3003 Movies Into the Golden Age!!!...so far?
Attention! Read Below:
Am currently in the process of making some modifications to this list. Finally decided to go through with it after debating with myself about something for the past week or so. Since it was so bluntly suggested to me below that - "how can I claim to call these movies the best I've ever seen when I haven't even seen all of them?..." - I decided to look into it and found that the number of movies I've actually seen (based on star rankings I've given out) hasn't actually reached '3003'! Therefore, I don't know how many are gonna like this change, or think it even makes sense - but I've decided to start including even BAD movies that I've seen, on this list - just for the sake of being able to say I've actually watched every movie on here.
Therefore, as you scroll below, this is now a collection of every movie I've ever since (that I can remember?) and as soon as I reach the number 3003 -which I'm rapidly catching up to just so y'all know- I'll start getting discriminatory and eliminate the junk. But at least by then I'll be able to say I haven't personally viewed every entry on this list!
If anyone disagrees or objects (or on the contrary) to this decision, please feel free to comment below. Hope this clears things up about some of the lower ranked movies you might find here on this thing. Movies without star ranking are films I'm planning to watch next, and entries with reviews or pics are the ones I'm certain (for now) on keeping...
135 6.6 6.93003. Workers Leaving the Factory (1895)
229 7.2 7.33002. The Arrival of a Train at Station (1896)
Directed by the Lumière Brothers
Auguste and Louis Lumière were considered the pioneers of motion picture. Without their involvement towards the advancement of moving still photographs cinema would not progress into the 20th, 21st Century and beyond! To this day their name can still be found on production companies and elsewhere as a living testament to all that they helped make possible, despite the fact that it's been rumored they attempted to block the efforts of aspiring up and coming film artists such as Georges Melies. Working under their father in the study of photography - it was only after he had passed away that the sons got the initiative to start what would be the beginning of early filmmaking by producing a series of short films under a minute which silly as it may seem to today's youth, was actually quite MIND-BLOWING for the time!
All of these short films that they released constituted documentary style mis-en-scene moments, showing arbitrary tasks such as workers leaving a factory for the day. Here, I want to focus on only one of their films in particular. This movie is considered to be the pioneer of suspense films as it has now and again been credited to be history's first horror film. The plot is simple enough, it's exactly as the title reads. You simply see a train arriving at the train station. Nothing could be more dull right?
Well, to get the right picture you have to imagine yourself back in 1896 when this movie was released. People had never seen a moving picture before and certainly not on a 20 plus foot by 50 plus wide projection screen?! It's been noted that upon the film's first showing people ran screaming for their lives from the movie theater cause they assumed this was the image of a real live locomotive train coming at them, they thought it was gonna bust through the screen and squish them. --Without the addition of this short but effective documentary thriller, horror films or slasher movies, or any form of movie suspense whatsoever would not have given birth, and for that this film deserves cinephiles' respect - as literally the very first movie to make an audience SHIT THEIR PANTS!...
84 5.9 5.93001. The Kiss (1896)
946 8.1 8.23000. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
385 7.2 7.42999. The Great Train Robbery (1903)
115 7.5 6.92998. L'Inferno (1911)
73 7.5 7.92997. The Cameraman's Revenge (1912)
4 6 6.42995. Children of the Age (1915)
36 7.2 6.52994. After Death (1915)
305 7.8 82993. Intolerance (1916)
959 8.2 8.12991. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
764 8.3 8.42987. The Kid (1921)
Directed by Charles Chaplin
Marking Chaplin's first major 'critical' and 'commercial' breakthrough, this box-office darling won him prestige for starring, writing and directing it himself, and starting him down a newly reinvigorated path of his still young and promising film career. One of the major archetypal turning points in the evolution of his premiere recurring film character the Little Tramp (who Charlie first appeared as in 1914's "Mabel's Strange Predicament", and inspired Chaplin admits in his autobiography, quite by accident - the character would not appear again until 1915's short "The Tramp") Chaplin here set bold new standards for himself, as well as promising young -former vaudeville- co-star Jackie Coogan, where as for Coogan (who acts here as the film's title character "the kid") this was the start of a fresh and promising solo career as the pioneer of a future deplorable industry 'within' the industry, being Hollywood's 'first' true young major film star (YEARS before Shirley Temple entered onto the scene!) for Chaplin, the film was not only a comedic highlight but showcased also his range at evoking true genuine human warmth on screen, and would forever change the course of his career as hence forth his roles would become more dynamically serious (climaxing perhaps in the introduction to the Tramp's dark side in 1940's "the Great Dictator"?) "The Kid" was a crowd-pleaser and managed to become the second highest grossing film at the box office of 1921 (just behind Rex Ingram's "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse") yet despite all it's accolades years to come, the film's release and production of, wasn't met without considerable controversy and sacrifice - a project that took Chaplin over a year to complete - and several decades later to be considered for preservation by the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. And to this day maintains a cult status amongst Chaplin's admirers and fans of the Tramp series.
