Traffic in Souls (1913) and The Italian (1915) are riveting and important
social dramas of the American silent screen. Released during the earliest
years of feature-length film, when movies were more dedicated to advocacy
and reform than to escapist entertainment, both depict new immigrants
to America and the 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”
In addition to the
features, this two-Disc 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 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. An underworld melodrama, Traffic
In Souls is a very accomplished work for its time, and makes excellent
use of New York City locations. This edition is copied from the only known
original nitrate print of the domestic release; there is an excellent
piano score by Philip Carli and an illuminating optional scene-specific
audio essay by Prof. Shelley Stamp.
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, where he operates a shoeshine business and eventually
saves enough money to import his fiancée. Crime and poverty soon
impact their lives – and there is no artificial, happy ending. Conflated
from three sources, our tinted edition is mostly copied from an original
nitrate print, and has an optional scene-specific audio essay by Prof.
Giorgio Bertellini. A compiled score of authentic photoplay music is performed
by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra led by Rodney Sauer, who also
provides the music for the three Edison shorts.