CAST: Buster Keaton (Johnny Gray), Marion Mack (Annabelle Lee), Glen Cavender (Captain Anderson), Jim Farley (Genral Thatcher), Frederick Vroom (Southern General), Joe Keaton (Union General), Mike Donlin (Union General), Tom Nawn (Union General), Charles Smith (Annabelle's father), Frank Barnes (Annabelle's brother).
Johnny Gray is the engineer for the Western and Atlantic Flyer, and his engine is named "The General." We are told early there are two loves in Johnny's life, "The General" and Annabelle Lee.
During a visit to Annabelle's home, her brother comes in and announces that Fort Sumter has been fired upon, and, immediately, he and Annabelle's father go to enlist in the Southern cause. Johnny does, too, but he is rejected because "he is more valuable to the South as an engineer." Due to a misunderstanding, Annabelle's father and brother think Johnny refused to sign up. After being told of his supposed cowardice, Annabelle informs Johnny that she will not speak to him again until he is in uniform.
A year later, a group of Union soldiers led by Captain Anderson steal Johnny's train with Annabelle in one of the boxcars. Johnny gives chase in another train with all sorts of mishaps and comicals events happening along the way. Deep into Union territory, the Yankee soldiers realize Johnny is alone on the train. Johnny deserts the train and flees into the woods.
Duirng a late night storm, Johnny happens upon a house and sneaks in to steal some food. It turns out that this house is being used by General Thatcher, Captain Anderson and other Union officers to plan an attack on the Southern forces at the Rock River Bridge. Also, this is where Annabelle is being held captive. After everyone has gone asleep, Johnny rescues Annabelle and they flee again into the woods.
Johnny must get word to the Southern forces of the attack. The next morning he sees the trains being loaded with supplies to support the Union forces in their attack. One of the trains is his beloved "General." Wearing a Yankee uniform he got at the house, Johnny puts Annabelle in a sack and blends in as one of the many Union soldiers putting supplies on the train. After getting Annabelle into the boxcar, he goes to the engine and, after knocking out a couple of soldiers with a piece of wood, he steals the train.
With two more trains loaded with soldiers hot in pursuit, Johnny races toward the Southern lines to warn them of the attack. Along the way, he uses a multitude of tricks, as well as luck, to keep the pursuers at bay. After crossing the Rock River Bridge, he sets it on fire to keep the Union soldiers from crossing it.
In town, he warns of the coming attack, and the Confederate forces head for the Rock River Bridge. In spite of the damage from the fire, the a Union general orders one of their trains to cross the bridge, however the bridge collapses sending the train into the river below. As the Southern forces arrive, a full-scale battle takes place over the river. Johnny inadvertantly saves the day when he accidentally shoots a cannonball straight into the air which comes down and blows up the dam. This sends a rushing torrrent down the river forcing the Union forces to retreat.
Having won the battle, the Confederates return to the town where Johnny is rewarded for his heroism with a commission as an officer in the army thereby winning back Annabelle's love, as well.
|The copy reviewed is from Kino International's "Art of Buster Keaton" series and is the best offering of this great film to date. Includes all original titles with the woodgrain background and a crisp clear copy prepared by David Shepard. The musical score by Robert Israel is excellent. This copy runs 75 minutes, but the Kino's tape and DVD also have the added attraction of two of Keaton's best shorts "The Playhouse" (1921) and "Cops" (1922). The VHS tape and the DVD both sell for $29.95, and that's a steal for what you get! (See the Silents Are Golden's "Silcnt Video Sources" page for Kino's web address and mailing address.)
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