**½

There were two loves in his life: his engine and —

This is my first Buster Keaton film.  For those that do not know, he was every bit as famous as Charlie Chaplin in the silent movie industry.  This tells a story set in 1861 of a railroad engineer in those troubling times; his name is Charlie Grey.  Unfortunately his utility as an engineer prevents him from enlisting in the Southern Army.  The classical score is quite interesting and makes me wonder if the editor cut the film to the music, or vice versa.  As a huge Tchaykovsky fan I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.  The first act ends with Keaton riding the piston of a train—comedy gold for the 1920’s!  His locomotive…that’s the general.

His ex-lady gets kidnapped by Union army saboteurs who steal his locomotive and only he endeavors to rescue the train with her on it.  He lost her because of accusations of cowardice for his failure to enlist. While the plot was pretty interesting, silent storytelling is probably more novel than the story itself.  Thanks to Grinnell College and UChicago I have seen more than my share of silent films, but why would the average Netflix subscriber opt to watch them?  There is a deep prejudice against  such films, as there is against animated films in some groups.  The most interesting thing for me was the danger of the stunts and the ease with which Buster Keaton pulled them off.  He would fit in well with a Jackie Chan movie.  Although he has a Severus Snape look to him, which makes for an interesting protagonist.

A few of the jokes did not sit well with me, but Keaton is so charming he can take an unpleasant bear trap joke and get a chuckle out of me.  The female lead had less to work with, but she did her best.  She was a real sport when it came to the ol’ shove her into a burlap sack gag!  To be totally frank I got bored with this movie pretty quickly.  It’s well shot and the action and jokes just keep coming, but it’s really old.  I will probably have more fun thinking about this movie than I did watching it.  In good conscience I cannot really give it less than 3 stars though.  So I did so in bad conscience because I got tired of the movie so much.

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