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IB Film - Case Studies
The General
Director: Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman 

Release date: 1927

Country: USA 

Genre: Comedy, Romance, War 

Synopsis: After receiving the news of her wounded father, Annabelle heads of to the north in order to find him. As she travels, her train, coincidentally Johnnie's train gets hijacked by Union spies, and she is kidnapped. It is not up Johnnie to rescue his beloved engine and girl, as well as the Army of Tennessee.



It is generally regarded as one of the greatest of all silent comedies (and Keaton's personal favourite), and undoubtedly the best train movie ever made. However Keaton's greatest picture received poor reviews by critics and weak box-office results when initially released in the 1920's, which led to Keaton's loss of independence as a film-maker and a restrictive deal with MGM. It took a few decades for the film to be hailed as one of the best ever made movies. It was eventually preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". It is further significant for its stunt works, which were performed by Keaton himself. Keaton performs lots of dangerous physical stunts on and around the moving train, which include jumping from the engine to a tender to a boxcar, sitting on the cow-catcher of the slow moving train while holding a railroad tie, and running along the roof. The film concludes with a climatic battle at the river gorge, with the dramatic crash of the pursuit train into the Rock River in the film's most spectacular scene - and the most expensive shot of the entire silent era. Historical Significance: The film was based on a true Civil War story of the daring raid/seizure by a group of about two-dozen Union spies of a Confederate train near Atlanta in April 1862. A second film was also made to depict the raid - Walt Disney's The Great Locomotive Chase (1956).

Roberta Kovacs




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