Film 301 in the ‘1001 Films to See Before You Die’ challenge is 1926’s “The General”. Directed by Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton and based on William Pittenger’s novel, ‘The Great Locomotive Chase’, this action adventure comedy is about a train engineer named Johnnie (Keaton) who tries to get his train back from Union Spies. The train just so happens to have Johnnie’s girlfriend, Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack), on board. There’s not a whole lot to say about this. Guy gets his train stolen, train happens to have guy’s love interest on board, guy gets everything back from enemies and becomes a hero in the progress. In the end, it’s a simple plot that actually works. Also, there’s not a whole lot to say about this unless you’re the biggest train enthusiast then this film is perfect for you. Obviously, this film is famous for the shot of the enemy train falling through a burning down bridge. I thought that looked really cool and, in my head, made me go ‘holy shit’. Overall, this film was alright to watch but not something I would want to watch over and over again. Watch it once. In 1966, James Agee from LIFE Magazine had this to say about the Buster Keaton, ‘No other comedian could do as much with the deadpan’. Fun Fact of the Film – The famous shot of the enemy train falling through a bridge was the costliest scene of the silent movie era. If you have seen this film then let me know what you thought of it in the comments. Here is what I had to say while watching 1926’s “The General”
Film – The General
Year – 1926
Director – Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
Written by – Al Boasberg, Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton, Charles Henry Smith, Paul Girard Smith
Based On – “The Great Locomotive Chase” by William Pittenger
Staring – Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender
IMDb Rating – 8.3/10
My Rating – 7/10
Length – 75 min (1h 15min)
Genre – Action, Adventure, Comedy
That trumpet playing at the start made me think ‘Stop the Calvary’ was about to play
Cut to a train riding through a small town for a stop
Back in the day, all kids wanted to be was a train drivers
May as well follow this line of people and see where it goes
Are those two kids his children?
Go outside and play kiddies, Johnnie need some alone time with Annabelle
News breaks that war has broken out near Fort Sumter
And Johnnie just fell down the stairs but no one saw it as Annabelle was stood in the way
Better enlist for the war
Why does the gut enlisting people look like the lead singer of Rammstein?
Johnnie is turned down because…. We don’t know
Well… If they didn’t enlist me before well I can try again under a new name
DAMN!!! Tilting my hat over my face didn’t work
‘If you lose this war, then don’t blame me’
Only you can understand me train
And Johnnie gets dumped by Annabelle because she thinks he’s lying about enlisting
One year later in Chattanooga
So… Their plan is to head back to Marietta, Georgia via Kentucky from Chattanooga just so they can steal a train!?!?
Time for a 20 minute pitstop at Big Shanky’s
And Annabelle is captured and so is the train
The spies then cut off all power so no one can track them – Can’t tell if that’s a good idea o not
Meanwhile, Johnnie’s found transport but it’s quickly wrecked as someone steals the train tracks
Good thing there’s a nearby bike I can steal… Now how do I ride it?
Johnnie manages to find a train full of soldiers but leaves them behind by accident
Now who leaves a working cannon abandoned on the tracks?!?
Can’t this thing go any faster?
It’s a good thing Johnnie knows how to work cannons otherwide this would end badly
Oh… The cannonball didn’t even go far… Needs more powder
Whoops! Johnnie’s unhooked the cannon and now it’s aiming at his train
Why is he now on the front of the train?
I feel like I need more plot but there’s not a whole out to say when a train is chasing another
Who keeps leaving these wooden planks on the tracks?
How did that cart catch fire?
Meanwhile, The South is ordered to retreat
Hmm… Why do I feel like that bridge is about to get destroyed
Wait… Where did all this rain come from? And why did Johnnie abandon his train
At a war meeting, Annabelle is brought in and locked in a bedroom while Johnnie hides under a table
Somehow through disguises, Johnnie finds himself in Annabelle’s room and escapes with her while running into bears and bear traps
How can you have a relaxing night’s sleep through a thunderstorm?
Better hide my girl in a sack full of shoes so we can escape via train
And Johnnie has stolen his train back from The Southern army
Hope the farmer doesn’t need this fence anymore
How is that cable gonna stop a train?
Told you! It drove straight through it
Just throw everything on the tracks to slow their train down
This music loves repeating itself. Hear the exact same songs in the space of three minutes
Well.. We’ve got some time… Better sweep the floor
And The South have caught up but stop when their ally train crashes into them
Don’t you hate it when your girlfriend drives off without you
How dare there be an unfinished bridge stopping out path?
Time to rig up Rock River Bridge
Oh… Hey Northern Army
Smart idea… Light a fire while constructing the bonfire… NOT!!!
World worst General! Has no idea how to get dressed
Meanwhile… The enemies are still having problems with their railways as Johnnie broke it
And there goes Rock River Bridge – That looked cool
Oh shit!! It’s our enemies! FIGHT!!!
Oh and Johnnie… You’re in charge of the cannons
Dammit Johnnie! You’ve flooded the river
The Civil War is over! The South have won!
Now then… Where was I? Oh yeah, back to my day job
And Johnnie’s now been enlisted as a Lieutenant
Damn! I can’t make love to you with all these soldiers walking past