Monday, April 27, 2009

32. The General - 1927

Synopsis: Buster Keaton is a southern train conductor during the civil war. His girlfriend is kidnapped by nothern soldiers causing him to follow her into enemy territory. He saves her and returns home to battle the union. It is loosely based on a real life train chase.

Review: This movie feels like a compromise to me. It's bigger and grander than anything Keaton has done previously. It has a better narrative. It lost the danger and absurdity that I enjoyed most in Keaton's earlier works. I miss that off the wall, from out of nowhere humor.

I think this sets a future for bigger comedy though. It isn't just a set of gags unrelated gags based purely on Keaton's ability to endanger himself without having a facial reaction. There is even a bit that made me laugh based purely on an intertitle:
I could easily see someone like every Steve Carell character ever saying it. Unfortunately, it's one of the few genuine laughs I had in the movie. The other big one for me was a pine cone bonking Keaton on the head. The two examples give a pretty good approximation of my sense of humor: non-jokes and infantile jokes. Nothing in between the two.

The length of the movie is an issue. While the movie is still short, it would have helped to edit it some more. I've enjoyed the shorter Buster Keaton films more because they didn't leave room for anything that didn't work. The General on the other hand leaves plenty of moments waiting for the next joke to happen instead of laughing until the next joke happens.

Something that's been bothering me about these movies is the soundtracks. I can't imagine that the musical accompaniment is accurate on some of these films. There is a song that either is, or is very close to being, Sabre Dance. There is zither music which makes me think of The Third Man immediately. The music fits but is this what Buster Keaton intended? Maybe so but there has been some inconsistency throughout this list on the musical choices.

I don't have much else to say about the film. It didn't work on me like previous Buster Keaton movies. Because I can't avoid mentioning hilarious facial hair, here is the best from the film:
And, since I am a giant nerd, I want to include this picture because it makes me think of the tank levels in world 8 of Super Mario Bros. 3
Final Score: 7/10

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