Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
Tags: Silent Movies, Classic Movies, Action, Adventure, Comedy
When Johnnie Gray tried to join the Confederate army, he was rejected because he was more valuable to the south as a railroad engineer. Everyone in the town assumed that Johnnie was a coward who didn’t want to volunteer, including his love Annabelle, but the truth was that he was a hero deep down inside. It would take a year before Johnnie was able to prove himself not only to Annabelle and his town, but also to the Confederate army.
Union spies came to Marietta with a plan to take over the railroad and use it to give their troops supplies, and as a result cutting off supplies to the south. The Union army planned a surprise attack on the Confederate army, to coincide with the taking over of the railroad. When the spies stole Johnnie’s beloved locomotive General, they also kidnapped Annabelle. Johnnie went into a frenzy of activity, doing everything possible to catch the spies, rescue Annabelle, and thwart the upcoming attack on the Confederate army. Johnnie uses his cunning, bravery, and engineer skills to eventually catch up with the spies just in time to hear their plan of attack, and at the same time rescue Annabelle from her kidnappers. Johnnie proved his bravery to Annabelle, and she realizes that she still loves him.
Johnnie and Annabelle come across the Union army camp and find the General, and then they hatch a plan to stop the attack. The duo steal a locomotive and race toward the southern army, destroying the telegraph lines so that the Union can’t communicate with their army, and head full throttle toward their town to rescue all.
Johnnie and Annabelle arrive just before the Union army and they send out the warning to the rebel troops, who were able to launch an ambush on the ambushers. In the end, Johnnie is given his position in the Confederate army, in fact, they make him an officer.
The General, starring Buster Keaton, is a fast paced action movie, a comedy, and a love story all rolled up into one big chase. Keaton’s genius in his genre is apparent from the start, with one comedic bit after another mixed in with one of the best chase sequences I’ve ever seen. This film is every bit as action packed as the action movies we have today. What is most impressive is that they did all of these chase scenes with trains, one scene after another involved maneuvering the trains much like our modern film chases involve cars. This was quite an accomplishment, especially when you consider the fact that at the time, there were no such things as car chase scenes, the film makers only had their imaginations to draw from.
The General is a great story of love, heroism, redemption, and pure luck. Against all odds Johnnie saves the day in non-stop, action packed sequences mixed with comedic genius and timing.