Perils of the New Land, a new double feature collection of Traffic In Souls (1913) and The Italian (1915), both riveting and important social dramas of the American silent screen. From the earliest years of feature-length film, when movies were dedicated more to advocacy and reform than to escapist entertainment, both films depict new immigrants to America and hazards that await them. Both films are honored with inclusion in The National Film Registry, which selects up to twenty-five “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films” each year. In addition to the features, this two-DVD set, produced by David Shepard from the Blackhawk Films library, presents three short theme-related bonus films from the pioneer Edison company: Police Force, New York City (1910), The Call of the City (1912), and McQuade of the Traffic Squad (1915).
According to legend, Traffic In Souls was filmed surreptitiously at Universal Pictures with the offending producer (Jack Cohn) and director (George Loane Tucker) prepared to buy the picture in case the company wouldn’t release it. Exploiting a recent exposé of prostitution rings, this “white slavery” story proved a huge financial success. Traffic In Souls is a very accomplished work for its time, and makes excellent use of New York City locations.
The Italian, produced for Paramount Pictures by Thomas H. Ince and directed by Reginald Barker, stars George Beban, who was renowned for his ethnic characterizations. It is the story of Beppo, a gondolier who comes to America and settles in lower Manhattan. There he operates a shoeshine business, eventually saving enough money to import his fiancée. Crime and poverty soon impact their lives – and there is no artificial, happy ending.
Flicker Alley: Traffic in Souls, The Italian in July
Posted by David K. at 5/22/2008 04:42:00 PM