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The General1926

  • 4.6
Consistently ranked among the greatest films ever made, Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL is so brilliantly conceived and executed that it continues to inspire awe and laughter with every viewing. Rejected by the Confederate army as unfit and taken for a coward by his beloved Annabelle Lee (Marian Mack), young Johnnie Gray (Keaton) sets out to single-handedly win the war with the help of his cherished locomotive. What follows is, without exaggeration, probably the most cleverly choreographed comedy ever recorded on celluloid. Johnnie wages war against hijackers, an errant cannon and the unpredictable hand of fate while roaring along the iron rails-exploiting the comic potential of Keaton's favorite filmic prop: the train. In this extraordinary sepia-tinted presentation, THE GENERAL features a score arranged and conducted by Robert Israel.

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1 member likes this review

A masterpiece on many levels. Keaton's physicality, the acrobat posing as a stunmblebum, is truly amazing.

Member Reviews (13)

top reviewer

The first hour is perfect, hell it's beyond perfect; the battle sequence is kind of a let-down that feels out of joint with the two train chases that provide the film with its ingenious symmetry -- and I think some critics are stretching a bit in calling this a critique of Southern values; if it is there, Keaton doesn't push it far enough (except for the gags that tear mercilessly into the uselessness of Southern belles).

3 members like this review
top reviewer

Oh, oh, I am going to get in trouble here. But I didn't think this film was particularly funny at all. I can see it as perhaps being interesting as a period piece, like reading Catcher in the Rye, but to me it just seemed exagerated and stilted. My sorry to all Keaton fans; maybe I am just a philistine at heart.

1 member likes this review

A masterpiece on many levels. Keaton's physicality, the acrobat posing as a stunmblebum, is truly amazing.

1 member likes this review
top reviewer

All the hotshot action filmmakers and stars out there need to get together and build a giant marble statue of Buster Keaton and his Choo Choo Train. "The General" is more than a great comedy; it's a great chase film. In some ways, this is the prototype for the modern action-adventure comedy. Decades before the formula became processed junk food at the multiplex, Keaton engineered a high-energy chase movie that smoothly fuses the irreverent with the epic. “The General” keeps rolling along, entertaining generations of audiences, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

top reviewer

Buster Keaton pushed film comedy like no one else when he made this one. He meticulously recreated the Civil War setting. He mixed slapstick comedy with battlefield death. He hired thousands of extras and filmed what may be the single most expensive shot of the silent era (then used that shot as the setup for a gag whose punch line is a simple close-up). The result was a critical and commercial flop in 1926, but today it’s rightly considered one of the greatest comedies ever made.

I feel a little uncomfortable praising a Civil War comedy that asks us to root for the Confederates. After all, the South’s rebellion was an act of treason committed in defense of slavery. And yet, here I am, discussing the genius of a movie where the lovable hero proudly waves the Stars and Bars–clearly a cue for audience applause–in the climactic battle. On the other hand, as he waves, he steps on a “rock” that turns out to be the back of a cowardly Confederate officer. Buster Keaton, the film’s auteur as well as its star, wasn’t much interested in politics. But he sure enjoyed making fun of the military.

You can read my longer essay at

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top reviewer

Great print. Soundtrack very appropriate for this timeless classic.

Keaton is impressive, the story is fun and, what I often find annoying in other silent films, the need for dialogue is kept to a minimum. Also, Keaton never overacts his part. We may see him as a clown, but his character is earnest, honest and determined. This is the silent film for the silent film hater. However, other than its historical value and amazing scenes for the time, I don't think of it as a great film. Entertaining, yes. A must-see, no (other than for film buffs and students.)

Buster Keaton was a genius at timing.


Didn't think I would enjoy a "silent film". However, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the film and the sense of humor of Keaton. Although it showed the South and Keaton as the victors, as a Northerner or "damn Yankee" I still rooted for the Railroad engineer and his exploits.


buster keaton is my great uncle and his filmes are the greatest

Excellent classic