valuable as a conductor. He then goes out, depressed, and Annabelle’s family sees him wondering around town, so they think he doesn’t want to enlist. Because of this, she breaks up with him. Some time passes and Annabelle is on his train, which is stolen by soldiers from the North, and only Johnny goes after it, not knowing she was there, so now its his chance to save his train, help the South, and get the girl.
As it has been said many times before, The General is one of the greatest movies of all time, possibly the greatest. The story is really good, if simple, and the direction is really great. Also, the performance from Keaton is so amazing. Not only did he risk his life for the sake of good comedy, but the way he plays the character is so straight forward. He doesn’t focus just on the slapstick, which is what makes the performance so brilliant. Also, the train chase sequences were so creative and hilarious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like them. All in all, I loved The General.
Comedy is my favorite genre of movies. In a drama, the only thing that has to be done to make people cry is show a puppy dying. For for a comedy, the good ones at least, there have to be some brains behind the jokes. If slapstick is going to be used, it just can’t be used just for the sake of showing a man getting hit in the face with a pie. Even though that particular form of comedy is rarely used well, I’m glad there were those people like Buster Keaton who not only created this art form, but risked their lives in order to get a laught out of their audience. I’m looking forward to see more movies by him.