Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for TRAFFIC IN SOULS

But first a couple of shorts

BELLE BOYD, CONFEDERATE SPY (1913): While Belle Boyd was a real historic figure, this film is entirely fiction. Winifred Greenwood plays Belle, who is sewing up Confederate soldiers uniforms in the beginning, when the announcement comes that the Union troops are approaching. The Union soldiers "borrow" Belle's home to make plans, but she spies on them from upstairs (through a hole in the floor) and saves the day...umm...for the Confederacy. A well made film for the time, but much like Keaton's classic THE GENERAL, you have to get over the fact that the Confederates are the heroes in this one.

BROKEN BUBBLES (1920): Hank Mann is one of those great forgotten film comedians. Perusing his credits on IMDb, it's really amazing how many films he made, including bit parts in famous Chaplin features like MODERN TIMES, THE GREAT DICTATOR, and CITY LIGHTS (where his role as a boxer is a little more than a bit part.) He also appeared in dramas like THE MALTESE FALCON, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, and INHERIT THE WIND (according to IMDb, his 452nd and final acting credit.) He was also the oldest surviving original Keystone Kop, and according to Edgar Kennedy, he was the one who came up with the concept (and was the original chief, before passing the role on to Ford Sterling.)

Anyway, all that introduction is to say...while I remember laughing a lot at this film, I don't actually remember what happened in it. Weird. I think I need to get more rest.

Then a brief intermission, and then the feature film.

TRAFFIC IN SOULS (1913): An early feature film (in 1913 most films were still short one or two-reelers) and an early example of a "social commentary" film, which were fairly popular in the silent era. This one delves into the social ills of prostitution. Particularly, new immigrants in New York forced into a white slavery prostitution racket. It also features very naturalistic acting for its time, rather than the exaggerated stage acting that was more common. And it features shots on location, so the exterior shots are very realistic (too bad that many of the interior shots were kind of obviously prop sets.) But for the time it took great pains for realism, which was played up in the advertisements. The story is solid drama, with many subplots, but the main one being the girl whose sister is missing, the policeman who tracks her to one of these forced prostitution rings, and the wealthy civic leader who is secretly behind it all. A very solid drama, with a true sense of danger and suspense, despite the primitive techniques. Of course, they were inventing the techniques as they went along at this time, so it's a pretty amazing achievement.

Total Running Time: 105 minutes
My Total Minutes: 471,010

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