In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
Johnnie loves his train ("The General") and Annabelle Lee. When the Civil War begins he is turned down for service because he's more valuable as an engineer. Annabelle thinks it's because he's a coward. Union spies capture The General with Annabelle on board. Johnnie must rescue both his loves. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Based on a true incident during the Civil War. In April 1862 Union agent James J. Andrews led a squad of 21 soldiers on a daring secret raid. Dressed in civilian clothes, Andrews and his men traveled by rail into the Southern states. Their mission was to sabotage rail lines and disrupt the Confederate army's supply chain. At the town of Big Shanty, GA, (now known as Kennesaw, Georgia) the raiders stole a locomotive known as "The General." They headed north, tearing up track, burning covered bridges and cutting telegraph lines along the way. William Fuller and Jeff Cain, the conductor and engineer of "The General," pursued the stolen train by rail and foot. They first used a hand-cart (as Buster Keaton does in the film), then a small work locomotive called "The Yonah," which they borrowed from a railroad work crew, and finally a full-sized Confederate army locomotive called "The Texas," which pursued "The General" for 51 miles--in reverse. During the chase Confederate soldiers were able to repair the sabotaged telegraph wires and send messages ahead of the raiders. Andrews and his men were intercepted and captured near Chattanooga, TN, by a squad of Confederate troops led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (who, after the war, was one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan). Tried as spies, Andrews and seven of his raiders were hanged (a special gallows was built to hold all eight men). The rest of the raiders were traded in a prisoner exchange. In 1863 the survivors of the mission were awarded the first Medals of Honor (Andrews and the raiders who had been hanged later received the medal posthumously). Although this film is a comedy, the incident was later filmed by Walt Disney as a drama, The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), with Fess Parker--a Southerner, born in Texas--as Andrews. See more »
The enlistment scene takes place in 1861 but the "Southern Cross" flag hanging outside the enlistment office wasn't used until 1862. See more »
One of the great masterpieces of cinema, Buster Keaton's "The General" combines inventive humor with terrific action and fine melodrama, all beautifully and carefully planned and photographed. It is filled with subtle and wonderful details that make it well worth devoting your full attention to watching. As an extra bonus, it offers a fascinating look at the Civil War era, with many realistic details, inspired by a historical incident.
After a short opening sequence, the movie divides nicely into two halves. Johnny (Keaton) is a railway engineer, turned down in his attempts to enlist in the Confederate Army and subsequently rejected by his girl. Continuing with the railroad, one day his locomotive is stolen by Union spies, who also kidnap his girl. Johnny first chases the engine into Union territory to recapture it, and then is himself chased by the Northern Army as he attempts to return home. Both chases are filled with excitement and manic fun, with some breathtaking stunts by Keaton thrown in. It all leads up to a dramatic and memorable climax that includes many ironic and suggestive touches.
Keaton is at his best, with the story offering him a perfect showcase for his many talents. His slapstick and acrobatic skills are given free rein, and his character's stoic perseverance is a fine complement to the frantic action.
This belongs near the top of any list of great films, a classic worth watching and re-watching.
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