- Actors: Buster Keaton, Tom McGuire, Ernest Torrence, Tom Lewis, Marion Byron
- Directors: Buster Keaton, Charles Reisner, Clyde Bruckman
- Writers: Buster Keaton, Charles Henry Smith, Clyde Bruckman, Al Boasberg, Carl Harbaugh
- Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Silent, NTSC
- Dubbed: Japanese
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: eOne Films
- Release Date: Oct. 28 2003
- Run Time: 146 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- ASIN: B0000C23GP
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #147,658 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
Buster Keaton Dble Feat.:Gener
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Buster Keaton's career reached its creative apex with the rousing comic adventure The General. Not merely one of the finest silent films, this remains one of the great film comedies of all time. The Great Stone Face stars as Southern railroad engineer Johnny Gray, a man with only two loves: the sweet Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) and his trustworthy engine, the eponymous General. When Fort Sumner is fired upon he's one of the first to enlist, but when the war office rejects him (he's too valuable as a trained engineer) his sweetie rejects him as a coward. Johnny has the opportunity to prove his bravery when Yankee spies steal his engine and inadvertently kidnap Annabelle, and Johnny pursues with all the resources at his disposal: handcar, bicycle, and finally railroad engine. Keaton's love/hate relationship with technology and machinery shines as he becomes one with his beloved locomotive and wrestles with a finicky cannon that threatens to blow his engine off the tracks; with tremendous dexterity, he nails the humor with inimitably deadpan takes. Spunky Marion Mack makes a perfect partner for Keaton, not merely a foil but a gifted comedienne in her own right. Other Keaton films contain more laughs and inspired comic stunts, but none combines romance, adventure, and comedy into a solid story as seamlessly as this silent masterpiece. --Sean Axmaker
In Steamboat Bill Jr., Keaton stars in the story of a college-educated young man who comes home to help his father work on his Mississippi River steamboat and immediately demonstrates just what a landlubber he is. What's worse, the woman he falls for is the daughter of his father's worst rival, a bullying rich guy who wants to drive Buster's boat out of business. Keaton's slapstick is inspired and precise, particularly during an amazing sequence in which he tries to walk across town during a tornado. Watch in amazement as the front of a building falls on Keaton and he walks away without a scratch. --Marshall Fine
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Buster Keaton's love of history, engineering and operatic displays of action are put to their finest use in his masterwork, The General. However unwelcoming the concept of an incredibly accurate historical movie about the civil war may seem, or a title which refers to an army rank, rest assured that The General is imbued throughout with a wonderful sense of fun, as with all Keaton. The pervasive irony running through The General is the fact that little Buster is helping fight the civil war just by happenstance - all he really wants to do is save his girlfriend. The appeal of The General may lie in its ability to take you back to what it would have been like in frontier America, its remarkable visual beauty (incredible cinematography), or possibly Keaton's trademark operatic stunts, the climax of this movie which is one of his most impressive (the famous bridge scene was the most expensive shot in all of silent cinema).
But the thing which makes this and all Keaton films a joy to watch is the irrepressible charm and appeal of his onscreen persona. You just can't help liking little Buster, and rooting for him in all the troubles he happens to fall into. 5 stars from me - one of the all time greats.
This DVD is a great buy, b.c you get Steamboat Bill Jr also - one of Buster's best features, which sees his little character at his most charming, trying to woo the daughter of his father's rival steamboat captain. The effectiveness of the storm scene at the end are alone worth the price of entry - you'll be surprised.
Overall, I was not disappointed. The images are extremely sharp and clean for movies of this vintage. They almost look brand new, save for some inevitable, but minor artifacts of age. The General is tinted monochrome. Mostly sepia, with some blue tinted night scenes, a common effect in silent films. Steamboat Bill is straight black and white.
Many people are not aware that The General is based on a true story about a locomotive stolen during the Civil War (see: [...] and that the real locomotive now resides in a museum in Kennesaw, GA. The Keaton film is one long exciting chase scene. The first time I saw it, I was actually a little disappointed. It really isn't a comedy, like most of Keaton's films. Rather it is an action movie with sight gags. Once I understood that, I really appreciated the genius of the film, and it is now one of my all-time favorites. It was filmed on location near Cottage Grove, Oregon.
Steamboat Bill Jr. is pure fun. It ranks among the best of Keaton's works, I think. Its the story of the son of a steamboat captain, who falls in love with the daughter of a rival boat operator. The climactic storm scene boasts a number of special effects that rival, or even surpass, today's computer generated effects for believeability. There is also one really hokey, but funny effect involving a flying tree.
My favorite scene in Steamboat Bill was in a hat shop, where there is an inside joke that will be understood only by those who have seen more of Keaton's work.
I would give this DVD five stars instead of four, except that I have mixed feelings about the Alloy Orchestra soundtrack. Their percussive style was very effective in The General with its rapid-fire chase scenes and mechanical locomotive movements. On this film I give them an A. However, they were far less impressive on Steamboat Bill. Here, the music often felt intrusive and distracting, drawing attention away from the action to the orchestra itself. Moreover, a couple of times the style of the music failed to match the mood of the scene. On this movie I give the orchestra a C-. I would really like to see some DVD's with a "Mighty Wurlitzer" theater organ soundtrack to mimic the performance one might have experienced in most theaters of the 1920s. Orchestral accompaniment was quite rare in the silent era, except in the largest big city theaters.
Although fine, I am not as happy as others are concerning the Alloy Orchestra and their background score. I find it a little too dramatic at times when something more whimsical is in order. Years ago, the cable channel, Showtime, ran a version of "The General" with an orchestral score and occasional sound effects. I guess I just got spoiled for something similar.
The film print is very good, but wouldn't it be nice to give this masterpiece the frame by frame restoration it obviously deserves? If Chaplin rates perfect prints, how about Buster Keaton?
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