The General ★★★★

“There were two loves in his life”

Buster Keaton’s classic The General isn’t really a movie to watch for its story, but for some high-octane action comedy. The film’s only real flaws lies in the thin plot, Keaton’s vaguely platonic relationship to his fiancée Annabelle never makes Annabelle much more than a simple damsel in distress and Keaton’s unexplained eager to go out in war to murder Yankees is quite morally arguable.

Luckily, the movie never puts much weight into any of this (even if the passivity of Annabelle is a constant annoyance) but instead focuses on a simple but effective core in its story that’s easy to follow for fun comedy. Buster Keasons’ physics is simply incredible, his fast stunts, unpredictable leaps and the rapid pace creates superb comedy in nearly all of the train-segments.

Which also makes it lucky that these take up such a good portion of the movie, for they are truly highlights. The General is actually a pretty grand movie, several of the effects regarding train destruction are nothing but amazing for its time. It also has a grandeur scale to it, the amount of extras and the civil war-scenes almost feels as good looking as they do in D.W. Griffith’s racist epic The Birth of a Nation (no comparisons other than that though, but the thought of Keaton in that movie is a morbidly funny thought).

I’m a sucker for train-movies, so The General is really right up my alley, seeing how most of the movie is just action-filled train stunts in the kind of matinée-style that Johnny Depp made into such a successful formula 70 years later (though well, in this movie its actually good). This was my first venture into Buster Keaton, but considering his efforts with making this long train chase ever so funny and thrilling I’m just as thrilled to venture more into his work.

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