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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Movies With A Message In The Silent Era.
As silent cinema continues to grow in popularity with new silent film festivals popping up and the rediscovery of more and more titles once thought lost, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of the types of movies that were made then. Everyone is familiar with silent comedy thanks to the antics of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd & company but silent dramas and especially...
Published on August 18, 2012 by Chip Kaufmann

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3.0 out of 5 stars One really good movie, two others not so good...
"The Devil's Needle" is a very good movie about morphine addiction. Too bad it's so messed up with nitrate damage in a couple of places that the viewer cannot see what's going on. I give it 4 stars because of this. "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" is a movie about prostitution, and is not very good at all. Thankfully, it's short. "Children of Eve" is a bit better...
Published 4 months ago by Mystery


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Movies With A Message In The Silent Era., August 18, 2012
By 
Chip Kaufmann (Asheville, NC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kino Classics Presents: The Devil's Needle and Other Tales of Vice And Redemption (DVD)
As silent cinema continues to grow in popularity with new silent film festivals popping up and the rediscovery of more and more titles once thought lost, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of the types of movies that were made then. Everyone is familiar with silent comedy thanks to the antics of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd & company but silent dramas and especially movies made before 1920 when filming was centered on the East Coast are virtually unknown. A lot of this has to do with the attrition rate (92% of films from 1908-1918 are considered lost) but also to the fact that many of these movies were issue oriented as befits the Progressive Era in U. S. history.

The fact that movies could be a powerful tool in the dissemination of ideas was not lost on early filmmakers and organizations. Women filmmakers such as Alice Guy Blache and Lois Weber and men such as George Loane Tucker, John H. Collins, and even D. W. Griffith early on in his career made films that strove to educate their audiences as well as entertain them. This DVD/Blu-Ray is an excellent example of those types of films which were deadly earnest without a hint of camp (not counting the lurid artwork on the posters) that would plague later 1930s exploitation films like REEFER MADNESS. It also clearly illustrates the fate of most of these movies as only one of the three films featured here is in decent shape.

The titular film is clearly the big draw here. Not only is a movie about drug addiction (in this case cocaine) guarenteed to arouse interest today but this 1916 Triangle Films feature showcases two performers who would later make it big in Hollywood. Tully Marshall would become a silent character actor par excellance while Norma Talmadge was one of the silent era's greatest dramatic actresses. THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC from 1913 exists only in a very incomplete form (28 minutes) but there is enough there to get the gist of it. While there are no big names here, it does give a penetrating glimpse into the title subject. A better film on the subject that is readily available (and from the same year) is TRAFFIC IN SOULS. Check it out.

The gem of the collection, as far as I'm concerned, is CHILDREN OF EVE from 1915. This is one of the rare surviving feature length films from the Edison Company and it is in remarkable condition. It stars the once popular Viola Dana (whom I only knew from interviews 60 years later) as a down and out dance hall girl with a fascinating history who overcomes her background to become a crusader against the evils of child labor. The film ends with a spectacular sequence that recalls the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory in which dozens of young women were killed because of unsafe working conditions. The film's young progressive director, John H. Collins, died in the great influenza epidemic 3 years later.

Thanks to the Library of Congress for 1) preserving these films even though they weren't given a top priority and 2) for making them available outside their walls so that others could see them. Very special thanks to the folks responsible for restoring these films as best they could despite severe deterioration in THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE and lots of missing footage in INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC. All three are eminently watchable especially for silent film enthusiasts who are used to prints being less than perfect. Thanks to Kino Lorber for making these films available to the general public in their choice of formats. While it is definitely a specialized release, those interested will not be disappointed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (4.5 stars) "The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption" is highly recommended!, November 8, 2012
For cinema fans, especially silent film fans, one of the amazing experiences of watching these films is to get a glimpse of the world of how things were then. Especially stories that were affecting society at the time.

In July 2012, Kino Lorber released "Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption" on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray (and also DVD) release is a collection of three films from the Library of Congress that were provocative but tackled the social issues that were plaguing America in the 1910′s.

