The overarching theme of the AFI Top 100 List, for me at least, is that these are a bunch of movies that I never in a million years would have even thought to watch. Not that there is something about them that I find specifically boring, or offensive, or what have you…they just never would have caught my eye. A number of them, including The General, have ended up being quite good films and I’m glad I’ve taken the time to watch them. I suppose that’s a no-brainer remark, they are on the Top 100 list, so someone’s bound to like them. I am finding that it is nice to discover so many enjoyable stories from films I would have never bothered to pick up otherwise.
Buster Keaton plays Johnny Gray– a man who loves two things: his locomotive and his lady.
The civil war starts, and being a southerner, Johnny’s lady friend expects him to enlist in the army. He tries to enlist, but they refuse to take him because he will be more helpful to the South driving trains. After receiving some mistaken information that Johnny didn’t even get in the enlistment line, his lady friend (ok, I can’t remember her name) tells him that she won’t speak to him again until he’s in uniform.
Johnny then gets entangled in a mass of mis-adventures, in which he chases down and heads off a maneuver by the Northern Army, learns some secret information about their plans, then chases them down, heads off their attack and saves the day. All the while, the audience is awash in laughter because Johnny is accident prone and hapless.
I had never seen a Buster Keaton film before this, and everything I knew about Keaton I learned from Benny & Joon. Keaton is skillful and hilarious, but he never gets so over the top to be ridiculous. I really would like to see more of his films, you know, with that copious free time I have.