The story opens on the subtitles A picture with a smile-and perhaps, a tear and The woman - whose sin was motherhood, which sets the tone for the proceeding feature. A young lady (played evocatively by Edna Purviance) departs from a charity hospital, with babe in arms. It's learned shortly after that the father (played by Carl Miller) is out of the picture for being out of the question - a rich bureaucrat who turns out to be engaged to another. He puts the young woman out of mind and eventually follows his destined path as an accomplished painter. The mother, heartbroken and destitute, leaves the baby in the back of a limousine, expecting he'll be looked after by the family who owns the house the vehicle parked front of. Only should a bizarre twist of fate befall the child, a pair of crooks hijack the limo and upon discovering the child, dump the baby off in the gutter of a local slum district. Enter our principal protagonist the Little Tramp (Chaplin) who just happens to be passing by when upon discovering the child assumes he must belong to someone close by. Comically, the Tramp attempt to pawn the child off on near-by stragglers (including a hilarious abusive mother who's carriage the Tramp tries to stuff the child in, with repeated failure) only to later accept responsibility when discover a note accompanying the baby which reads "Please love and care for this orphan child," left by the mother. Meanwhile, across town, when the severity of the decision finally hits the mother it proves to be too late, discovering the limousine missing?
Five years pass and the boy and Tramp have become a could of live-in con artists who continue to invent new and cleverly inventive schemes to get rich quick in their present dog-eat-dog state of existence. The Kid (whose name Chaplin mentions is 'John' apparently?) is now the Tramp's adopted son and sidekick, whose company the Tramp has now become accustomed to. Meanwhile it's soon discovered the mother and father's course of fates are destined to intertwine with one another once again, the father - now a respected painter, and the mother - now a star of great prominence, now with the shoe on the other foot the mother refuses the father's reconsciliation and devotes her time mainly to charity work of the underprivileged districts of town - each time, mother and child agonizingly come closer to reuniting when coming into contact without one realizing who the other one really is. Fate, however, plays a divine poignant twist when the boy succumbs to sudden illness and a visit from a middle-aged country doctor results in an impromptu seizure of the child by authorities from the County Orphan Asylum. The cruel irony being that the Tramp, originally not wanting the child, is forced by a cruel oligarchical system to take the infant in against his wishes, now that 'same' cruel system attempts to tear the two apart by force, the Tramp's fatherly devotion has become unconditional!
Although seemingly out of his element, with this D.W. Griffin-style tearjerker, Chaplin's whose name has since come to literally personify comedy, nevertheless pulls off this difficult material with near-effortless ease. Highlights involve the Tramp's trademark brilliantly choreographed duel with a bully made of grit and steel fists; an amusing anecdotal mise-en-scene moment involving Chaplin cutting out diapers for the baby, from bed sheets, only to be abruptly stopped by the child's crying in the homemade hammock next to him when unable to reach the nozzle of the coffee pot (used as a stand-in for the nipple of a bottle), when the Tramp lovingly guides the nozzle back to mouth; but by far though, the film's most memorable and recognizable sequence, highlighting equally Chaplin and Coogan's range as resonate screen presences as well as showcasing their chemistry together, would undoubtedly be Tramp and Kid's emotional reunion at the end of the rooftop sequence which should go down as one of the most pivotal scenes of any film in all of cinema history!!!
