Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 7 Is National Train Day

My big brother reminded me last night that today is National Train Day. "What are you doing to celebrate?" he asked. A very reasonable question.

Well, for one thing I'm going to re-watch Buster Keaton's classic train movie, The General.

Have you seen The General? If not, you really should.

"Not only is it one of the greatest comedies ever made," I once wrote, "The General, which Buster Keaton wrote, directed and starred in, is also an action film that puts most of its modern counterparts to shame. Based on an incident from the American Civil War, the story—about a lovelorn engineer who finds himself battling spies who hijack his train—features a spectacular chase involving two, then three speeding locomotives, daredevil stunts, explosions, burning bridges, comic mishaps, sight gags, split-second timing, all while Keaton woos the girl. Keaton's famously understated reaction to the chaos around him—he was known as 'The Great Stoneface'—only adds to the modern feel of the production."

This, courtesy of Hulu:

8 comments:

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hooray for National Train Day. I'm glad it's catching on.

Jeanie Callaghan said...

I love this fabulous timeless film. I work in Kennesaw, Georgia, just a couple of miles from the museum where the train that took place in the actual event is housed. Sounds like a good day to re-watch this film!

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Jacqueline: Train Day only makes sense if you want a life that makes sense ... oh wait, I think I'm with you!

Jeanie: You're home to Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield as well, where if you follow the guidebooks and look closely you can still see the Confederate trenches frantically dug with knives and spoons & mess kits! I spent a weekend walking them and it still gives me the shivers ...

Oh and let's see, who made this all possible: Ah! Mister Monkey, I should have known. Thanks for the great movie that I never would have watched if it weren't for you.

Cliff Aliperti said...

One of the few silent films I've successfully used to gather converts! Friends and family often have a hard enough time dealing with me forcing pre-code talkies on them, I usually don't go any earlier on them, but The General is one that always keeps their eyes glued to the screen!

I might have missed National Train Day, but I think I might have to dust off my copy, it's been awhile.

diablo said...

Yeah... This is a great blog. You're on my list now!

Mythical Monkey said...

The General is what I would show someone who has never seen a silent movie -- the comedy is very modern, the action is amazing by any standard and the lack of dialogue is very nearly irrelevant.

Katie-Bar-The-Door and I saw The General at the Kennedy Center a couple of years ago with the National Symphony Orchestra providing the accompaniment and it was a game-changer for me and her both. I think I can with near metaphysical certitude I wouldn't be writing about silent movies right now if we hadn't gone.

Re: trains and National Train Day. I love trains, I admit. There's an old steam locomotive in Centennial Park in Nashville where I grew up which my parents took my little brother and me to see when we were very little -- two and three by the look of the picture on my office wall. For years I thought I had just dreamed that trip until I saw it again years later.

Oh, and diablo -- I've added you to my blog roll. Love the photos!

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

I thought I caught a continuity mistake when I stopped noticing the union general on the engine floor after Buster knocked him out ... but ... No! The opposite: was foreshadowing instead.

Wasn't it eerie to laugh at the bridge collapsing beneath the locomotive and then catch yourself realizing that was a depiction of the death of well-meaning men -- and pretty realistic too ...

Mythical Monkey said...

Like all the stunts in The General, the collapse of the bridge, with the locomotive going into the river, was real -- they set an old railroad bridge on fire, ran the locomotive across it and dropped the whole thing into the river.

In fact, the locomotive sat in the river until World War II when it was used for scrap metal in the war effort.

Speaking of laughing at death, there's also a laugh toward the end when Keaton's sword goes flying and winds up skewering a Union soldier who was about to fire on him.

You could very easily take the same material and turn it into a serious action thriller.