Mack Sennett, "Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life"

Video transcript

- Barney Oldfield's Race for a Life was made in 1913, directed by Mack Sennett, and is your quintessential chase film. This film has every single comedy chase trope that you could ever want. It has a villain with a dastardly mustache. It has a very beautiful young woman who is tied to train tracks. It has Keystone Cops on a handcart that you often see in these films. And it also has, at that time, a celebrity, Barney Oldfield, who was the first man to ever race a car at 60 miles an hour in an oval lap. So you have these three modes of action occurring all at once: the handcart, the locomotive that is racing towards the same spot, and Barney in the car. And it's really quite breathtaking to watch and see who will get there first. Although it's telling what seems to be an old-fashioned story, it's also telling a story that's all about speed and movement and motion. And I kept thinking about Italian futurism. The Italian futurists were very interested in dynamism, movement of all kinds, whether it be the movement of a train in the city, a gull flying through the sky, or the Boccioni painting of the Soccer Player. Translate that static movement from the canvas to a film like Barney Oldfield, and you have this interrelationship of futurism to the cinema. Both deal with these complex notions of movement.