Monday, February 8, 2016

Buster Keaton in THE GENERAL

In the earliest days of cinema men strapped themselves to the fronts of trains to film the moving countryside. Buster Keaton, the lesser-known god of silent cinema, did all of his own stunts without faking it. In THE GENERAL, he actually sits on a train's rotating gears as it carries him up, actually rode on the front of a charging train, and actually blew up a bridge with a train on it in the most expensive silent film scene ever filmed. THE GENERAL is his most accessible film, a gorgeous confederate's tale with the train as a central character, around which Keaton perhaps proves himself a better physical comedian than Chaplin himself. Keaton's career wouldn't know the longevity of Chaplin's, but in the decade that he directed SHERLOCK JR., THE GENERAL, THREE AGES, and a handful more dazzling comedies, he cemented himself in cinema history, and in the funny bone of everyone who has enacted physical comedy since.

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