The Trap


1h 24m 1959

Brief Synopsis

Lawyer Ralph Anderson arrives in Tula, an amazingly remote town in the desert, as reluctant emissary of mob chief Victor Massonetti, who wants the airstrip clear for his unofficial exit from the country. Ralph's arrival has a profound effect on his estranged father, the sheriff; his brother Tip, an alcoholic deputy; and his ex-sweetheart Linda, now married to Tip. Tension builds as a small army of gangsters takes over the town. Then the situation abruptly changes...

Film Details

Release Date
Feb 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Jan 1959; Los Angeles opening: 11 Feb 1959
Production Company
Heath Productions, Inc.; Parkwood Enterprises, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1, 1.96 : 1

Synopsis

For the first time in ten years, lawyer Ralph Anderson returns to his hometown of Tula, California, where his father Lloyd and brother Tippy serve as the town's sheriffs. As a teenager, Ralph was caught drinking in a stolen car by Lloyd, who then sent him off to reform school. Furious with his father's lack of faith in him, Ralph became a city lawyer and never again spoke to his family. Now, Ralph visits the sheriff's office, where he is disheartened to see Tippy sleeping off a drinking binge with lipstick on his collar. Later at the family house, Tippy's wife Linda, Ralph's high school flame, welcomes him with joy, but soon admits that Lloyd is overly controlling and she no longer loves Tippy. When Lloyd and Tippy arrive, Lloyd greets Ralph coldly, still angry and hurt by the disappearance of his favorite son. Ralph tersely asks his father to remove his deputies from the nearby airfield so that fugitive mobster Victor Massonetti can flee the country. Although Ralph explains that he has been forced to do the syndicate's bidding ever since he unknowingly defended a mob thug, Lloyd, disgusted, refuses. Ralph then points out Massonetti's henchmen waiting outside, and Lloyd acquiesces, but states that he never wants to see Ralph again. Linda, fed up with Tippy's alcoholism, then packs to leave, despite Tippy's desperate vows that he can change. Ralph reports to Massonetti's head henchman, Davis, in the hotel across from the sheriff's office. Soon, Massonetti arrives and offers Ralph $25,000 for his services, which Ralph refuses. Meanwhile, Tippy gathers his deputies, Eddie and Len Karger, and prepares to rush the hotel to apprehend Massonetti and collect the reward on his life. As Tippy begins his clumsy ambush, Lloyd rushes across the street to stop him, hoping to save Ralph. Massonetti's men, however, assume the sheriff is armed and shoot him down, prompting Ralph to grab the gun of the thug nearest him and chase after Massonetti. Ralph corners him in an alley, and although he considers shooting the mobster, he allows Karger to arrest him. In the street, Lloyd's dying words to Ralph are "You didn't write." Tippy locks Massonetti in the jail, where Ralph informs him and the deputies that the mob has cut off the phone lines and all roads out of Tula except one. Although Tippy insists he is in control, the deputies turn to Ralph for leadership, and he forms a plan to turn Massonetti in to the authorities in Barstow, several hours away, using the mobster's fast car. Tippy tries to back out, but Ralph forces him to assist them, and Karger drives the car containing the brothers and Massonetti while Eddie drives ahead as a lookout. In the car, a handcuffed Massonetti slyly taunts them and, perceiving the tension between the brothers, surreptitiously shows Tippy the $25,000, hoping he will take it as a bribe. Assuring them that his men have the road covered, Massonetti tells them, "This car is a hearse and I'm driving." Soon, they discover Eddie dead by the side of the road, and hear a plane pursuing them from above. They drive on, but upon seeing Linda's empty car blocking the road, they realize Massonetti's men have abducted her. From the hills, the thugs attack, killing Karger. As Ralph and Tippy return fire, Massonetti reaches for Karger's gun, but Ralph stops him. When the thugs call out that they will trade Linda for their boss, Ralph replies that he will kill Massonetti unless they release Linda. She reaches them safely, but when she embraces Ralph, Tippy's jealousy flares and, clandestinely, Massonetti is able to tempt him again with the money. Tippy orders Ralph to turn Massonetti loose, but Ralph refuses and holds him at gunpoint to ensure he remains with them. The sun sets, and as the others sleep, Ralph apologizes to Linda for leaving her years earlier without an explanation, and she reveals that she still loves him. By morning, the thugs have driven off in Linda's car and shot a hole in Massonetti's radiator, draining it. Despite the danger of the extreme heat, Ralph insists they drive ten miles to the nearest store. Ralph battles exhaustion to make the slow, treacherous drive, and when they finally reach the store, they discover the owner has been shot. Ralph fears an ambush, but the store is empty and the foursome takes refuge inside. The phone is dead, and while Tippy finds and downs a bottle of scotch, Massonetti mocks Ralph's predicament. Then Davis, who controls the phone line, calls to announce that his men are surrounding the store and will attack if Massonetti is not released. On a hunch, Ralph tells Massonetti that Davis plans to kill him to keep him from talking, and a fearful Massonetti turns to Tippy, who aims his gun at Ralph. Ralph sneers that Tippy, who was too cowardly to admit to his father years ago that it was he who stole the car, does not have the nerve to kill him. Massonetti lunges for the gun, shooting Ralph in the shoulder, and when Tippy attacks the mobster, he is shot. As Ralph grabs the gun and subdues Massonetti, a miner enters the store and informs Ralph that no one but miners are camped in the hills. Realizing Massonetti's men were deceiving them, Ralph, despite his wound, insists on driving Massonetti to Barstow in the miner's car, planning to send a doctor back for Tippy. On the road, the gangster attempts to bribe him, but Ralph replies all he wants is his father back. After driving erratically over the steep mountain roads, weakened by his wound and fighting exhaustion and Masonetti's attempts to take his gun, Ralph reaches a roadblock, where two policemen arrest Massonetti. Once in their car, however, Ralph realizes they are Massonetti's men in disguise and sets off the siren, after which the thugs knock him out. Chased by the real police, the mobsters race for the airfield, where they manage to board Massonetti onto his plane and taxi down the runway. Awakening, Ralph summons his resolve to drive the car into the path of the airplane, which cannot swerve in time. The plane crashes, and just before it explodes, Ralph pulls Massonetti to safety. Hours later, he returns to the store, his wound bandaged, to discover that Tippy has died. Linda shows Ralph what she has found in Tippy's wallet: a picture of a young Ralph and Linda, the symbol of Tippy's lifelong guilt.

Film Details

Release Date
Feb 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Jan 1959; Los Angeles opening: 11 Feb 1959
Production Company
Heath Productions, Inc.; Parkwood Enterprises, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1, 1.96 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The Trap was co-produced by Richard Widmark's Heath Productions and Melvin Frank and Norman Panama's Parkwood Enterprises. On August 11, 1958, Hollywood Reporter stated that Lee J. Cobb co-produced The Trap, but no other source lists Cobb as a producer. According to a March 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, the role of "Ralph Anderson" was originally offered to William Holden, after which Alan Ladd was considered. The film was shot mainly on location in the Southern California desert, according to Hollywood Reporter news items.
       A Hollywood Reporter news item adds Sid Melton to the cast, but he did not appear in the final film. The CBCS lists Tony Regan as "Douglas Regan." Although a Hollywood Reporter news item in July 1958 stated that Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn might write a title song for Earl Holliman to sing, no such song is heard in the film. Modern sources add Roger Creed and Russell Sanders to the crew as stuntmen. On July 22, 1958, Hollywood Reporter reported that United Artists protested the use of the title The Trap as being too close to the title of their film, The Rabbit Trap.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 1959

Released in United States Winter February 1959