A difficult film for Chaplin to film though - fueled mainly by Chaplin's own real-life tragedy at the loss of his and then wife, Mildred Harris's, first-born child, which resulted in a public and heated bitter divorce between Chaplin and Harris -which almost resulted in the suppression of the film- as well, the film's subject matter, was more or less inspired by Chaplin's own morbid recollection of growing up under cruel social welfare in London. -As part of the tragedy of the child actors industry in Hollywood Chaplin has admitted in his autobiography that star Coogan during production of the film, was coaxed into providing real genuine tears in the emotional separation sequence by being threatened off camera that if he didn't provide the filmmakers with what they needed for the scene he would sent to a real-life child workhouse immediately after!- The failure of the film's original copywrites owner resulted in the film's possession to evntually fall into public domain (as many of the early silent classics succumbed to) and as a result the film became mutilated and later lost for nearly five decades before Chaplin took it upon himself to reconstitute the movie. The film has become a memorable classic ever since, and also, in my opinion, highlights the film's director and star, for not just the visionary genius that he was, but also the aspiring philosopher that he was, critics and fans alike fail to recognize. Toward the film's climax there is an impromptu dream sequence that is surreal enough to have inspired the later works of Luis Buñuel, which is so perplexing it feels as if having wandered in from another movie? The scene in question involves a curious mixture of the Tramp's real-world slum quarters and inhabitants, acting out some sort of mock-representation of Lucifer's Expulsion from Heaven crossed with the Descent of Man, which just goes to show you - well ahead of any visionary of his time, before "What the Bleep? Down the Rabbit Hole!" or any of the so-called philosophers of the Freudian-obsessed Marxist '60s and '70s, with inflated-artists ranging from Jean-Luc Godard to Ingmar Bergman to Woody Allen, Chaplin was less a pessimist and seemed more concerned with questioning how such a cruel, and uncaring cyclical system of man's worst emotions playing off each other, ever come in to being in the first place? Powerful thought spent for just little over 60 min. spent. A must see for every cinephile's own personal bucket list!...
279 7.5 7.82986. Nanook of the North (1922)
Directed by Robert J. Flaherty
Considered by some to be the ABSOLUTE birth of feature length documentary filmmaking, although the overall result is anything of the sort when you consider the film's history. Quite a significant bit before my time, this film even outdates the birth of my parents! It's hard for me to get in to something not nearly an entire century later in the face of more authentic filmmaking in the representation of the Inuit people such as "Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner" of "Before Tomorrow". But far be it from me to deny this groundbreaking movie and all that it paved the way for future generations of ethnographic visionaries. For the time being - the technology in film at the time era being what it was - this cinematic spectacle earns a spot on this list for the sake of quality and 'intention'. I mean my God, imagine the times and what the makers had to go through to capture some of the images that they did? -Most of you probably don't live where I live, especially you Southerners, you're probably in position to grasp what harsh Upper Canadian winters are like, hell having been filmed in what is now the province of Nunavut, even the 'summers' here are jacked with frostbitten dreary. Beautiful as it may be to look at - and believe me this early '20s marvel expertly captures the stunning beauty of the glacial unrelenting terrain - the truth is places such as this can be an all around deathtrap if you don't know what you're doing.
Filmed in the harsh unforgiving terrain of Northern Ungava (Quebec territory) in what the film states early on in the movie is a considerable strip of land the size of England, yet populates less than 300 souls. What seems to the modern viewer like a barren wasteland to the Inuk (or Eskimo as Flaherty keeps calling them in the film) it is simply home, and it makes privileged suburban dwellers collectively scratch their heads as to WHY on Earth any common sensed human being would want to spend of lifetime living here - yet the Eskimo people have inhabited this area for countless generations from one to the next since before there were even white European settlers here to pollute it. It is their way of living that the film attempts to document and it is an existence that seems almost to exist outside of time, having no immediate discernible markers of any sort of time period, you could be watching something out of times of ancient past or a movie that was shot yesterday? --Although tagged with being the first outright documentary feature length, numerous critics and experts (including the director himself and members of his family) have over the decades since it's release gone on to both defend and admonish this film for it's inauthenticity, since it's been heavily documented many of the established scenes (if not the whole film entirely) was staged on part by Flaherty and thus is not a genuine unmolested representation of natural Eskimo life. This much is true, and should not be overlooked since Flaherty himself went to far as to spell it out to the audience in the original title card of the original showing of the movie Nanook of the North - A story of life and love in the actual arctic.
