Take 3: The Trap (1959) Review

Back in August, The Classic Movie Muse invited me to join the Bernard Herrmann Blogathon! I immediately became interested, but wasn’t sure which film I would choose. While I am familiar with the movies Bernard’s music can be heard in, I’m not that familiar with Bernard as a composer. But with the blogathon taking place on Halloween weekend, I wanted to watch a film that fit the occasion. Originally, I was going to review 1962’s Cape Fear, the movie I wrote about for the 2nd Annual Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon. But, long story short, that didn’t work out. So instead, I chose to review The Trap from 1959! Based on the synopsis, it sounded like an exciting story involving gangsters, the law, and a whole lot of conflict. But did I find the movie enjoyable? If you want to know that answer, you’ll just have to keep reading my review!

The Trap (1959) poster created by Paramount Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’m not familiar with Richard Widmark as an actor. However, I did like his performance in The Trap! The easy-going and suave persona Richard brought to his character, Ralph, reminded me of Frank Sinatra. His facial expressions and use of emotions were believable as well. When a tragic situation happens in his family, genuine fear was shown on Ralph’s face. Because he was in a dangerous circumstance in the story, Ralph became vulnerable both literally and emotionally. Another character that was vulnerable was Ralph’s brother, Tippy. At the beginning of the movie, Tippy’s alcohol dependency is apparent. With a relaxed body position, a pained look on his face, and a tired tone of voice, Earl Holliman effectively portrayed how this problem can take over someone’s personality. Starring alongside Earl and Richard was Tina Louise as Linda Anderson. This particular character was desperately trying to get by and hold on for dear life. But Linda never came across as desperate or frazzled. Instead, Tina brought a sense of charm and a likable personality to her role. Through the script and Tina’s performance, it highlights how Linda cared about how she presented herself.

The music: Despite being an uncredited composer on this project, I did like hearing Bernard Herrmann’s musical scores! Similar to Cape Fear, the music helped elevate a scene’s suspense. It also fit the emotion depicted in a specific scene. Anytime Ralph and Linda interacted with one another is a perfect example of this. A pleasant, dramatic tune could be heard in the background, the kind you’d hear in a romance movie. Because these characters have a history together, this type of music seemed fitting. It added memorability to those scenes as well.

The Bernard Herrmann Blogathon banner created by The Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse

What I didn’t like about the film:

Very little excitement: With a movie involving gangsters, the law, and conflict, you’d think it would be exciting. But unfortunately, this story was lacking in the excitement department. Sure, there was a gun fight and a car chase. But these moments were far and few between. The first half of the movie focused on the gangsters’ preparations, emphasizing telling over showing. A road trip that was mostly bland took over the film’s second half. While I continued to watch this movie in the hope some excitement would arrive, it sadly never came.

Emphasis on drama: On IMDB, The Trap is classified as a drama, as well as an action and crime movie. But the script placed more emphasis on the story’s drama. Most of this film focused on the strained relationships among the Anderson family. Even as Victor Massonetti (the leader of the movie’s gangster group) was attempting to escape the country, there was still time to feature Ralph having a conflict with one of his family members. While there’s nothing wrong with featuring drama in a story, it overshadowed the more exciting parts of The Trap. This certainly felt like the screenwriters had difficulty balancing these three genres.

The run-time: This movie has a run-time of an hour and twenty-four minutes. With the way the story focused on drama over action, I honestly think the run-time was too long. Some scenes were drawn out longer than necessary. For example, when Ralph was traveling in a car with Victor, those scenes felt like they were longer just for the sake of satisfying the run-time. The beginning of the movie also satisfied this run-time by maintaining a slower pace. With a shorter run-time, the story could have gotten straight to the point a lot sooner. It also would have prevented some scenes from feeling like they dragged on.

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My overall impression:

On the movie poster for The Trap, it says “Rocking the screen with triphammer impact!”. The only impact this movie had on me was making me want to fall asleep on more than one occasion. Within the first half, the story was reminiscent of 1954’s Suddenly, a movie I thought was just ok. But when the second half rolled around, it felt like a boring road trip film. As I said in my review, there was a gun fight and car chase in The Trap. But these exciting moments had such a limited presence in the overall story. One of the flaws of this film was relying too much on the drama genre. When a movie features gangsters, you expect action and excitement. Tensions over which man Linda truly loved were certainly not as riveting as the screenwriters thought. The Trap was, for me, a disappointment. While I liked the acting and music, it wasn’t enough to present a recommendation.

Overall score: 5.1 out of 10

Have you seen The Trap? If so, what are your thoughts on the film? Please share how you feel in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen