Exploitation Film

The Inside of the White Slave Traffic
R: Frank Beal. D: Edwin Carewe, Jean Thomas, Virginia Mann. P: Moral Feature Film Co. USA 1913
Print: Library of Congress

“This early exploitation film, produced under the guise of a reformist social drama, has garnered a somewhat exaggerated reputation over the years. While The Inside of the White Slave Traffic (1913) is populated with the early 20th century versions of pimps and prostitutes, they are present by knowing implication rather than by overt expression. As would be expected, whether in modern or contemporary times, the salaciousness of the film exists far more in the mind than in the reality of the action.
(…)
While surviving prints of the film are spare of plot, we can reasonably assume that there originally was more substance to the tale of this four-reel feature film.
We love the documentary quality of the scenes that were shot on the streets of New York City. The people are those of the neighborhood, with daytime bustling around them, elevated trains, and rows of businesses. Shots of storefronts invite close scrutiny of signage and products that were commonplace then and a historical curiosity now. Now and again, one’s attention may be spirited away by examination of a gate railing or a chewing gum dispenser, no longer manufactured in its fashion and rarely seen today in its original historical context.”
Carl Bennett
Silent Era

Pimple Parodies

Pimple Has One
R: Fred Evans, Joe Evans. B: Fred Evans, Joe Evans. D: Fred Evans. P: Piccadilly Film Productions. UK 1915
Print: BFI-National Archive

“The inebriate is a traditional music hall character and the ability physically to suggest drunkenness was a key skill for the comedian. Charlie Chaplin had specialised in this during his time with Karno, especially in the sketch A Night in the Show (US, 1915). Fred Evans, although not an especially proficient physical comedian, makes a good fist of this and uses the rocking camera and other traditional drunk gags. Interestingly, at the end, when Pimple encounters a loose woman who is flashing her ankles at him, he coyly looks directly at the camera and paints the glass white to obscure our view, in the equivalent of the theatrical ‘aside’.
Bryony Dixon
Screenonline

Lieutenant Pimple and the Stolen Submarine
R: Fred Evans, Joe Evans. B: Fred Evans, Joe Evans. D: Fred Evans, Joe Evans. P: Folly Films. UK 1914
Print: BFI-National Archive

“This was one of several Pimple parodies of popular adventure series heroes such as Lieutenant Rose and Lieutenant Daring. Highlights of the Stolen Submarine include an undersea fist-fight, a wooden battleship, and a novel alternative to sending a message in a bottle… Pimple was the creation of music hall duo Fred and Joe Evans, who filmed largely from their Thames-side premises on Eel Pie Island (the naval chase scene at the climax of this film was recognisably shot at Twickenham’s Embankment). The Pimple films were known for their endearingly low production values – cardboard sets and props worthy of Blue Peter – which were all part of the gag.”
BFI-National Archive

“The film naturally echoes the films it satirises. The spies are heavily bearded, and notably spy-like. The Royal Navy (in the guise of the wooden barge, HMS ‘Invincible’) gives chase and fires upon the spies, as in Lt Rose and the Stolen Code (1911). As in other Pimple films, the comedy is strikingly modern, reminiscent of Monty Python or Spike Milligan sketches.
Simon Baker
Screenonline

Winsor McCay

Gertie the Dinosaur
R: Winsor McCay. B: Winsor McCay. D: Winsor McCay, George McManus, Roy L. McCardell. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1914

“McCay’s employer, William Randolph Hearst, was displeased with McCay’s success outside of the newspapers, and used his contractual power to reduce McCay’s stage activities. In late 1914, William Fox, offered to market Gertie the Dinosaur to moving-picture theaters. McCay accepted, and extended the film to include a live-action prologue and intertitles to replace his stage patter. This is the version of the film generally seen nowadays; the original animation comprises roughly 5 minutes of the entire 12-minute film.”
IMDb

“A 1914 short animated film by Winsor McCay that inspired many generations of animators to bring their cartoons to life. Although not the first animated film, as is sometimes thought, it was the first cartoon to feature a character with an appealing personality. The appearance of a true character distinguished it from earlier animated ‘trick films’, such as those of Blackton and Cohl, and makes it the predecessor to later popular cartoons such as those by Walt Disney. The film was also the first to be created using keyframe animation.
The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and was named 6 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time in a 1994 survey of animators and cartoon historians by Jerry Beck.”
Wikipedia

>>> Winsor McCay’s film Little Nemo on this site: Early Cartoons

Feuillade’s Titanic Film

La hantise
R: Louis Feuillade. D: Renée Carl, René Navarre, Miss Édith. P: Gaumont. Fr 1912
Print: Gaumont

La Hantise (1912) (“The Obsession”) is a half-hour film drama. It looks at the suffering caused by a palm-reader’s prediction to a woman that a loved one will die. The poor woman really endures agony over this. La Hantise is in some ways an early film example of a soap opera, the kind of tale featuring a ‘noble woman who suffers and suffers’. This kind of story can be very hard to take.