The infamous story surrounding this film's background concerns it's tainted humble beginnings as an experimental project by a man who had no prior film experience and never intended outright to become a legitimate movie director. Robert J. Flaherty was originally hired by railway contractor Sir William MacKenzie to assist in the prospecting of and a series of expeditions in the area east of the Hudson Bay, such as Baffin Island which in itself is yet another hopeless wasteland to the inexperienced, what some have credited saying "If you ever get a chance to visit Canada's largest island, you'll probably find more glaciers than people." Along the way becoming enamored in the culture and philosophy of the Inuk people who Flaherty got to know real well, the propsition was eventually brought about him to film his experiences despite having no real idea what the hell he was doing. One has to understand this being the turn of the century filmmaking was quite frankly a brand new concept and no one had ever even attempted to capture modern day life onto film post 1902? The story goes that the end results were something purely magical. Flaherty managing to capture countless breathtaking images and events, the likes of which presumably could never be repeated again without the presence of spontaneity. Shooting lasted from 1914 to 1915 and Flaherty had apparently gotten all the footage he needed when something altogether unexpected happen, disaster is the worst and most aggravating way - when tossing a lit cigarette butt into a container of the flammable nitrate film accidentally - the film caught on fire and about 30,000 feet were lost forever ... ... ... OOPS?!? What a moron?
The only left that could be done was for Flaherty to go back and try again but rather than naively attempt to re-create the once in a lifetime footage that he previously captured, Flaherty instead got the bright idea to re-construct the concept of the film entirely. Using unrelated more photogenic Inuk models to pose as one particular family over the course of a year or so living out precariously on the edge of the Arctic circle - while it's been clearly documented ever since that not only is Nanook the title character of our story, not his true name (his real one being Allakariallak) but the two women in the film played to represent his wives, aren't even married to him or have any relation whatsoever. The are infact common-law relatives to the director, credited Nyla and Cunayou in the film. And also what about the kids? -Furthermore, Flaherty went to considerable lengths to attempt to capture pre-European settlement Inuit life by encouraging Allakariallak to use the methods of his ancestors rather than modern technology. (There's even a particular scene depicted in the film where Nanook is seen wrestling with a seal under a layer of ice attempting to capture and harvest it for meat, when in fact the truth is the seal used during the shoot was infact already dead and the struggle seen by the protagonist was actually the result of blatant overacting. But looking so vivid and convincing to local residents that one point during several staged encounters with wild animals Flaherty was urged to stop shooting the thing with film and start shooting it with a rifle instead. Flaherty pretended not to hear them of course for the sake of making visual art.)
Filmmaking at the time had no original market for documentaries, that style having been outdated and abandoned since the Lumière Brothers, to give way for traditional fiction storytelling like Georges Melies and D.W. Griffith. So it's natural (and understandable) to assume Flaherty would be predispositioned to accustoming the linear fictional storytelling format of mainstream cinema and thus incorporated that into the filming of this project. The overall results aren't entirely without merit, the locations for one are real and they are really shooting in harsh subglacial temperate and having to catch difficult mind-bending shots from aboard kayaks, inside (custom designed it seems) igloos, and with minimal to no artificial lighting, this movie still is worth commemoration for setting a precedent and capturing breathtaking, evocative cinematography that at once set the standards for filmmaking to come. All the live animals you seen in the film are REAL and not bound to scripting even if some of the characters in the film are.
The film's also worth it's controversy and patronization. As one commenter pointed out when comparing it to modern day Inuit cinema Flaherty despite seeming to show genuine infatuation with the Inuk culture, seems to study them more like an entomologist would study a species of insect, in other words an outside looking in? That's a little bit creepy, and disrespectful - but it having nearly been a literal hundred years ago one can hardly blame his misplaced enthusiasm. All in all, I'd say it's like one of those films that you truly have to see, it will capture the imagination and illuminate the soul such as the poignant beauty of the igloo scene where Flaherty is demonstrating a three stage process - first there is shelter (the dome) then warmth, and finally light (the window) and truly a heart-mending aesthetic sequence. But in conjunction with the solicitous nature of near slapstick 'scripted' comical sequences such as the clown car kayak or the naivete of Nanook biting the gramophone record - this viewing experience should be taken with a grain of salt! It can't be entirely bad when it's been credited the Inuk people seemed to approve of the content upon initial first screenings - but I have my doubts?...
1415 8 82985. Nosferatu (1922)
[Review in Working Progress...]
