The General (1927)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Comedy, Slapstick  |   Release Date - Feb 5, 1927 (USA)  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Buster Keaton perfectly balanced romance, action and comedy in his most admired film and personal favorite, a Civil War story about an engineer and his eponymous locomotive. Based on a true incident involving a hijacked Confederate train, Keaton strove to make the film as authentic as possible, shooting on location in Oregon to get the proper track gauge and sinking an actual locomotive engine at the film's climax (in reportedly the most expensive single take for a silent film). The lighting and composition recall Matthew Brady's Civil War photographs, while tracking shots following Keaton's locomotive adventures further displayed his technical expertise. The train became Keaton's supreme comic prop in the two intricately devised, and narratively mirrored, chase sequences involving his efforts to elude Union pursuers; the humorous business accompanying Keaton's retrieval of the General, and girlfriend, sent up romantic fantasies and war heroics. The effort seemed to be for naught when The General received negative reviews in 1927 and failed to make a profit. The General's reputation, along with Keaton's, however, was resuscitated in the 1950s; The General became Keaton's masterpiece, joining Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush (1925) as one of the greatest silent comedies ever made.