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Laramie Movie Scope:
Something New

Who needs a four-wheeler when you've got a Maxwell?

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 21, 2000 -- I thought product placement in movies was a new thing, or relatively new, but I saw a pretty ancient example of it in a 1920 film called "Something New." The product is a Maxwell car. The car gets more screen time than all of the actors combined. This film has been recently released on videocassette, paired with another Nell Shipman film called “Back to God's Country.” My review of that film can be found here.

The movie stars Nell Shipman, who also wrote the screenplay. Shipman is a kind of 1920 version of a feminist action hero from Canada. She engages in a running gun battle with a gang of desperadoes, trying to protect her boyfriend and his dog, and, of course, the car. It is a kind of story-within-a-story as Shipman plays a writer on the range who sees a race between a cowboy on a horse and a car. This provides the inspiration for the story.

Shipman arrives in a small Mexican mining town looking for "atmosphere" for her upcoming book. She visits Sid Bickley, an old miner, played by L.M. Wells. She also meets a mining engineer, Bill Baxter (played by Bert Van Tuyle, who also directs the film) who falls for the pretty lady and he immediately gives her his dog, Laddie, a collie. Bickley, Shipman and Laddie head off to the mine where they are attacked by a band of desperadoes and Shipman is taken captive. The dog runs for help.

Ordinarily, Baxter would not drive his car up to the mine because it is very rough terrain, but this is an emergency, Laddie told him so. Baxter fires up his Maxwell and heads up to the mine, plowing through brush, trees and rocks in a pretty scary demonstration of driving with reckless abandon. After arriving at the mine and finding out what happened, he takes off after Shipman and the bandits, traversing even more treacherous terrain in the car. He slides sideways down the face of huge rocks. He squeezes between huge boulders and crashes through brush and cactus. It is pretty amazing stuff.

About half of the movie is stunt driving, including a number of scenes with bandits chasing the Maxwell through very rough terrain. The problem is, the car is moving at a walking pace, while the horses are moving much faster. Yet the horses never catch up with the slow-moving car. The car has to repeatedly stop, back up and take another run at the more difficult rocky terrain, and it must be heavily braked when going down steep slopes to prevent the car from going out of control, so it really is going quite slow. The car is also going down hill about 99 percent of the time, even though it should have to go uphill more often, especially since it is retracing more or less the same route going back. Even so, it is impressive stunt driving. It's a miracle the car made it through the movie.

Shipman and Van Tuyle take turns driving the car and shooting at the bandits, while Laddie manages to hang on somehow. The story is not very believable, but it is somewhat whimsical anyway. The titles in this silent film also use whimsical and flowery language. As in the companion film that shares the same cassette, there is some film damage due to aging in the first part of the film. The companion film is "Back to God's Country," also starring Nell Shipman. The films were digitally remastered in VHS format from restored 35 mm prints by Milestone Films. This film rates a C-.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie or other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2000 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)