Advertising: 'Star Trek', 'The Italian Job' and pussy galore: the modern face of motoring

She resembles Liz Hurley in 'Austin Powers' (boots, black stockings, mini skirt, black polo neck)
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The Independent Online

Old Volkswagen last week, new Volkswagen this. But the new Volkswagen commercial, on our very own 21st-century British Empire television, is seriously retro, deeply allusive. (You didn't get retro in early 1960s car ads; it was always Tomorrow Calling. Cars were new here.) It's 30 seconds of spot the reference.

A collection of Tom Thumb people are advancing cautiously along a table top. The men are oddly got up: one's black and they look like early Star Trek crew. Behind them a giant ginger cat fills the screen, looking very back-projected and generic monster film-ish.

The group scatters and the cat comes after the girl, who resembles Liz Hurley in the first Austin Powers film (boots, black stockings, mini skirt, black polo neck), which means looking like a 1965 Chelsea Girl.

A moment, here, for the room. It's absent-minded prof, a north Oxford study in a late Victorian house. Anyway, Liz runs across the table and into a dinky red Polo and drives like hell. The monster moggy bats it off the table with a careless paw; it skims neatly off things and lands on the floor the right way up and keeps going. Lovely, simple effects. And on down the stairs (The Italian Job) to the Minton encaustic hall tiles, with kitty in pursuit.

Well, we love it, don't we? Perhaps Michael Schumacher, who is arguably the world's most boring and self-satisfied celebrity (he obviously thinks he's tremendously handsome too), would find it an un-useful way to advertise cars, but most of us thrill to Liz Hurley and the big cat.

Anyway, into the kitchen, which isn't exactly dernier cri either. Prof-dad's there, pottering with a glass of something hot. He drops it as the Polo speeds by and picks up the murderous Miaowski. (Did you know, leftists of a certain age used to call their animals after Soviet ministers? Misky was an obvious favourite.) The cat gazes over his shoulder in the most baleful way possible, while Liz is out of the catflap to a proper Sixties drum roll.

The end-line is "small but tough". All this entertainment just to remind us of something Brits are inclined to believe anyway: that little German cars are tougher than little Frog, Eyetie, Jap or spic models, though they couldn't possibly say anything like that.

peter@sru.co.uk

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