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The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption (Kino Classics) [Blu-ray]

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In its continuing effort to showcase the great works of early cinema, Kino Classics launches a new series of Blu-ray and DVD releases dedicated to archival rarities -- influential classics that have gone virtually unseen for decades. Presented in association with the Library of Congress, the films have been mastered in HD from the original film elements and are backed with newly commissioned musical scores. In some cases the films survive in less-than-perfect condition. But it is the mission of this series to preserve and promote these films in spite of their flaws, rather than allow them to disappear entirely from the cultural radar.

THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE AND OTHER TALES OF VICE AND REDEMPTION is comprised of three feature films that dared to address incendiary subject matter: drug abuse, prostitution, and the exploitation of labor. By folding these explosive issues within layers of melodramatic storytelling, the filmmakers were able to dodge public criticism while making their political views even more compelling. These films were among the first to demonstrate the cinema's potential as a persuasive cultural force.

THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE (1916, dir: Chester Withey) stars silent superstar Norma Talmadge as Renee, a French artist's model who uses morphine as an escape from the dull reality of her life. She recommends it to a neurotic artist played by Tully Marshall (Queen Kelly), because ''it kindles the fires of genius.'' The artist quickly becomes addicted to the drug and the quality of his work begins to disintegrate. He takes on a new model, marries her, and starts her on the same path of moral degradation, until a guilt-ridden Renee decides to intervene in order to save them both. According to silent film historian Kevin Brownlow, THE DEVIL'S NEEDLE was banned by the state of Ohio, but the censor board reversed its decision after recognizing the positive message beneath the film's scandalous surface. This special edition was mastered from a 35mm preservation print of the 1923 re-release version. The only known surviving copy, the element suffers significant nitrate decomposition during some scenes. (66 min)

THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC (1913, dir: Frank Beal) is one of the most notorious films of the silent era, as it not only centered on the theme of forced prostitution, ''It goes in for the utmost fidelity in picturing the evil which has been its inspiration'' (Variety). Demonstrating the methods of the network of American pimps known as ''white slavers'' in meticulous detail (including a helpful guide to underworld slang), the film plays more like docudrama than melodrama. It is easy to see why it was such a public sensation upon its release. The complete four-reel version of the film no longer exists. This edition was mastered from the sole surviving copy, a two-reel version that has experienced significant damage. Explanatory titles have been added to bridge missing footage. (28 min)

CHILDREN OF EVE (1915; dir: John Collins) is most famous today for its detailed reenactment of the tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911, which had become a symbol of unsafe working conditions and capital's apparent disregard for labor. Viola Dana stars as an illegitimate child of the slums who labors in an oppressive canning company, not realizing she has a significant connection to the cold-hearted factory owner. This special edition includes outtake footage of the sensational fire scene, for which the Edison Studios set an actual four-story factory ablaze. (73 min)

BONUS FEATURES: THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC: unrestored version (19 minutes), CHILDREN OF EVE: 8 minutes of outtake footage

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Norma Talmadge, Tully Marshall
  • Directors: Chester Withey, Frank Beal, John Collins
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Silent
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • DVD Release Date: July 3, 2012
  • Run Time: 167 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B007UQ8IV0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,488 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Devil's Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption (Kino Classics) [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Blu-ray
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.


"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.
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Format: 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.
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