[Alan Bemis—home movies] Reel 12

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Can notes: "Junkman's Holiday (Bootleggers) Motormaulers 1932" Donor notes: "Junkman's Holiday (Bootleggers) Motormaulers 1932. March 1980 4 copies made." See also: "The Saga of the Motomaulers" by Alan Bemis and Sidney Shurcliff, May 12, 1980" in donor file. See also 2313.0048 for Alan Bemis's commentary on the making of this film. Intertitle: "The Motormaulers" Teaser of several chase and crash scenes Intertitle: "Present" Teaser of a roadster flying along a road (good follow shot by camera over long distance), followed by a screeching stop and slide in front of camera, and close-up of driver preparing to crash. The open roadster backs up toward camera and on its trunk is sign "Junkman's Holiday" as well as a 1932 Massachusetts license plate that acts as the title card. Intertitle: "Director Cameraman Producer Sound expert Scenario writer Technician Skid "Whatabody" Shurcliff Dedicated to THE SHURCLIFFS" Intertitle: "The spirit of spring comes to Happy Valley" A note: This film was made during the time of Prohibition. Shots of a wooden case marked "Champagne Bollinger Brut 1911" and pan up to two men in an outboard motorboat both dressed up as bootleggers, wearing striped shirts, derbies, scarves, mustaches, and smoking cigars. Bob Miller and Ned Dane are the bootleggers. One gets out his pistol and pats it. In an open car, marked Happy Valley Police Squad Radio Patrol, two Happy Valley policemen snooze (Alan Bemis and John Marshall). Two "farmers" in their open truck drive by and wake up the policeman, who then spot the smugglers in their outboard full of barrels. In a field, the farmer goes through a gate attended by a farmhand, then is followed by the police who signal and struggle to pass the farm truck, guns drawn. The bootleggers start to unload their booty. Meanwhile, the farmers, having been pushed off the road by the police car, are stuck. They begin unloading their cargo, blocking the road. The police drive wildly though open marshy fields, and the bootleggers finish loading and drive off. The police stop to seize the liquor left by the bootleggers, and Bemis shoots his rifle. CUs of holes being shot into the rear of the bootlegger car. One of the bootleggers breaks out the back window of the car and shoots back. More shots hit the getaway car, and more shots are fired from the car. Good shots of the two cars in chase in the field The bootleggers car crashes through the cargo the farmers have been unloading from their stalled truck, and crashes though the gated fence as the fence keeper (Alice Bemis) runs for her life. A small shed is destroyed, the policemen continue to shoot from their car, and the two cars try to force each other off the road. CU of the car with policemen rolling over onto its side by a barn. Another car crashes into it, and the policemen commandeer this car (6 cylinder Studebaker). Intertitle: "Dear old Aunty Waverbrain is taking all the family out for a quiet picnic" The "family" (all women) in their 4 cylinder Chevy, some hanging onto the running boards, park at the edge of a gravel pit, get out and settle in for a picnic. Some smoke, read, drink, and Chapie Bemis acts like a spoiled child. Kay Shurcliff reads the newspaper. As the bootleggers' car approaches the scene, POV as the women jump out of the way. CU shots in the car as a bootlegger drives. Shots of the car, a Reo sedan, crashing into the Chevy, which goes over the bank. The police car, bumping along, then follows over the bank. You can see the dummy in the car, then shots of the two bootleggers crawling out of their demolished car, and Alan Bemis emerging from the police car, still with rifle, chasing the bootleggers. Intertitle: "SEASON CLOSES HERE FOR 1932 When better cars are built, the Motormaulers will bust them."