353 7.9 7.72984. Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
266 8 8.32979. Safety Last! (1923)
84 7.3 6.82978. The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923)
429 8.5 8.32974. Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
39 7.2 7.32973. Michael (1924)
774 8.2 8.32972. The Gold Rush (1925)
117 7.8 8.32970. The Big Parade (1925)
729 8.1 82969. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
67 6.9 7.12968. The Lost World (1925)
Directed by Harry O. Hoyt
Before I start I should confess that the version I watched (just recently) is the worst version of the movie available, only 64 minutes, when there are longer versions in existence - not sure if they're in circulation, but nevertheless - I think I've seen this movie once before a long time ago so I think I have what I need to proceed. So for fans of the original who think I oughta watch the long cut before commenting, send me a link or don't read the following, cause this is the version I'm choosing to run with for this review. What can I say, my time is precious (and limited.)
Despite that being said though, though this film is nearly knocked back to the Stone Age in the face of the "Jurassic Park" generation, this film still deserves it's props for being one of the groundbreaking, pioneer dinosaur movies that 'set the stage' for everything to come. I have yet to actually read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original novel by which the movie is adapted from, the franchise of course has since gone on to be adapted for movies and television, and this includes one of my all time favorite sci-fi adventures series growing up staring Jennifer O'Dell as the jungle swinging Veronica Layton (da-aam!), but I'm willing to bet that with each new update the material has since gotten further and further away from Doyle's original creation, and gets more 'nutty' with each installment. That makes this version more or less the most serious and authentic treatment of the work that's been released thus. -Although I stress that this movie probably shouldn't be taken TOO seriously, at least not in the sense of "Masterpiece Theater" or anything, as the characters and story play background noise to the MAIN attraction that had the movie-goers of yesteryear shittin' themselves senseless at Willis O'Brien's then state of the art special effects. The very same effects he would later go on to blow everyone's brains out with the release of "King Kong" nine years later.
The story revolves around the great veteran actor Wallace Beery playing the infamous Professor Challenger, considered a loon by his peers for his endless rants concerning his wise-tales of dinosaurs in the flesh that exist in the remote part of the Earth, undisturbed since their existence in isolation as part of "the Lost World" located somewhere in the Amazon. Challenger is met with opposition attempting to acquire a team that will help him to locate the lost Maple White. An explorer who leaves behind a daughter and has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. At first, Edward Malone, young impressionable aspiring reporter is brought in with the intention he plans to expose Challenger for the crackpot he is or do a slur campaign, but when he hears first hand Challenger's true to heart accounts, he becomes excited - and wants in! Malone doesn't begin with the best of first impressions, knowing he is a reporter Challenger at first refuses Malone's company and Malone is forced to 'prove himself' to the Professor. Only after learning that he is indeed a good friend of another esteemed colleague joining the expedition, Sir John Roxton, does Challenger agree to Malone accompaniment. The fourth in the cast of main characters is the missing explorer's daughter Paula who joins the crew and acts as the film's primary love interest - you knew they had to have one! -All the members involved have no clue what to expect and thus are naturally ready for disappointment, I'm sure even Challenger himself dreads this possibility in private. But the adventure truly takes off and the magic and mystery of the story unravels after traveling to Venezuela, where the characters are seen climbing a massive cliff only to knock down a tree to cross a treacherous gorge which will officially take them into ...the Lost World. Knowing they will soon be reunited with their missing colleague and Challenger will be able to bring back evidential proof of the Lost World's existence, forever changing the world as we know it, only for all their hopes to painfully be dashed when encountering an enraged brontosaurus who smashes the tree allowing it to fall and thus seal off the team's exit. They are now trapped in the Lost World forever, what will become of them?
The rest of the movie really writes itself and can be summarized by watching the "Jurassic Park sequel" which loosely chronicles the events of this story in a modern depiction. By far the 'highlight' of the film and probably the iconic image that will most stick out in youngsters' minds about this movie is the film's climax involving a rampaging brontosaurus in downtown New York, just smashing the shit out of everything! You can earnestly feel the terror of 'two' perspectives, first: the panic of the New York pedestrians suddenly come face to face with a reality out of their worst nightmares come alive and I'm sure must seem still so unreal to witness such a thing before your very eyes with no time to truly digest such a change in reality. The second: being the brontosaurus himself, obviously placed inside an era outside his natural frame of reference, he must be freaking out to see the startling complex society and architecture that these little ants (human beings) have seemed to built for themselves. And there are a LOT of them now, as supposed to just Challenger and his crew back in the Lost World. I'd be flippin' my lid too if I were in it's shoes.