Included are "The Devil's Needle" (1916) directed by Chester Withey and written by Withey and Roy Somerville. "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" (1913) directed by Frank Beal and "Children of Eve" (1915) directed by John H. Collins.

VIDEO:

"The Devil's Needle", "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" and "Children of Eve" are mastered in HD from archival 35mm elements preserved by the Library of Congress. It's important for those not familiar with silent films to know that back then, these films were shot in Nitrate and were prone to catching on fire, having damage and it's part of the reason why over 90% of silent films created at the time did not survive and are considered lost. While the surviving films were either taken care of and some that were partially damaged, back then, when it came to restoration, some companies scanned the film with specks and damage included. So, these damages are quite permanent on the original negative.

Kino Lorber is a company that has dedicated themselves to bringing the surviving films to DVD, but knowing that some films are worse than others when it comes to picture quality. For silent film fans, as long as the film is watchable, then it is worth it. So, while these three films have been released on Blu-ray, unlike the Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd films that people are used to seeing in better quality, a lot of these films are not in pristine quality. You will see lines, flickering and white specks but by no means will it affect you're viewing.

With that being said, all three films are watchable and are in better condition than a lot of silent films I have watched from the 1910′s.

The first film "The Devil's Needle" is a film that suffers from nitrate damage. While the majority of the film is watchable, one you reach the final minutes of the film, you will see nitrate damage. Fortunately, the majority of the film is not damaged but the final minute does show major nitrate damage which makes it hard to see the ending scene. Granted, it's not an integral moment but the damage is there. But the fact is that most Talmadge films are hard to come by and as a fan of Norma and Constance, I'm just grateful that Kino Lorber has released another Norma Talmadge film.

The other two films "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" and "Children of the Eve" are in good shape. They are watchable and there is no major nitrate damage. Bu it's important to note that "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" is abridged and the bad portions were removed and is featured as a 19-minute special feature.

AUDIO & INTERTITLES:

"The Devil's Needle" and "Children of Eve" feature music by Rodney Sauer and "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" by features music by Ben Model. The music is presented in LPCM Monaural 2.0. The music is crystal clear via lossless and I give credit to Ben Model for his work on "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" because the film was edited to show only the clearer versions of the film and thus, he had the challenge of creating music for a film with a story that changes quite a bit. But both Sauer and Model did a fantastic job with the musical score.

Intertitles were easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES

"The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption" comes with a slipcase and the following special features:

Unedited Out-take from "Children of Eve" - (8:41) An out-take of the fire in the factory scene. No audio is present for this feature.
Raw Surviving Footage from "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" - (19:41) A comparison using another raw surviving footage of the film in 24 frames.

EXTRAS

"The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption" comes with a four-page "Film Notes" by Richard Koszarski (Professor of English and Cinema Studies at Rutgers University" on the three films presented.

JUDGMENT CALL:

As a silent film fan, "The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption" is a Blu-ray release that you can't help but be excited for.

In this day and age, it's rare to find silent films that are released on DVD, let alone on Blu-ray that is not fixated on a major silent film star. But for a Blu-ray release that revolves around the social issues such as drug addiction, prostitution or terrible corporate practices of the 1910′s, I found this release to be fantastic and a surprise Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber.

First, let's discuss "The Devil's Needle". As a Talmadge fan, any Norma or Constance Talmadge release on DVD or Blu-ray is a blessing! They are hard to find, many films are lost and with "The Devil's Needle", we have a chance to see a younger Norma Talmadge of 1916, months shy of becoming the wife of Broadway and film producer Joseph M. Schenk and forming the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation a year later.

And what we have with "The Devil's Needle" is a film featuring Norma Talmadge as a drug user, something I don't see the film producer Joseph M. Schenk having his young wife from 1916 on (by 1917, Talmadge would become one of America's more popular drama actresses).

But this is a different Norma Talmadge, a little plumper than thinner version we would see of her in the 1920′s. While Tully Marshall and Norma Talmadge were the headlining stars of this film, one can't help but be attracted to the performance and looks of actress Marguerite Marsh. And because Norma's character of Rene is the drug user, Tully Marshall's David White is an artist who is introduced to morphine by Rene, the purist character in the entire film is Marguerite's Wynne Mortimer.

