This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The “?” Motorist (1906) / The Automatic Motorist (1911)

The “?” Motorist is a pretty wonderful 3-minute long comedy sketch made in 1906 by WR Booth, an early pioneer in so-called “trick” films, where camera tricks and special effects were used to create breathtaking, impossible, visuals.

The “?” Motorist is a delight. It’s quick, funny, perfectly paced, with a strangely beautiful space interlude and a great final joke. The only downside is that it has a frightening moon with a terrifying face, as was the style at the time.

Then, five years later, he decided to make it again, but this time with a robot driving the car.

The Automatic Motorist, despite the robot, is unfortunately worse in almost every way. In typical reboot style, there’s more stuff, and almost all of it worse, so this is longer, slower, with worse jokes, and any number of shots that go on too long.

There is a, though, really lovely scene where they drive along the bottom of a lake and look at all the delightful newts swimming around, which I found really beautiful.



1. I watched both of these on the BFI player – The “?” Motorist; The Automatic Motorist
2. Neither of those versions have music, but you can probably find versions with a score on youtube.
3. And many thanks to Vom Vorton for telling me to watch The “?” Motorist, as it was excellent.


Film Information

Title: The “?” Motorist
Director: WR Booth
Year: 1906
Runtime: 3 minutes

Title: The Automatic Motorist
Director: WR Booth
Year: 1911
Runtime: 6 minutes