The Saga of the Motormaulers The Motormaulers First Film - Concord, N.H. In 1930, when some of us involved were still hanging around Harvard University, Sid Shurcliff reported that he had noticed a pair of abandoned high bridge abutments on the river which is crossed by old Route 4 just before it goes into Concord, new Hampshire. Each abutment had 2 or 3 hundred yards of good road leading to it. The bridge had been disassembled and hauled away completely after the highway had been relocated and a new bridge built further upstream. Sid suggested that here was an opportunity to extend some of our earlier projects in which we destroyed junky automobiles and abandoned houses in remote locations. We planned to run an automobile off one of the bridge abutments, trying to get it going fast enough so it would sail right across the river, hit on the matching abutment and end up down in the river. Other joyful idiots beside Sid Shurcliff were Edward Dane, John Marshall and Alan Bemis. We acquired a Model T Ford and a 1921 four cylinder Maxwell, both touring cars, and set out from Brookline, Massachusetts for Concord, with homemade cardboard number plates at around 4:00 A.M., hoping that o policeman would notice the fake plates at such an hour. Marshall and Dane drove the two cars chaperoned by Sid in his Hudson. The rest of us joined the early birds at the bridge site after sun-up. Sid Shurcliff, always the prime mover and inspiration of the Motormaulers, had made arrangements to take moving pictures of this episode. It was obvious that there was more fun to be had than just running the cars off the bridge abutment; so we went to, what was then, a little used back road near the airport. Cameraman and movie director, Sid, suggested a fender-bender drama calling for driving the cars up and down crashing into each other and trying to force each other off the road. Sid had a huge 35 mm movie camera* mounted on a tripod in the tonneau of his great 1928 Hudson 7-passenger touring car (top down, of course). Ned Dane and Alan Bemis won the draw so Ned drove the Maxwell and Alan the Model T. Ned wore a derby hat, large cardboard ears and big hooked nose. Alan was rigged out in old-fashioned woman's clothes looking like a farm woman headed for town. The drama was to have Ned crash into Alan, the old woman, angering her a bit. Then the chase and side-swiping, and finally Ned forcing her off the road. Following this, the two cars were to chase - - - - - - - - - - - - - * The camera used in this first film and again for "The Junk Man's Holiday" was a bulky and very expensive AKELEY 35 mm camera which belonged to Cornelius Crane and was left over from the Crane Pacific Expedition of 1928-29. Including extra lenses it cost about $2500.00, equivalent to $20,000 today. The 35 mm. negative (professional size) was used to produce the present 16 mm. prints by a reduction process. In 1931, Crane sold the camera and the balance of the films were taken with a 16 mm Bell & Howell. each other off the bridge abutment. The fun on the back road was cut a bit short by unsympathetic passersby who looked as though they might report us to the police. So we all departed for the bridge abutments. There we were of the regular highway where a barrier had been put up to keep people from approaching the bridge that wasn't there. We were just preparing to send the Maxwell off the abutment when somebody let out a yell that the police were coming. They had pulled up on the highway to see what was going on Some of us took off through the woods, and others remained to give the police and cock-and-bull story about how the Maxwell had broken down and we were trying to repair it. After the police left (still very suspicious) we regrouped forces plus the Model T off in a pasture at the top of a high bank that went down to the same river. Finally we got the Model T to go flying off the top of the bank end over end in great style with a dummy at the wheel. Sid got fine movies of all this from across the river. Hoping the police had gone for good we went back to get the Maxwell off the bridge abutment. Again they showed up, but this time they were across on the north side of the river shouting at Sid. Those of us on the south side had it easy as we all fled, with a rendezvous in Concord, and on to Centre Harbor, New Hampshire. When Sid heard the cops, he grabbed his huge camera and tripod and ran for it. In his own words: "I ran through some woods to where I had hidden the car in a woods road and took off alone at maximum speed for Concord with the police soon chasing at about 1/10 mile behind -- so distant that they could not read the number plates or even make sure what make of car mine was. When I reached the center of the Concord business district, the police were gaining. So, I circled around some side streets, parked the car quickly but legally at the curb, and dashed into a nearby barber shop where, thank the Lord, a customer was just getting up from a barber chair. I slide into his warm seat, pulled the striped cover up to my chin and reached for the shaving mug and smeared lather all over my lower face. No sooner had I replaced the brush in the mug, than a State Police Officer entered the shop and glaringly inspected all the customers. I held my breath and pretended to read a newspaper. The barber approached with a razor, at which the cop decided I was not the culprit and left, but not before I ordered a haircut to explain my presence. I hung around Concord about 1 1/2 hours before I dared to retrieve my