This two-disc DVD set features The Italian (1915) and Traffic in Souls (1913), two riveting and important social dramas of the American silent screen from the earliest years of feature-length cinema, when movies were more dedicated to advocacy and reform than to escapist entertainment. First released near the end of a long period of unrestricted emigration from Europe to the United States, these two films depict new immigrants to America and the hazards that await them. Both 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 set presents three 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).
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, this 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.
According to legend, Traffic in Souls was produced surreptitiously at Universal Pictures Corp. 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. 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 Professor Shelley Stamp, author of Movie-Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture After the Nickelodeon (Princeton Univ. Press).
Starring: George Beban, Clara Williams and J. Frank Burke/Jane Gail, Ethel Grandin and William H. Turner
Directed By: Reginald Barker, George Loane Tucker
Score By: Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra led by Rodney Sauer, Philip Carli
Language: Silent with English Intertitles
Video: 480i Standard Definition / 1.33:1 / Black and White / Tinted Color
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Theatrical Release: 1910-1915
Runtime: 210 Minutes
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Region Code: Region 0 (All Regions)
Special Features: Three theme-related bonus films from the pioneer Edison company: Police Force, New York City; The Call of the City; McQuade of the Traffic Squad, and a 12 Page Booklet featuring reproductions of promotional materials and original film reviews.