Something New (1920)
Directed and written by the film’s two stars Nell Shipman (who also produced it) and Bert Van Tuyle this film’s razor thin plot is more a showcase for the incredible capabilities of a certain automobile (the titled character) of the time manufactured by Maxwell as the leads drive it over the rocky desert terrain in Mexico. Other than the Army’s Jeep I don’t think there are a lot of vehicles built these days which could withstand the kind of abuse especially their tires that this little buggy does! Though the print is a bit deteriorated at first the vast majority of the film is in remarkably good and/or restored condition. The entire movie runs less than an hour 40+ minutes of it features the car!
Shipman plays herself a young woman author who’s experiencing “writer’s block”. So she travels down to Mexico to spend time with her father’s mining partner Sid Bickley (L.M. Wells). Once there she meets mining engineer Bill Baxter (Van Tuyle) who’s just bought an automobile in which his dog sits. Sid tells Nell that the two of them will be traveling on horseback or even on foot into the rocky region to the mine because cars aren’t suited for the terrain. Sid derides Bill’s automobile as a “parlor ornament”. The instantly smitten Bill decides to give Nell his dog to take along thinking “love my dog love me”. But the desert is fraught with danger as the bandit Agrilla Gorgez (Merrill McCormick) and his gang lurks in their hideaway called Hell’s Kitchen.
As soon as Sid and Nell arrive and settle in at the Blue Lotus Mine Gorgez and his fellow bandits raid the place tying him up and taking her as their prize. Meanwhile Bill has decided to travel into the region for a visit. Once he gets to the end of the road Yaqui Wells Rancho he finds his dog with a note of desperation from Nell in its collar. With no horses in the corral Bill’s got no choice but to drive his new automobile up into the hills to the mine. A local woman remarks that the white man’s a “dam’ fool”. But miraculously he gets there and once at the mine Bill finds Sid and learns Nell’s fate. He then embarks on a perilous journey over seemingly impossible terrain to try and find the bandits’ hideout.
*** SPOILERS ***
The rest of the film is predictable and mostly features scenes of Bill and then Nell driving the car over the rocky desert while being chased by bandits on horseback. Of course Bill and Nell are both good shots (with Bill’s pistol) compared to their pursuers and the automobile has one additional capability used by the two to escape in the end.