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on June 28, 2002
I asked myself two simple questions after viewing this film: Was it worth making? Could it possibly have been made any better? The answers are, respectively, yes and no. It's one of the greatest of movies, and maybe the best pure comedy of all time. I won't even point out my favorite moments, because, particularly with Keaton, half the joy is in the discovery (not just the humor, but the audacity -- "How did he DO that??").
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!
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on March 13, 2002
Buster Keaton is a genius of silent movies and this film is a precious gem in his collection. The situation is serious since we are in the Secession War, on the southern side, and Buster Keaton is a train engineer. He saves a particularly dangerous situation witrh his chase of the train hijacked by northern spies and then his rescue of his love and his being chased this time by the northerners. He succeeds in burning a bridge that will cause a complete change of balance of power in favor of his southern side. He will also take part in the ensuing battle and carry the day. He will be made a lieutenant and will conquer the love of his belle in the most beautiful way. His antics are not funny but used systematically to increase the suspense of the situation and the dramatic depth of the plot. That change of comic elements into dramatic and even tragic elements is the sign of the most perfect art displayed by Buster Keaton with the simplicity and modesty that are his by nature. His serious stance, him never laughing of course, emphasizes this deepening of a human dilemma in the most convincing way.
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on September 30, 2001
Not much new can be said about THE GENERAL. It is Buster's masterpiece and one of the greatest movies ever made. No debate. Buster was at the peak of his career, in the perfect vehicle with complete creative control. When all aspects are considered, such as authenticity, stunts, the story flow etc. A very strong case can be made for calling The General the greatest movie ever made. To really enjoy The General, read about it and then, view it several times.
This tape also includes Cops and The Playhouse. COPS is one of Buster's best and funniest shorts. There are many great chases with hundreds of cops. THE PLAYHOUSE is one of his most inventive. Buster plays multiple characters simultaneously.
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on September 21, 2001
Without a doubt one of the greatest movies of all time. I won't say much about the content because there is a ton of info on The General everywhere. The General is considered to be Buster's masterpiece. And it is. No hype. I've watched The General more times than I can count. This is a wonderful movie.
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on January 29, 2001
"The General" is a film that is so well-paced and well-crafted, you don't even realize you've been watching a film that is an hour and a half in length. This is easily one of the best comedies ever made (silent or otherwise) and among my favorite films of all time. Buster Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, a train engineer in the south during the Civil War. Johnnie's two loves in his life are his train, The General, and his girl, Annabelle. Imagine the horror when, after a daring plot by Union army spies, Johnnie's train is hijacked and his girl is kidnapped in the process. It's Johnnie to the rescue as he gives chase by another train to save his beloved General, get the girl, and maybe even become a hero. With an ever-present blank expression on his mug, Keaton treats the viewer to feats of daring, physical comedy. The movie itself zooms from gag to gag as if riding a train from station to station. And what a delightful ride it is.
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on March 18, 2000
Its not for nothing this movie is considered one of the top 10 movies of all time. It holds up well even for repeated viewing. Amazon's offer features a sort of random classical soundtrack that one would be advised to turn off and substitute a scott joplin cd or something as I found a definite lack of "synchronicity" with the supplied music and the on screen action. Bravo Buster! True genius!
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on August 22, 1999
The General is one of my favorite Buster Keaton movies. I remembered a sequence where he has a half and half uniform to get past an area where the Union army is on one side of the landscape the train is on and the Confederates are on the other. It is not present in this tape! I looked up in, and sure enough, this movie is only 75 minutes while the original is 80 minutes. BIG bummer.
I thought The Playhouse was an utter bore and turned off the tape. I have seen Cops before and it is another of my favorites and look forward to seeing it.
(I also wish amazon would list the running times.)
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on March 22, 1999
Okay, maybe some of us prefer this or that Keaton film, but like Citizen Kane, The General is a choice all of us can live with as #1. Many video editions exist, and the print quality on the Thames TV version is arguably a hair better, but this is stll the video edition to own because it throws in what all of us could just as well live with as Keaton's best two shorts. Cops is built around the gloriously dark and surreal image of Keaton being pursued by an army of cops; The Playhouse is, after Sherlock Jr., the best example of Keaton as tinkerer with the medium, as he uses (flawless) double exposure to play an entire minstrel show, all the members of the pit orchestra-- and the entire audience.
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on February 8, 1999
A joy to behold. One of the sublime achievements of cinema, and hilarious to boot. See it in a theatre, if you can. This film attains an absolute perfection that no film made since has been able to approach. There is not a single frame out of place, not a single element that does not fit in with the grand design.
What more do you want?
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on February 7, 1999
Although the pre-1930 period represents over 30% of the time period covered by the AFI selections, pre-1930 films only represent 2% of the selections. Something is clearly amiss here, and the most rediculous omission is "The General". Buster Keaton's brilliantly plotted, hilariously gagged and ultimately touching movie may well be the greatest silent movie of all time (although clearly a case can be made for one of the Chaplin films or "Birth of a Nation"). You wouldn't want to miss Keaton's "Sherlock Jr" or "Our Hospitality" either.
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