One thing that's worth mentioning, in comparison to the movie's more dominant successor "King Kong", in this film I was relieved to see if nothing else, was more scientifically authentic in which I'm speaking purely of the fact that they depict the brontosaurus as a herbivore, where as I thought it was completely INSANE that everything on Skull Island was primarily carnivorous, that island's Eco-system is seriously f***ed! -But truly the effects are worth mentioning here as they were (and probably still are) considered quite groundbreaking for it's time. It seemed to even impress Harry Houdini who has been reported at being at a loss to decipher the trick in the fight scenes between the brontosaurus and allosaurus when Sir Doyle first screened the movie for him. I remember when "Jurassic Park" was first being released and dino-hysteria was all the buzz amongst kids my age, I didn't get to see the movie until after everyone else had, but I remember they had all these 'exhibits' set up on the outskirts of towns that our mom would take me and my bro to go see. And it seemed like now that JP had gotten kids interested in dinosaurs again (as me and my bro were dino-freaks ourselves I must admit) vendors took this liberty to showcase marathon matinees of every movie about dinosaurs (except "King Kong") in existence to get the kids 'caught up' I suppose. I distinctly remember this movie being featured among them. It's not a perfect film, and I can certainly understand a younger generation growing restless and frustrated upon initial viewing. But for those of you, nostalgia movie buffs, will certainly be able to appreciate the technological breakthrough that was achieved through this film's release!...
322 8.2 82965. Faust (1926)
586 8.3 8.32964. The General (1926)
Directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton
Being none too familiar with Buster Keaton movies I am inclined to agree with most cinephiles that this film perhaps is undoubtedly Keaton's seminal 'masterpiece', considered a comical farce I find myself a bit perplexed as I found the humor to be humbly contained - what really hooked me more about this movie was the action how excited I was for a movie made so long ago, not a single moment of this film is wasted and is used to further the central plot along at a 'nail-biting' pace - to an otherwise awe-inspiring, precedent setting conclusion! My readers will have to forgive me if I am forced to refer to other more credited sources on this one (such as Roger Ebert) not that I'm trying to pass off their critique as my own but I happen to agree with what others have to say and am not sure what else I could possibly add to an already much credited silent comedy classic. -Although I haven't been a fan before I find myself, quickly becoming a Keaton fan all the same for very specific reasons which are never better illustrated than in this picture, one of Keaton's most beloved and critically acclaimed master-works - not to mention most likely most 'elaborate', considering the thrilling over the top climax consists of one of the most EXPENSIVE film stunts in cinematic history considering the times!
Keaton plays the main protagonist, Johnny Gray, with quiet humility as an underdog, and a bit of a pity case yet managing to maintain his romantic appeal as the unrequited female heroine's affection. Johnny has two loves in his life - the love for the trains he works on as an engineer, and that for the 'apple of his eye' the southern belle Annabelle Lee (played just brilliantly by Marion Mack, who really deserves more credit being able to match wits with Keaton's flawless comedic timing). What's intriguing about Keaton in his deadpan delivery as compared to the manic speed and overacting of various rivals of his time like Chaplin and the Marx Bros. is as Roger Ebert has pointed out in his review of the film "Other silent actors might mug to get a point across, but Keaton remained observant and collected...He seems like a modern visitor to the world of the silent clowns." Keaton is idealistic as a empathic male protagonist because he seems no different from you or I, any average modern man in today's emotional heightened society cause easily relate to him cause rather than attempt to stick out, Keaton seems more interested in blending in. With my own personal love life being what it is I gotta tell y'all I've lately come to appreciate these loveable 'down on their luck' losers and none more archetype than Johnny here, I gotta respect a man so hopelessly lost in a romantic trance the seemingly divine comic irony of modern life can seem to fade into the background. Like Ebert pointed out: "-Keaton, dressed in his Sunday best, walks to his girl's house. He is unaware that two small boys are following him, marching in lockstep--and that following them is Annabelle Lee herself. He arrives at her door. She watches unobserved. He polishes his shoes on the backs of his pants legs, and then knocks, pauses, looks about, and sees her standing right behind him. This moment would have inspired an overacted double-take from many other silent comedians. Keaton plays it with his face registering merely heightened interest. They go inside. He sits next to her on the sofa. He becomes aware that the boys have followed them in. His face reflects slight unhappiness. He rises, puts on his hat as if to leave and opens the door, displaying such courtesy you would think the boys were his guests. The boys walk out and he closes the door on them. He is not a man playing for laughs, but a man absorbed in a call on the most important person in his life. That's why it's funny. That's also why the movie's most famous shot works--the one where, rejected by his girl, he sits disconsolately on the drive-rod of the big engine. As it begins to move, it lifts him up and down, but he does not notice, because he thinks only of Annabelle Lee."