car. Then I drove very sedately to Centre Harbor, N.H. to join the rest of the group." The Motormaulers Club The first Motormauler was so much fun that we decided to have another in the spring of 1932. To minimize difficulties with the police, Sid Shurcliff invited us to his place at Ipswich where we could drive around in his meadows and roar up and down Argilla Road (which seldom had any police activity). This year Robert "Tiger" Miller, Jim Parker and quite a few others were added to the outfit and we began to call ourselves the Motormaulers Club. The general plan was that the Club would meet once a year. Each member was to show up with a $10.00 automobile which he would contribute to the outing. Sid Shurcliff would cream up a movie scenario involving a chase of some kind. The problem was not finding good $10.00 cars, but rather cleaning up the environment after the fun. It turned out, however, that junkman Greenberg in Ipswich was happy to sell us cars for $10.00 provided he could be allowed to haul them back to his yard after the fun. He was made an honorary member immediately. It might seem a dangerous sport, and I guess it was, but no one ever got hurt on a Motormauler weekend. We would prepare the cars by removing all the glass (if indeed they had any). For sending cars off banks and for head-on collision we would rig a throttle control that could be yanked wide open as the driver bailed out at the last moment. Marshall was a maestro at high-speed bail-outs, but we all took our turn. The bail-outs were made on grass to minimize bruises. At the end of "Junkman's" two cars, and at the end of Reel One of "Rollo's Revenge" three cars were sent off high banks into gravel pits. The results were spectacular with the cars finishing upside down on top of each other. Read-on collisions were more difficult because of the accurate aim and timing required. For the one at the end of Reel One in "Oysters", one car had a flat front tire. We failed to allow enough for that on the first attempt. The car swerved after bail-out and they missed. (Fortunately they also missed running over the driver who had just bailed out!) One car was headed for the Ipswich River where it roared down and got stuck in the marsh before it got to the river, its wheels still spinning, throwing up great clods of mud. The other car swerved through a crowd of fast-ducking spectators, through a nice privet hedge, across Sidney's lawn and was about to go through his living room window when it ran out of gas and stopped cold in the flower bed. this might have made one of the best moving pictures of the whole show had not Sid been somewhat disturbed for some reason. He stopped taking pictures and began running towards his house as if to lift it out of the way. A high-speed crash at the end of "Rollo's Revenge" was interesting. Sid drove the kidnapper's big Hudson sedan smack into the side of a 4 cylinder Chevvy that we pushed out of a driveway into the path of the Hudson flying down Argilla Road at about forty m.p.h. The Chevvy was spun around like a top. The Hudson, steering gear smashed, went off the road and hit a large elm, Sid, insulated inside a big coon coat, reported: "I felt quite a bump." After the end of "Rollo" we will had several operative cars; so we finished them off with head-ons on an Argilla Road driveway. These films were used as an "introduction: to that drama. If you watch closely you'll see big Sid signalling to cancel the crash. The signal was not understood and Sid, in haste to bail out, got his foot caught in the door. He was thrown hard on the ground as the cars hit, a rather close call. All the head-ons are worth studying. The whole operation, as well as being a pole of fun, took much planning, and two weekends for each one. On the first weekend we did little motormauling, but took all the character and plot-development shots. Then, on the second weekend we got going on the fender-benders and big final crashes. As anyone knows who has done any movie editing it is a tremendous and demanding job. Sid did it all. What a great result! The Bootleggers or Junkman's Holiday anyo9ne alive in the 1920's remembers the exciting chases on land and sea, - "revenuers" chasing bootleggers. Such was a natural for our second Motormauler in 1932. Ned Dane and Bob Miller were the bootleggers, spotted as they came ashore with the booze by policemen John Marshall and Alan Bemis. A fine chase ensued with much gunfire, side swiping, stonewall crashing et al. The ladies were included going for a picnic in a 4 cylinder Chevvy. They parked on the edge of a great gravel bank where the bootleggers in a Reo sedan slammed the Chevvy off the bank and followed it into the gravel pit. Then the cops, having rolled their Chevvy and "borrowed" a big ^ cylinder Studebaker touring car, and still in hot pursuit, roared off the same gravel bank. All three cars ( the Chevvy did double duty) ended upside-down on top of each other in the gravel pit, a triumph of destruction. The Kidnappers or Rollo's Revenge By the spring of 1933 word had spread about all this fun, and we had quite a few new members in the Club. Consequently we put together a more involved drama, a great "two-reeler". Sid was tired of being cameraman and certainly had earned a major driving part. Ned Dane's brother, Blaney, signed on as cameraman. The plot developed around the kidnapping of Rollo Gotrocks (Bob Miller) son of the wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Gotrocks (Gordon Curtis and Anita Marshall) driving a Detroit