Traffic in Souls (1913)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Traffic in Souls Photos
as Off. Burke
as Swedish Cadet
as Inspector Smith
as William Trubus
as The Go-Between
as A Country Girl
as Mrs. Trubus
as R.R. Cadet
as The Emigrant Girls'Brother
as Mary's Father
as Wireless Operator
as Isaac Barton
as The Cadet
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Traffic in Souls is a film interesting solely for its historical value. It's one of the first feature-length American movies not based on a book or play. It was wildly successful, putting Universal Movies on the map as a major player. It purported to address the problem of forced prostitution, while chiefly benefiting from the prurient interest the subject generated and delivering nothing that could remotely be described as titillating, so in that sense, it qualifies as the first sexploitation movie. The early portion of the movie features a less mannered acting style than one is used to from movies of this era, although once the plot winds up, it quickly descends into "Woe is me!" rubbish. It's pretty much rushing to save the girl tied to the train tracks, only this time the hero is saving her before she has to have sex with someone. There are two female leads, and neither one of them made a movie after the age of 30. Matt Moore, the male lead, made movies into his late sixties. So Hollywood hasn't changed all that much (Moore, incidentally, was hilarious as the banjo-strumming Kruger in The Front Page, previously reviewed).
As one of the very first American films ever made, the years have treated spectacularly well Traffic in Souls, a picture which is thin on characterization, but which is rather well filmed and surprisingly fast paced, especially for the time, plus its important subject matter got a needed serious treatment here. It is a century old film, but it is, against all odds, very much watchable and quite respectable even today.
Very melodramatic film about the so-called "white slavery" deal (a moral panic about forced prostitution, surrounding the increased visibility of young women in jobs of retail, etc.). Extraordinary film, historically and socially very important, but it ultimately says: Don't worry, the police have it covered.
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