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The General

USA 1926
produced by
Buster Keaton, Joseph M.Schenck (exectutive) for Buster Keaton Productions/United Artists
directed by Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman
starring Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender, Jim Farley, Frederick Vroom, Charles Henry Smith, Frank Barnes, Joe Keaton, Mike Donlin, Tom Nawn
story by Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman, screenplay by Al Boasberg, Charles Henry Smith, based on the memoirs by William Pittenger


review by
Mike Haberfelner

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America during the Civil War: Johnny (Buster Keaton) is a railroad engineer in love with Annabel (Marion Mack) and even more so his locomotive, the General. He couldn't care less about the war, but when it reaches his stretch of land and his girlfriend demands him to join the army, he is the first in line to enlist - but is rejected because his services as an engineer are more valuable to the Confederate Army than him being a foot soldier - yet everybody thinks Johnny didn't enlist out of cowardice, and Annabel even breaks up with him over it.

A group of conspirators from the North figure it would be a good idea to steal Johnny's beloved engine, the General, to mess up the Confederates' supply routes, and when they do so, they rather by accident take Annabel hostage. Johnny doesn't know that Annabel has been kidnapped, but he desperately wants to get his engine back, even if that means going after it on another engine on his own (he has somehow lost the troops he wanted to take with him). Being so caught up in chasing after his beloved General, Johnny doesn't even notice that he has crossed the enemy lines until it's much too late, and ultimately he has to abandon the locomotive he has been on - but somehow makes it to the train-nappers' headquatrters rather by accident, where he manages to free Annabel, take possession of the General and driive it back to the South, pursued not by one but by two trains full of Northern soldiers and supplies. But after many a complication and near-escape, Bustetr manages to burn down a vital bridge and have one of the Union's trains plummet into the water below, and warn the nearest Confederate outpost just in time before the Northerners' attack. And even in the battle, Johnny, without even intending it, turns the fortunes to the South's favour, so much so that in the end he not only gets the girl but is also promoted to Lieutnant.


Though a box office failure at its release, The General is nothing short of a masterpiece and is nowadays regarded as Keaton's signature film and best ever, and  as one of the seminal chase films as well - and totally rightly so, as the film is little more than one big chase sequence that works just like a clockwork, where every shot, every stunt, every gag is exactly where it's supposed to be, and in which Keaton (once again) proves his genius as not only a slapstick comic and master stuntman (though he's in many a breathtaking sequence in this one) but also as director with an intimate understanding of the medium, which makes the film a s fresh and exciting today as it was more than 80 years ago - and the fact that no film tricks or miniatures were used during all of the action sequences only adds to the film's freshness.

A masterpiece.


By the way: From today's point of view, Buster's portrayal of a Confederate hero might seem politically incorrect, but a) sensibilities were a bit different in the 1920's, and b) just like his hero in the film, Buster wasn't a political filmmaker who wanted to bring across some message but someone who wanted to tella  story and entertain his audience (which this film perfectly does). And c) this film was based on true events (at least to an extent) which dictated who's a northerner and who's a Southerner ...


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD