Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#2,088. The Inside of the White Slave Traffic (1913)

Directed By: Frank Beal

Starring: Edwin Carewe, Jean Thomas, Virginia Mann

Trivia 1: Two out of the original four reels survive. The rest has not been located and is believed to be lost

Trivia: Producer Samuel H. London was sued in 1920 by one Nettie Hechter, whose husband's restaurant was used as a location in the film

Back when motion pictures were still in their infancy (aka the 1910’s), there was a push by some people and organizations to release socially conscious films. Designed to expose the various ills of the day, these movies covered everything from drug addiction to child labor. Produced in 1913, The Inside of the White Slave Traffic focuses on prostitution, and how certain men preyed upon women for their own personal gain.

George Fisher (Edwin Carewe) is a “procurer”, a guy who lures unsuspecting girls into the sex trade, then ships them off to his “customers” (pimps) all over the country. George’s gimmick is certainly unusual, as we see with his first victim, a factory worker named Annie (Virginia Mann). Inviting her out to dinner, George plies Annie with enough alcohol to render her unconscious, and then brings her back to his place for the evening. As with many young single women, Annie lives with her parents, who, ashamed that she spent the night with a strange man, kick her out of the house. 

Pretending to be sympathetic, George agrees to make an “honest” woman of Annie, and marries her in a sham ceremony. Two weeks pass, and George, claiming he has no money, sends Annie to stay with some “friends” of his (other prostitutes), where, a few days later, she gets a note from him saying that he’s dumping her for good. At this point, George’s customer, the pimp, allows Annie to move in with him in New Orleans, where she’s expected to “earn” her own way. Annie does attempt to escape this life, but finds that she’s unable to do so. Just like that, another innocent girl has been turned into a sex slave!

Produced by Samuel London, a self-proclaimed “Sociologist”, The Inside of the White Slave Traffic is today an incomplete film; only two of its four reels have survived. And to be honest, I’m not exactly disappointed that I didn’t get to see the rest of it. Though it tries to shock and appall with its subject matter, The Inside of the White Slave Traffic is a dull movie. With only a single camera at their disposal, the filmmakers shoot every scene from a distance (at one point, George enters a gambling parlor and sits down at a table, but instead of inserting close-ups to show us what’s going on, the camera keeps rolling from its same set-up until George finally leaves), and as you can imagine, this makes for a very boring watch.

The Inside of the White Slave Traffic does benefit from being shot on-location in a number of different cities (along with New Orleans, there are sequences set in New York and El Paso, Texas). What’s more, the filmmakers insert a “Translation Table” into a few scenes, showing us the various code words used by pimps and procurers and explaining what each one means (i.e. – “Send a Gillette Blade” means ship the girl, and “Apples” is short for “Stay away, there’s danger”). These curiosities aside, The Inside of the White Slave Traffic is completely underwhelming. Even at 28 minutes, it’s likely to put you to sleep.

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