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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Devil's Needle and Other Tales of Vice And Redemption [Blu-ray]

 

(Frank Beal, 1913)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Fine Arts Film Company

Video: Kino

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

 

The Devil's Needle Runtime: 1:06:49.463

Disc Size: 46,080,800,594 bytes

Devil's Needle Size: 16,598,467,392 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.81 Mbps

 

Children of Eve Runtime: 1:13:57.141

Children of Eve Size: 16,728,068,160 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.61 Mbps

 

Inside the White Slave Traffic Runtime: 0:28:21.282

Inside the White Slave Traffic Size: 6,437,770,752 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.76 Mbps

 

Chapters: 10 / 10 / 1

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 3rd, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

None

 

Extras:

• THE INSIDE OF THE WHITE SLAVE TRAFFIC: unrestored scenes (19 minutes)

CHILDREN OF EVE: 8 minutes of outtake footage

 

Bitrates of The Devil's Needle (TOP), Children of Eve (MIDDLE), The Inside of the White Slave Traffic (BOTTOM):

 

 

Description: 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 Films:

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)

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)

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)

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

I'm usually quiet lenient with damage in very old films transferred to Blu-ray but purchasers should be aware that The Devil's Needle has extensive emulsion issues throughout much of the middle third of the film (see samples below). I suspect that fans of the Silent Era will be able to shrug this off and appreciate the 1080P presentation. Rounded corners are frequently visible. The contrast tends to make the film look thin but again - whether these limitations from the source will impinge upon your viewing - is a personal issue. Technically bitrates are high for all three films - housed on a dual-layered disc. Children of Eve probably looks the best of the three - still with damage and scratches - but a lesser interruption of the video. The Inside of the White Slave Traffic also has marks etc. but these are usually in the form of multiple vertical scratches. Overall - I'd say there was more visual weaknesses than I was anticipating in the package but I could still enjoy the three films for what they are - appreciating when they were produced.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children of Eve

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Inside of the White Slave Traffic

 

 

Audio :

These are newly commissioned scores - all in linear PCM 2.0 channel transfers. They sound wonderful without being so overwhelming as to detract from the onscreen activity. I enjoyed the music - appropriate for Silent Era fare and very clean and crisp as a juxtaposition to the video. The intertitles vary from newly created to original and there are no subtitles necessary. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Supplements include some unrestored footage of the fire in The Inside of the White Slave Traffic and some outtake footage from Children of Eve. The package contains a liner notes booklet with text by film historian Richard Koszarski but there is nothing digital along the lines of a discussion of the films themselves - which would have been nice. Koszarski thoughts are appreciated though.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The titles in Kino's Blu-ray package certainly conjure up some sensationalistic curiosity with topics involving drug abuse, prostitution, and labor exploitation. This is certainly an interesting Blu-ray and for the mere ability to able to see these bizarre films is appreciated by fans of the Silent Era. I'm sure the quality will be of a lesser priority for those keen to indulge. Most aficionados of the genre will thoroughly enjoy.  

Gary Tooze

July 3rd, 2012

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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