Besler Corporation Promo Film: Steam-Driven Vehicles (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #1800 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Industrial]

This early-30s film looks like it was probably an anachronism in its own time. It’s all about the wonders of that latest technological marvel, steam power. Not only that, it’s a silent film, even though talkies had been around for several years by that point. The first part of the film is the most interesting, as we see a steam driven car that can go up to 85 miles per hour (wow!). It’s bizarre to see a car occasionally emit puffs of steam from its side like an old-fashioned locomotive. I bet that would have gone over real well on city streets. Then we get to see a steam-powered airplane, which I admit threw me for a loop––I’d never heard of such a thing. But we see it flying, emitting puffs of steam all the while. Then it settles into its real subject matter, commuter trains, and then it gets dull. Still, there’s a pathetic wistfulness about this, as if it were an industrial film about improved buggy-whips. It’s as if the film is saying, “Please, Mr. Diesel, steam is a wonderful thing. Please don’t run over us with your technological juggernaut!� Sad, really.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

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