Thursday, December 26, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Trapped (1949) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

I can't recall the last time I watched a film three times in a single year, but that was the case with TRAPPED (1949), a deliciously entertaining crime film.

Last March I saw a 35mm print restored by the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive on the opening night of this year's Noir City Hollywood Festival. Just a few weeks later I enjoyed the film a second time at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

I've now watched TRAPPED again on the beautiful Blu-ray just released by Flicker Alley. Flicker Alley has a terrific track record releasing restored versions of the previously lost film noir titles TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949), WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950), and THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950). TRAPPED now joins that list with Flicker Alley's new combination Blu-ray/DVD set, a "must have" for film noir fans.

I make no claims that TRAPPED is a four-star classic, but it is highly entertaining for a host of reasons, from the cast to the plot twists to the fantastic shots of Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles area in the 1940s. As Alan K. Rode points out in the commentary track, when was the last time you saw someone make a U-turn in front of the Chinese Theatre?!

TRAPPED was directed by Richard Fleischer, the man behind two of my all-time favorite crime films, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950) and THE NARROW MARGIN (1952). As with those films, in TRAPPED Fleischer tells a compact story in energetic fashion while making the most of location shooting despite a tight budget for Eagle-Lion Films. It's a most enjoyable 78 minutes.

The movie starts off in "docu-noir" style with a visit to the Treasury Department, and then viewers are launched into the specifics of a case of counterfeit bills circulating in Los Angeles. The feds spring convict Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges) from jail after he agrees to help on the case; Tris had been in possession of the counterfeit plates at issue before being incarcerated.

Tris instead makes an escape from the agents, but little does he know that that was part of the plan from the outset. Agents are following his every move and have also bugged the apartment of his girlfriend Meg (Barbara Payton), who's living in L.A. under an assumed name, Laurie.

Meg/Laurie works as a nightclub cigarette girl, where John Downey (John Hoyt) has been making a play for her. However, Meg's only interested in her boyfriend Tris...and actually, Tris is Downey's interest too. It turns out that Downey may not be quite who he seems.

As mentioned, the film has great L.A. scenery, shot in black and white by Guy Roe. Southern Californians in particular will enjoy the film for its historic shots of mid-Century L.A.

The cast in this is such a pleasure, starting with Payton, who is simply stunning. Her looks and performance in this make the viewer a bit sad for what might have been; the actress's hard living would lead to deteriorating looks and the end of her film career just a few short years later, with her last movie being MURDER IS MY BEAT (1955).

Hoyt often played villains, such as the industrialist in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951), which I revisited at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. Hoyt has a chance to shine in a rare leading role as the mysterious Downey; in his early nightclub scenes he manages to simultaneously convey sophistication and sleaze, an interesting combination. Although he doesn't seem to be the type who'd be handy with his fists, Hoyt also makes us believe that -- despite the overly obvious use of a stunt double in one fight scene.

Bridges is also very good, having the chance to play a leading role after having spent most of the '40s in bit and supporting roles. At times we see glimpses of the more evil character Bridges would play in the following year's TRY AND GET ME (1950).

The strangest thing about TRAPPED is that Bridges' character disappears from the film about 2/3 of the way through, packed off back to jail. Rode researched that issue extensively and couldn't find any documentation or logical reason for Bridges to have left the production; he speculates in the commentary that perhaps Bridges became ill. James Todd, whose character Sylvester is a confederate of Bridges' Tris, becomes the chief villain at this point, who has a very memorable shootout with feds in a Red Car barn.

Also in the film are Russ Conway, Robert Karnes, Tommy Noonan, Rory Mallinson, Ken Christy, Frank Sully, and Harry Antrim. Fans of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) will recognize Douglas Spencer, THING'S reporter, as the drunk who's had custody of the counterfeiting plates.

The excellent extras on this disc include an informative commentary track by the Film Noir Foundation's Rode, who discusses the film with historian Julie Kirgo. There's a very good 16-minute featurette discussing various aspects of the film which features Rode, the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller, and Mark Fleischer, son of the director; there's also a 12-minute featurette with Fleischer sharing memories of his late father.

The glossy 24-page souvenir booklet is a particular treasure, featuring the director's sketch of the map route for the climactic Hollywood car chase, as well as his storyboards for the Red Car barn shootout.

I enthusiastically recommend this release and hope my readers will enjoy both the film and the Flicker Alley set as much as I have.

Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray/DVD set.

TRAPPED may be purchased at the Flicker Alley website as well as through retailers such as Amazon.


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

The only copy I ever saw was the crappy one on youtube. It's still up and really bad. That's why I probably wasn't impressed with it much. Love to see a good print.

My other problem was Lloyd Bridges who I don't consider leading man material.

10:32 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Margot, Lloyd is really not the leading man in this film; no such animal exists.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Well, true, he's not the leading man in the classic sense. But he is top billed and I really only think of him as supporting actor.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Margot! You'll really get a good chance to evaluate the film watching this beautiful print, I hope you can see it!

It's interesting that Bridges is top-billed here yet in some ways also more of a supporting character -- who, as I mentioned, unexpectedly completely disappears from the last section of the movie!

Best wishes,

9:20 AM  

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