Electric. Marshall and Bemis kidnap Rollo with an Essex 6 cylinder sedan and his nurse, Noble Parkins (Shurcliff) pursue in a Buick sedan. After much fender-bending, Parkins in the Buick chases the kidnappers off a bank into a gravel pit. Marshall was the maestro who sent both cars off the bank with perfect accuracy. all of Reel One was filmed at Alan Bemis' place in Wayland. Reel Two was filmed on Argilla Road in Ipswich with Brent Dickson as backup cameraman for Blaney Dane. The kidnappers, - still followed by Parkins - steal a big Hudson 6 cylinder sedan from Sid's garage, and Parkins steals a Chevvy sedan to continue the chase. The Gotrocks commandeer an Essex 4 cylinder tourer complete with drunken driver ( Jim Parker); so, soon all three cars are tearing up the roads again. The chase ends when the kidnappers in the big Hudson crash head-on at forty m.p.h. into a little Chevvy sedan that appears suddenly out of a side road as described earlier. The kidnappers are killed but Rollo survives to be reunited with the Gotrocks and his beloved Parkins. The Great Jewel Robbery or Why Do Oysters Perspire? The last Motormauler production in 1937 (after a four year rest) was the biggest and fanciest yet. We even used airplanes in Reel Two! We had a bigger cast and more people watching, helping repair damaged trees, telephone poles, fences, lawns and all. Director Shurcliff had to appoint an army of assistant directors. The show starts with Madame Kohinoor (Alan Bemis) driving home with a new pearl necklace in her 1929 Minerva town car ( a recent Sid N. Shurcliff acquisition - originally purchased by the owner of Chicago's Drake Hotel). Her chauffeur is Ned Dane and footman is John Marshall. Madame Kohinoor shows her jewels to her personal maid ( Jane Dane) and then forgetfully leaves them in the car. Chauffeur and maid run off with them in the Minerva. Madame Kohinoor gives chase in a little Model A convertible coupe, while the footman, or butler, calls the police (Marshall, Miller, Francis Balch, George Brewster, Jack Ewell and several others; quite a police force!) A roadblock stops the thieves ( and saves the beautiful Minerva from being motormauled), but they dodge the police bullets and continue their escape in one of the police cars, -- a 1930 Marmon sedan. A really wild chase ensues. Madame Kohinoor, driving madly, catches up with the robbers but they force her off the road at a bridge and into a deep little creek. (Alan, as Madame K., believes everyone should drive a car off a bridge at least once. it is just a nice gentle swish and amazingly easy to climb out and swim home.) Just as Madame Kohinoor splashed into the creek and was still swimming around there, the real Ipswich Police drove up at the scene, all hot and excited. There was, of course, a big crowd of spectators parked around, and it really looked like quite an accident. Once policeman had his jacket all peeled off, and was just pulling off his shoes preparing to dive into the creek to rescue Madame K. when Sid managed to explain to him that the whole thing was done on purpose. They were pretty annoyed about it, but finally agreed to let us all stay out of jail with a promise to invite them to the premier of the movie. The next big crash occurs when the robbers in the Marmon slam at high speed into what was left of the Model A, the latter piloted by C. Howie Jiggles (Brent Dickson). The Marmon actually was crashed by Miles Collier at a very fast speed. The robbers ( Ned and Jane) crawl out of the wreckage and steal another police car, a handsome Auburn roadster. A pair of high-jackers, (Miles Collier and Bob Miller), in a little Essex convertible join the fray and are about to catch up with the robbers when the latter intentionally turn back for a head-on to eliminate the competition. (This is the head-on in which the cars missed at first as described earlier.) Reel One leaves all the cars but the Minerva "totalled" and all the actors afoot and running hard. The robbers escape to the river and, tossing Margie Miller out of her sailboat, sail quietly away. Then the police take to the air in a seaplane ( Alan Bemis' Fairchild 24). and Madame K. climbs into a big biplane on Cranes' Beach. (The plane was Charlie Paine's Laird, a powerful aerobatic aircraft. Charlie, of course, then all the stunt flying and it was some show!) The police and Madame K. then "dive-bomb" the robbers and drive them ashore. Madame K. has trouble getting down and cracks up the Laird ( Lawrence Lunt's smashed Waco assisted this scene). Finally, with all the cast that remains assembled on the banks of the Ipswich River, we learn why and how oysters perspire. Exhausted and somewhat shaken, we all agreed we had tempted fate too far and would put the Motormaulers Club on inactive status forever. One constructive results of all this destruction was that we found we had learned to take automobile accidents with much more equanimity than people with less experience with crashes. For example, shortly after "Oysters" Chapie Bemis was "car pooling" her seven and nine year old daughters ( Margot and Ann) home from school with two or three other kids. She had a "fender-bender" with another car also full of kids. all the kids in both cars, except for Margot and Ann, yelled bloody murder as though badly hurt. After Chapie got the mess straightened out and started again for home, little Ann remarked, "Gee Mom, Daddy could have hit him twice as hard!" Alan Bemis Sidney Shurcliff May 12, 1980

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