Attacking Pseudo-Science

More positively, La Hantise is also an early example of exposing pseudo-science junk like palmistry, and all the harm fake pseudo-science does in our society. Unfortunately, in the 2000’s the United States media is deeply awash in the supernatural, paranormal and esoteric: all worthless garbage that causes social harm. Feuillade’s approach is vastly better.
It is often thought that Feuillade was an influence on Fritz Lang, although there is apparently no documentary evidence backing this up. Lang, too, would include scathing exposes of false supernatural mediums in Ministry of Fear (1943) and The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960). Other people in the 1910’s were also exposing such frauds: Bayard Veiller’s stage play ‘The Thirteenth Chair’ (1916) is an example.

Flashing Lights

Flashing lights are an image that runs through Feuillade. They are highly dramatic. And as a purely visual image, they are well suited to silent film. One of the best scenes in La Hantise shows the revolving lights on top of the Eiffel Tower at night.

Evening Clothes

Feuillade’s enthusiasm for evening clothes returns, with the man the heroine talks with at the party in a tuxedo, and another man in the background in full white tie and tails.
It is somewhat atypical in real life to have men in two different degrees of formal dress at one event. Etiquette would rather have all the men in tuxedos, or all the men in tails. This is perhaps an example of Feuillade’s image of ‘two men in similar clothes, but with different degrees of formality’. Judex and his brother will be the most striking example.

René Navarre

The nice guy husband is unexpectedly played by René Navarre, best known for clever villain Fantômas. Navarre can be memorably creepy, in other films. But here he is playing a type that will recur in much subsequent cinema: the blandly decent, ideal husband, a steady man who is everything a woman in a melodrama can ask for in a good guy spouse. He is a loving husband, a devoted father, cheerful and a great provider. Like almost all such movie Good Husbands, he is also strictly bland, so he will not upstage the heroine and her traumas.
Navarre does all this very well. No one seeing La Hantise would ever suspect him of being a master villain.”
Michael E. Grost


René Navarre

>>Titanic – In Nacht und Eis on this site: Fiction and Newsreel

Fadings

The Land Beyond The Sunset
R: Harold M. Shaw. B: Dorothy G. Shore. D: Martin Fuller, Mrs. William Bechtel, Walter Edwin. P: Edison Company. USA 1912
Print: George Eastman House

The Land Beyond The Sunset, written by Dorothy G. Shore and directed by Harold Shaw, is a touching tragedy that goes right to the heart of what storytelling is all about. It also boasts a couple of film techniques common today but nearly unheard of in 1912: the lap dissolve, which is where the end of one scene fades out as the next scene fades in; and the double exposure to show a character’s thoughts.
At the time, these effects had to be created in the camera, by filming a scene then cranking the film back and double exposing it. The lap dissolve was especially difficult because the cameraman had to gradually close down the lens to create the fading out effect, and gradually open it up to fade in. And of course no one would know until the film was developed whether the effect had been successful.”
A Mythical Monkey

De Mille’s First Motion Picture

The Squaw Man
R: Oscar Apfel, Cecil B. DeMille. B: Edwin Milton Royle (play). K: Alfred Gandolfi. D: Dustin Farnum, Monroe Salisbury, Winifred Kingston. P: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. USA 1914

Young Cecil B. De Mille’s first motion picture – it was the first feature-length film produced in Hollywood by a major film studio (it was distributed by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation). It was the first film to use an art director.
Filmsite

368-cecil-b-demille

Cecil B. DeMille

Qui pro quo

La malle au mariage
R: Max Linder. B: Max Linder. D: Max Linder, Charles Mosnier, Suzy Depsy. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1912

“The guardian of Mamie, with whom Max is in love, wishes to make the girl his wife. Mamie, holding her guardian in mortal terror, insists upon Max concealing himself one day when the former obtrudes his presence upon them. Max obeys, and finding behind the hanging wardrobe a lady’s long plush coat and hat, he dons both articles to make his escape. The disguise leads the guardian, who observes him depart, into supposing that a pretty woman is the owner of the coat. He follows ‘her’, and Max inveigles him into his own rooms, shams a scare on account of a supposed husband, and manages to get him locked up in a big trunk, from which he is released only on his giving his consent to Max’s engagement to Mamie.”
The Bioscope, May 30, 1912

>>>More films by Max Linder on this site: Max l’immortel