The Inside of the White Slave Traffic (1913)

It was strangely instructive to watch this today after seeing Black Love last night. Not that it’s comparable in any way, really, everyone is fully white and fully clothed in this film, but it’s amusing to see a basically exploitative product would trying to pretend it’s nothing of the sort nearly six decades before last night’s film, going out of its way to list a number of authorities to back up its probably doubtful credentials (damned if I can find anything about producer “Samuel H. London”, other than that he wrote at least one other film for Frank Beal, the director of this one). It is, of course, basically a melodrama with subject matter that would’ve been quite hot for 1913; indeed there was a small raft of “white slavery” films at that time (Traffic in Souls came out the same year), of which this was apparently the most notorious back then… unfortunately, only about half the film apparently still exists (in very rough shape, too), so it’s hard to fully appraise. Still, the extant evidence suggests the film might not actually have been as lurid as it could easily have been even for 1913 (obviously it would’ve been far more overt a few decades later). In fact, if it weren’t for the obviously American locations (and the extensive location work—which I presume came about because indie producers London and Beal just didn’t have the resources to do much otherwise—is probably the most striking thing about the film a century later; real sociologists and historians could have quite some fun with it), you could almost mistake the film for a European production… although the thing is a melodrama at heart, the overall tone of it is relatively matter-of-fact, and the eventual unhappy ending is decidedly un-American (the Russians being far more fond of that sort of thing back then). Hard to fully judge, then, cos too much of the film is lost to permit a proper judgement, but not without interest. And you can’t not like a film that includes its own glossary of trafficker code (“you too can talk like a real pimp!”)…


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