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also known as While New York Sleeps

Traffic in Souls 1913

  • 3.4
The United States in the 1910s was a tumultuous era, with Bolsheviks, fascists, warmongers and fearmongers vying for control of a society still not fully formed. Released in 1913 and quickly banned in several cities, "the great slave trade photodrama" TRAFFIC IN SOULS boldly and sensationally delved into an urban underworld of prostitution, drug use and vice, all while proclaiming itself simply "a photodrama of today." One of the earliest feature films ever made in the U.S. and the first not to be based on an existing novel or play, the picture dangles its thread of a plot (a woman fights to rescue her abducted sister) to lead titillated viewers through dastardly white slavery rackets, immoral high-society schemers and heaving dens of iniquity, all "while New York sleeps." A lurid, vice-ridden exploitation film with the basest of all interests (whoo-hoo!), TRAFFIC IN SOULS was a huge hit, triggering such a wave of similar white-slavery titles that the subject was quickly added to the Hays Code's list of banned topics. For all its exploitative garishness, it now stands as a fascinating document into an era where the American city was coming into its own and learning to define itself through cinema. - Jason Sanders
At the center of a storm of controversy upon its release for daring to address the subject of prostitution, TRAFFIC still wields a certain power over the viewer as it takes a "true crime" approach to vice in the Victorian era. Tucker skillfully guides viewers through various dens of iniquity, the processes of crime detection and finally to a dynamic climax in which the police attempt to bust the white slavery rackets.

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Named to the National Film Registry by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2006.


Member Reviews (3)

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top reviewer

This expose dramatization was made 100 years ago, but this traffic still exists today. Only, in real life, the police usually do accept the bribe, and a little something else, too.

I think it was a good film. But, it should have had more subtitles telling you more of what was going on. Too many scenes, especially in the beginning- were hard to understand as there were too few explainations or written lines.

I appreciate the modernity of it, the obverse and the reverse of the 20th century modernity.

 

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