27 March 2017 | AlsExGal
It is more appreciated now than when it was released
This film flopped when it was released in late 1926 for several reasons. First, its premiere was delayed because "Flesh and the Devil" was such a sensation that it was held over an extra couple of weeks. Second, people came to the movies to see Buster Keaton the comedian, not Buster the filmmaker and director, which is more of the role he played here. The film was funny, but it was not gag after gag, like so many of Keaton's other films. Keaton plays a railroad engineer living in the South. A title card declares he has two loves - his girl and his engine. when the Civil War starts he tries to enlist, but is considered too valuable to be in the Army due to his profession. His girlfriend misunderstands, thinks him a coward, and says she won't speak to him again until he is in uniform.
Meanwhile, the Union forces have developed a plan to crush the South that involves stealing Buster's train. Unknown to Buster, his girlfriend is on the train at the time of the theft. Buster starts out in hot pursuit of the thieves to retrieve his train, still without the knowledge of his girl's captivity by the Union army.
Forgotten with the arrival of sound, the film revived - often cut up from its original length - in the 1950's because Buster didn't preserve his rights to the film and it fell into the public domain. That is the reason there are so many versions of The General out there today, often with poor video and hideous musical accompaniment.
Today The General is considered one of the best silent feature length films, and one of the few silent films to not only be on DVD but to get the Blu Ray treatment too. SHERLOCK, JR. is clever. OUR HOSPITALITY is hilarious. The General is both of these things. It's story driven, races to a climax, and is fueled by cute, clever, inventive gags.Buster recycled these gags when he was a writer for MGM years later in "A Southern Yankee".