You can't help but feel bad for Wynne because she is the pure young woman who is drawn into the world of darkness thanks to David and there is also a side-story that involves a group of guys who fear that Wynne is a spy. But the story is fascinating for a silent film fan who are curious of how drug use was featured in a film in the 1910′s and to see that there is a moral message that morphine addiction can be deadly.

"The Children of Eve" is another fascinating story and a tragedy that I'm sure, shocked many people watching it back 1915. Especially with the many deaths of children after New York's most deadliest fire ala the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911.

Filmmaker and writer John Collins was able to craft a story to shock viewers of child labor and poor working conditions and while many factory workers chose to make money than care for their employee's needs, the timing of this film was great. And as this is the first film on Blu-ray or DVD featuring the work of John Collins, it is unfortunate that Collins would die at the age of 26 due to the 1918 influenza epidemic.

But what best to grab the attention of the viewer by not giving the happily ever after. As a viewer, you are drawn by the performance of Viola Dana as she dances, flirts and has a energetic aura and later to see it sap away when she falls in love with a good man, but being poor and told by the wealthy money-obsessed Henry Madison (who she doesn't know is her father and vice versa), she chooses to redeem herself by choosing to work undercover for an agency to expose the unsafe practices at the Madison Cannery. Unfortunately, what happens when this factory catches on fire. There is no act of heroism, there is no story to show that all things end happily. The children and women who died at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 did not have a happy ending, nor should the children and young woman of the Madison Cannery.

The message was bold and whether or not it got through to businesses is unknown, but at least filmmaker John Collins used his film as a way to get the message out and to me, that is quite noble.

And last, we have the 1913 film, "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic". Sex Trafficking is still as controversial today as it was back then. While seen as a problem of other countries, back in the 1910′s, with the pouring of immigrants to America, many could not find work and with women seen as beneath men, they couldn't hold great jobs. So, many were forced or got caught up in prostitution.

The message of this film was very clear, considering we are first informed that Frank Beal along with federal investigator Samuel H. London had wanted to get the message through about the problems of sex trafficking and the lingo used by the network and how a lot of these women could not escape. These were based on real experiences and many immigrant women were tricked into fake marriages and were then left with pimps, far from their own families for safety and help and had to survive by using their bodies for profit.

As for the Blu-ray release of "The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption", as mentioned with video quality, you're not going to get pristine video but for those who follow silent films, they know they are getting three films that look very good considering their age but also three films that no one would expect for release on Blu-ray. Sure, "The Devil's Needle" suffers from damage towards the final minute of the film but all three films are good considering their age (and I have seen worse for silent films made in 1910-1930). And you also get two special features (which I also wasn't expecting) included with this Blu-ray release

Overall, "The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption" is a wonderful collection of films tackling the social problems of the 1910′s. You just don't see releases like this on Blu-ray or DVD and as a silent film fan, not only was I surprised but excited because we get to see a part of American history that many people may not be familiar with. From drug use, prostitution and shady corporate practices of that era in time, to see these three films released together is fantastic!

"The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption" is a must-see, must-own Blu-ray release for silent film fans and is highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A FASCINATING TIME CAPSULE OF RARE FILMS, April 9, 2013
By 
Casey62 (Chicago, Illinois) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kino Classics Presents: The Devil's Needle and Other Tales of Vice And Redemption (DVD)
One aspect which I cherish about movies is their innate capacity for recording history - at least the history of the last 120 years. Aside from providing entertainment, the cinema is also a moving, living chronicle of the changing social mores, customs, and technology that existed from the turn of the previous century. Exposing oneself to films made during the early days of the medium can be enlightening, especially if one harbors certain modern misconceptions that distort one's perception of the past.

Two common misconceptions many have about early films is that they only dealt with "safe" subject matter, and that they were naive in nature. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray edition of three rare silents flips the coin and shows us the sordid side of life in the 1910's - drug addiction, prostitution, child labor, unhealthy tenement life - with surprising directness. Upon its inception, cinema was hoped to educate and inform as well as entertain the masses in a wider scope than any other means of communication. The films in this set were made to instill public awareness to certain ills affecting society and, it was hoped, instigate reform.

THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE (1916) is the tale of a morphine-addicted artist's model (Norma Talmadge) who leads a painter (Tully Marshall) down the road to ruin and degradation. THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC (1913) is a dramatization of how pimps operate in coercing women into a life of prostitution. This film is especially notable because its story structure and approach to the subject matter predates by 20 years the exploitation films of Dwain Esper. CHILDREN OF EVE (1915) is an expose of child labor and unsanitary tenement conditions that recounts the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 which claimed the lives of many young female employees.

As you might expect of such rarities, the quality of the source prints varies. THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE fares the worst, with some sections containing severe nitrate decomposition, and the other two titles have the customary white specks and vertical lines as a result of age, THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC more so than CHILDREN OF EVE. However, all three films are from the only existing 35mm elements preserved by the Library of Congress, and the sharpness and detailed clarity on this Blu-ray is outstanding despite the wear. The excellent musical accompaniment by Rodney Sauer and Ben Model adds greatly to the bleak mood of these films. Extras include outake footage from CHILDREN OF EVE, the raw footage from THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC, and program notes by film historian Richard Koszarski.

Speaking for myself, I only find the time worn condition of these films an added attraction that makes me appreciate their historical value, as well as remind me of the fragile nature of that strip of nitrate that can still have the power to fascinate long after it was first cranked through a camera.

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Talmadge delivers in "The Devil's Needle.", February 11, 2013
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This review is from: Kino Classics Presents: The Devil's Needle and Other Tales of Vice And Redemption (DVD)
A very engaging performace by Norma Talmadge. One can see why she was soon to become a major star. It is too bad the end of the film suffers from such deterioration, but one can still make out one of Talmadge's trademark looks of real pathos.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Devils Needle - recommended, July 30, 2014
This review is from: Kino Classics Presents: The Devil's Needle and Other Tales of Vice And Redemption (DVD)
The great Norma Talmadge. The Devils Needle is a great film with the legendary Tully Marshall and a young, spirited Norma Talmadge.
The movie contains some shocking scenes but carries an air of 'reform movement' about it (Prohibition was only 4 years away from being introduced)
On another note, on Norma Talmadge, if I may. I have read many Photoplay and Motion Picture Weekly magazines from the 1920s on the internet, and generally, it would seem that Ms. Talmadge's best pictures are/were regarded to be Smilin' Through (1922) and Secrets (1924).
I hope that Kino or Milestone Video get their hands on a good, or any print of these films (God help us if Grapevine or Alpha get their hands on the only known prints - if there are any out there!)
I believe that until us fans watch those films, we will never really apreciate how Norma got to stand shoulder to shoulder with the wonderful Mary Pickford and thrilling Pearl White, becoming one of the most popular,at times most popular, celluloid actress.
Smilin' Through and Secrets were two of the biggest box office hits of the 1920s, and widely heralded by critics in that time period as the pinnacle of Norma Talmadge's career.
So, I ask, Universal, Paramount, MGM et al, please go through your archives and boxes in your storage facilities and warehouses as these movies must be found and re-issued. It's an ORDER!! STOP READING THIS AND GET SEARCHING!!
In the meantime, I have the charming and brilliant 'Kiki' and frank and atistically directed 'The Devils Needle' to enjoy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars One really good movie, two others not so good..., July 5, 2014
This review is from: Kino Classics Presents: The Devil's Needle and Other Tales of Vice And Redemption (DVD)
"The Devil's Needle" is a very good movie about morphine addiction. Too bad it's so messed up with nitrate damage in a couple of places that the viewer cannot see what's going on. I give it 4 stars because of this. "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic" is a movie about prostitution, and is not very good at all. Thankfully, it's short. "Children of Eve" is a bit better. It covers unsafe working conditions in factories at that time, with a personal "slum" story in it. The last two seem to have no real damage. In general, it's worth it to buy this DVD for the first movie alone, but there are cheaper ways of buying it. I give it an average rating for the sometimes bad quality of the first story and 2 other mediocre stories.
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