As the plot opens it is the outbreak of the Civil War, based William Pittenger the real life engineer to inspire Keaton's Johnny and author of the book the film was adapted from "the Great Locomotive Chase.” Just about every man in Annabelle's immediate life has gotten the inspiration to volunteer to enlist in the army to fight the Union. She urges Johnny to join but when faced with evaluation at the enlistment center -unbeknownst to him the reason why at the time- Johnny is unfairly rejected. When being tossed out on his 'trouble-making' behind on the front entrance Johnny's fellow male companions, members of Annabelle's family encourage him to cut in line ahead of them but a miscommunication between Johnny and them leads the men to report back to Annabelle that Johnny refused to even try out. Now it's Annabelle who's left in the dark as when confronted later Johnny tries to explain his actions to her but the broad apparently Patriotic as shit, turns stone cold on Johnny's ass and lays out for him flat - "I don't want you to speak to me again until you are in uniform!" Damn baby?! -So the war unfolds, Johnny is left to manage the rail system as the higher authorities figure his skills are better put to use working as an engineer. However, in a dastardly covert double-cross, Union spys whom have infiltrated the enemy camp commandeer the main locomotive the General by force and in the process eventually end up kidnapping Annabelle on board!
In one fast paced but flawlessly executed comedic gag and stunt after another - Johnny springs into action, having nearly everything that can go wrong does, and it's only by sheer dumb luck that he ever manages to catch up to the General in the first place by foot, by commandeering a manual-push sidecar, then by bicycle, only to tail and pursue the evasive General in rival locomotive behind named the Texas. -When Keaton's character ultimately catches up with his girl the process it's taken us to get here so far begins to works itself backward when the two parties end up switching trains and Johnny and Annabelle forced to work together at break-neck speed at an every increasing proximous General behind them! --i don't wanna admit I had my doubts considering everyone's love for Buster Keaton these days but having seem so little of his work up to this point although the material is a little too aged to render me breaking out in gut-busting laughter I must admit my smile was both present on the out and inside of my face as the GENIUS of this motion picture filled me with warmth and contained satisfaction. More than a comedy I would almost characterize this movie as a action thriller as I found myself glued to the screen unable to look away as Johnny's creative shenanigans and antics - each one more offbeat and elaborate than the next and seeming to get Johnny and his 'belle' there out of trouble just in the nick of time!
Every moment is played to its utmost potential and renders the audience speechless. You damn near cry how smart Keaton and his fellow makers played everything in this tour-de-force, with so many memorable moments it's hard to know where to start - the cannonball incident, chopping blocks of wood under pressure and dismembering the General's own compartments, the frustrating zigzagging dual tracks, the car on fire, the cigar under the table, the sniper in the bushes, the beartrap gag, the list is endless? As Ebert pointed out which was a major concern for the studios at the time - considering this film a thriller at the time before release would have been considered 'lunacy'. Seeing as this is a chase movie that involves trains which normally can bypass each other and can't stop on a dime or speed up on command, you'd think the film's pacing would be worse for wears? All I can say is you have to see it to believe it - it's THAT uncanny, Keaton manages to pull it all together and elevate the film to an almost unleveled prestige. It certainly SEEMS appropriate enough to consider this an action movie considering Keaton all throughout the film is seen performing like an acrobat and is well known throughout his entire career to perform all his own stunts - including I've been told extremely dangerous ones. When you see the film for yourself you could probably better appreciate 'just how dangerous some of those stunts must have been?' --But it's all a success in the end, beautifully shot, refreshingly authentic on location shoots, with an ingenious story and execution that words just don't do justice. Be sure to see this one for yourselves whenever y'all get a chance, you'd be really doing yourself a disservice otherwise!!!...
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