The ‘?’ Motorist

Walter R. Booth (1906)

The ‘?’ Motorist is a 1906 British short silent comedy film, directed by Walter R. Booth,
featuring a motorist driving around the rings of Saturn to escape the police.

The ‘?’ Motorist is a 1906 British short silent comedy film,commonly called “The Mad Motorist” or “Questionmark Motorist” and directed by Walter R. Booth. Released in October of 1906, the film features a couple on the run from the police. While running from the police, they end up driving over the policeman, who magically recovers seconds after and continues to run after the car. Soon the couple comes to a building and their car magically drives up the wall, evading the stunned policeman and leaving an amazed crowd behind. The car drives past stars on clouds, around the Moon, and around the rings of Saturn before crashing through the roof of Handover Courthouse. The car drives through the courthouse and outside once more, interrupting the hearing. Outside on the road, a policeman and court officials stop the car which suddenly turns into a horse and carriage. The couple drives off in the carriage victoriously having escaped a ticket. The trick film is “one of the last films that W.R. Booth made for the producer-inventor R.W. Paul,” and, according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, “looks forward to the more elaborate fantasies that Booth would make for Charles Urban between 1907 and 1911, as well as drawing on a wide range of the visual tricks that Booth had developed over the preceding half-decade.”

Booth later remade the film as The Automatic Motorist in 1911.

The film has also been compared to the work of Georges Méliès and “The Impossible Voyage.”

The Automatic Motorist

Walter R. Booth (1911)

A bride, a motorcar, a robot chauffeur and a policeman – what could possibly go wrong? Fantasy and ‘trick’ film pioneer W.R. Booth uses cut-out animation and models to create a truly out-of-this-world sci-fi adventure. The mad-cap plot sees a newlywed couple transported from a country lane to outer-space (via St Paul’s Cathedral), where the policeman encounters some pretty feisty Saturnians. W.R. Booth was a stage magician turned filmmaker, whose hand-drawing techniques pointed the way towards animated cartoons. His taste for fantastical imagery and Jules Verne-style journeys echoes the work of fellow illusionist Georges Méliès: the grinning moon in The Automatic Motorist is a definite nod to Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902).

A Trip to the Moon

Georges Méliès (1902)

A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la Lune) is a 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. It’s considered one of the first science fiction film.

The Impossible Voyage

Georges Méliès (1904)

The Impossible Voyage (French: Voyage à travers l’impossible) is a 1904 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. Based in part on Jules Verne’s play Journey Through the Impossible and modeled in style and format on Méliès’s earlier, highly successful A Trip to the Moon, the film is a satire of scientific exploration in which a group of geographers attempt a journey into the interior of the sun. Since the film is silent and has no intertitles, the proper names and quotations below are taken from the English-language description of the film published by Méliès in the catalog of the Star Film Company’s New York Branch.

4 Comments

  1. Yeah, can’t you just see the audience’s mouths falling open, hear the gasps, the laughter and applause? If they were transported to a showing of The Transformers or Star Wars, they’d probably all drop dead on the spot.

    Liked by 1 person

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