Watch Buster Keaton’s The General Amped Up By Fury Road’s Score

By  · Published on June 1st, 2015

It’s not an accident that several reviews/essays about Mad Max: Fury Road name-checked Buster Keaton’s The General. Both are built around 1) extended chase sequences that 2) are out-and-back trips between enemy territories and feature 3) impressive, real-world stunts. In their own ways, they are each “realistic” superhero movies in the Die Hard sense. The brave become bold and attempt something drastically heroic.

Plus, George Miller was clearly a fan of the silent era masterpiece where an engineer has to get a train and his best girl back from Union soldiers.

When I saw [The General], I thought, ‘This is someone who’s incredibly careful with the camera and choreographs quite complex events inside the cuts.’ The thing about sound is it allows you to cheat; put in little bridges. But in silent films the editing has to be solid. And I asked Margaret Sixel (Miller’s regular editor and wife of 12 years) to cut Fury Road as a silent movie.

Funny that he should bring up bridges. And now I want to watch the silent version of Fury Road. And the black and white version. Really, all the versions.

Naturally, the two great tastes taste great together. Walter Rafelsberger has cut together some sequences from The General and made a mash-up short film with Junkie XL’s Fury Road score as backing. The result is proof of how silent film language still works today. In great contrast to the numerous videos online that swap out or erase music to show how some movie sequences don’t work without their score, this puts the lack of “cheating” (as Miller called it) on display. And what a lovely display.

It would be cool to see the entire Fury Road score plastered against The General’s brief runtime, and there’s an elasticity about silent films that would allow for it. Maybe because the films are old enough, or because the score seems somehow easily separated from the visuals, it would be easy to see The General: Fury Road as simply another legitimate version of the original.

At any rate, anything that brings more attention to The General should be welcomed with a standing ovation and a spray of chrome to the face.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.