Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton) tries to sign up for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War to impress Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack), but he is told his job as a train engineer is too important and his application is declined. Branded a coward by Annabelle's family, Johnny is outcast and returns to work on the trains.
The North plots to steal a train ready for the invasion of the South and once their plan is realised, Annabelle is inadvertently on board. Johnny grabs another train and sets off in pursuit of his two loves - his lady and his locomotion.
Everyone remembers Charlie Chaplin for being the King of the silent era as it is his legacy that lives on today in the world of parody and slapstick. Now though, I would argue that case for Buster Keaton. I did enjoy Chaplin's City Lights and loved his Tramp character and The General is similar in that both follow the same slapstick formula, but Keaton prefers to leave out the pantomime for most of his film.
The result is a film that is laugh-out-loud funny - even if you are sat on your own. The comedy isn't just one joke after another, but there appears to be a deep thought that went into each and every stunt giving the humour a decisively intelligent edge while still making the laughs available to all.
Aside from the comedy, the most interesting piece of the film is that it is almost entirely filmed alongside the railway as it follows the epic locomotion chase. Despite having the same formula (chaser is foiled by the chased at every opportunity) it never seems to get old and each scene just has you gagging for more.
Buster Keaton is a genius and this 86-year-old film, so far, is in my top ten.