The Best Movie You’ve Never Seen

A project I’m doing this year has required me to watch a lot of old silent movies.  I’ve seen a few Charlie Chaplin movies, as well as two D.W. Griffith epics, and a few others.  They’ve all been worthwhile, but there’s no problem picking the one I’ve most enjoyed.

Buster Keaton’s 1927 film The General is a silent film in black and white, and is one of the funniest, most action-packed movies I’ve ever seen.  I loved every minute of it.  It’s brilliantly fun.

The majority of the film takes place while one train chases another, and then the hunter from the first half becomes the hunted later on.  Buster Keaton performs almost constant slapstick, always with a quiet, deadpan demeanor, and performs more dangerous stunts than I could count.  Since there are no stuntmen or special effects to speak of, I actually had to remind myself that the many stunning visuals in the film were achieved by actually doing them on camera.  Keaton could have died multiple times while pulling off these stunts and jokes.  (Jackie Chan has always said that Buster Keaton was a huge inspiration in his own career.)

This version on YouTube (the movie’s in the public domain) has a jazz soundtrack added, from a German band which apparently often performed along with this film (you know, like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon).  It perfectly complements the action.  You’re in for a real treat.

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4 comments on “The Best Movie You’ve Never Seen

  1. I completely agree — it’s a brilliant, hilarious film. My siblings and I used to watch it on a VHS that I think my grandfather taped back in the very early wild days of satellite television.

    What’s more, I got to see The General in an old theater in Berkeley with a live organist playing the soundtrack while sitting next to the woman who eventually became my wife. The fact that we both already knew and loved the film and were blowing off studying for finals to see it definitely figured in to our later courtship.

  2. Yes, this is a hilarious movie. My son and I still laugh to this day when remembering Keaton attempting to jump over the fire on the track but falling through the hole and down into the ravine.

  3. The most imrpessive part I remember just now is when he used a huge woodenbeam to knock another huge woodenbeam off the track, at the last secon, while sitting on the train’s grill. That was all real. It looks so smooth and easy on screen, but really, so much could have gone wrong.

    And the train crash…wow! Hollywood would never do something that simple or understated…or effective…today. It looks realistic because it was real. That’s a hundred times better than a giant CGI explosion.

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