The simplest and easiest way to see a good-looking HD version of Buster Keaton‘s The General (’26) is to stream it on Amazon. And yet I’m ashamed to admit that I found this colorized-with-sound-effects version somewhat engaging and perhaps even a bit more. I watched the whole 75-minute film earlier today. Heresy, I know.
The genius-level Keaton starred, produced and co-directed. He was 31 at the time. 24 years later Keaton performed a cameo (more or less playing himself) in Billy Wilder‘s Sunset Boulevard. The poor guy looked 65 if a day.
The General was inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. The story was adapted from William Pittenger‘s 1889 memoir “The Great Locomotive Chase.”
A less inventive, non-comedic but respectably sturdy retelling of the tale arrived with Walt Disney’s The Great Locomotive Chase (’56), costarring Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter. It was shot by Charles Boyle with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
The Disney film didn’t do as well commercially as hoped, probably due to the fact that it went with a downer ending. Parker’s character, Union spy and train hijacker James J. Andrews, ends up captured and hanged.