Taking inspiration from a real Civil War incident when Union soldiers hijacked a Confederate train, The General was silent comedian Buster Keaton’s most grandly conceived project. The train driver who goes in dogged pursuit of his beloved engine is a classic Keaton character: stoical, determined and preternaturally straight-faced as chaos reigns around him.
The film is a seamless blend of action and comedy, involving a great number of stunts – including the famous sequence in which a bridge bearing a railroad train collapses into a gorge. The great expense that such moments incurred was remembered when the film was a commercial disaster, to the cost of Keaton’s future creative freedoms. Only decades later was The General recognised as one of silent cinema’s greatest comedies.
“It has the best script of any Keaton film. Each visual concept is unique and ingenious. Artistry of the highest level, and it’s hilarious!” Robert Mitchell
“The high-water mark for action movies for close to a hundred years. Keaton’s innovation and fearlessness were second to none and his screen persona still electrifies today.” Andrei Liimets
“Breathtaking comic episodes elegantly composed and edited by an auteur with the mind of a civil engineer.” Noël Carroll
“Laughter is universal, and no one was funnier than Keaton in his prime.” Robert Cashill