Mae Miller wants the finer things in life, luxuries that she feels her husband, a doctor, cannot provide for her. She begins to gamble in order to ring in spending money for herself, but winds up deep in debt. To pay her dues, she is reduced to the shame of selling herself.
“Suggested” by the notorious trial of gangster Lucky Luciano, this typical low-budget sexploitation-melodrama came complete with the promise to rip “the lid from a vicious phase of American life.” In reality, the sordid little film, which was instantly banned by New York censors, depicted little more than a standard tale of illicit gambling augmented by shots of starlets in their underwear. Mae Miller (Martha Chapin), the bleach blond wife of an aging medical student (Robert Frazer), is arrested for shooting Lucky Wilder (Wheeler Oakman) during a raid on Wilder’s gambling den. The events leading up to the killing are then told in flashback. At a society garden party, Mae befriended Molly Murdock (Gay Sheridan), who promptly lured the young innocent into Lucky Wilder’s den of inequity. Mae eventually accrued 9,000 dollars in gambling debts was forced into prostitution by Wilder and Mrs. Murdock. Lucky’s seduction of Mae’s kid sister Carolyn (Janet Eastman) and the latter’s death following a back alley abortion finally drove Mae to shoot and kill her tormentor. Produced by J.D. Kendis, a well-known procurer of exploitation-thrillers, Gambling With Souls was directed by Elmer Clifton, a former protegée of D.W. Griffith who had fallen on hard times. The film was not screened in New York City until May of 1937, when it was re-released under the title Vice Racket. Like most exploitation films of the 1930s, Gambling With Souls was cast with a combination of unknown starlets and down-on-their-luck silent screen players, all of whom either overacted hilariously or didn’t act at all. Florence Dudley, however, provided a bit of intentional comedy relief as a rather zoftig call girl. Footage from Gambling With Souls later found its way into Teen Age (1944).