The General is set in the Civil War. Basically, it is the story of an engineer named Johnny Gray who, after being rejected from serving in the Southern army and consequently not being able to marry his sweetheart (she will only have him if he is in the army), finds himself engaged in a huge chase to get his train back after it is stolen from him by a small group of Northerers. The chase is hilarious - it has often been imitated, but nothing can compare to the original - and Keaton's expressions, especially his famous deadpan expression, are hysterical.
Anyhow, this classic comedy is a must-see. Keaton's antics are great, and it is amazing to think that he did all his daredevil stunts in an era where special effects were nonexistent (if you wanted to crash a train off a bridge, you actually had to do it)! The General is perfect for the whole family (this is my 11 year old brother's favorite movie, he has seen it at least 100 times) and is a real treat to watch. I don't know how else to recommend this - get it and enjoy!
By the way, silent movies are generally in much better shape -- and scored much more tolerably -- than the versions we saw 30 years ago. Still, there's no reason not to turn off the sound and get off on the sound of your own laughter!
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU