I deeply desire to understand WHY silent movies are making it onto the AFI Top 100 Movies of All Time list. Am I missing something? Are there special objects to look for in the silent film that I don’t know about? Are there I Spy instructions that I’m missing in the beginning? Because maybe, just maybe, I Spy during The General would make this movie slightly more interesting – emphasis on slightly. Now, I will say this – I am not a boy and trains do not fascinate me. Maybe if I played with Thomas when I was little I would find The General more exciting. But lo, I played with dolls so slow motion “train chases” do not amuse me.
Allow me to give you the highlights of this movie. Buster Keaton, aka the shortest actor to have ever starred in a movie, tries to get into the army but is rejected because he is a train engineer and is “too important”. THEN the enemy army tries to take Buster Keaton’s train “The General”, hence the name of the movie, and he uses his large amount of wit to chase them down and win the day.
Now, this is not a terrible plot. I think if they switched Buster Keaton with Tom Cruise and had them on jet planes this wouldn’t be so bad. Oh wait – that’s been done. Or maybe if they used Daniel Craig and gave him a really nice car. Jokes – this movie plot is just horrible.
However, the aspect of silent movies that makes this one so particularly awful is the constant need to make a comedic scene last FOREVER. They are CLEARLY making up for the fact that this movie is not interesting by trying to add some slapstick into it. However, Buster Keaton, last time I checked, was not a Marx brother, and even those guys get annoying if a bit goes on too long (hello, Graucho). But to have Buster Keaton, a NOT funny person, do comedic bits solely to waste time is completely unnecessary! Maybe throwing wood over the train was funny once, twice- not so much, and thrice – GO HOME. NOBODY LIKES YOU.
My last issue with this movie are the talking signs. In silent movies, if you haven’t seen one (lucky you), the characters that want to say something move their mouths noticably, point or make a large gesture, and then the director cuts to a screen with a frilly border that has the words on it. For example, Buster Keaton will be seen opening his mouth and pointing then the screen will say “OVER THERE”.
Now this was a great idea except for the fact that the director apparently thinks that anyone watching this movie is 3 and has to sound out each letter before being able to read it. These words are on screen for 20 seconds when it takes exactly 1.2 seconds to read it, and NOBODY HAS COMPLAINED? If I had anything to do with producing this movie I would have at least asked someone if the director was dyslexic. THIS IS NOT DIFFICULT. If your desired demographic is 3 year olds than by all means keep doing what you’re doing, however, I am incredibly offended that you think I can’t read “HEY YOU” in less than a minute.
Suffice to say, The General is a silent movie about a train chase that takes 1 hour 28 minutes. There is no talking. There are screenshots of dialogue that last a degrading amount of time, and Buster Keaton should grow and learn to talk.
Thank you Jazz Singer for being a talkie,