Directed by Norman Panama in 1959 and distributed by Paramount Studios, The Trap tells the tense story of a lawyer named Ralph Anderson (Richard Widmark) who moves to the small desert town of Tula, California at the behest of his employer, a mobster named Victor Massonetti (Lee J. Cobb) aided by his right hand man, Davis (Lorne Greene). The reason for his mission? Well, when Victor decides to hightail it out of the United States by way of his plane, he doesn't want there to be any last minute complications. As such, he's sent Ralph there ahead of time to make sure that everything runs smoothly and that nobody is messing around at the little airport when Victor decides to take off.
Of course, this isn't going to be nearly as easy as Ralph hopes it will be, due in no small part to the presence of his father, Lloyd (Carl Benton Reid), who just so happens to be the town's sheriff, and his brother, Tippy (Earl Holliman), the deputy. Ralph is no fool, however, and so he tries to talk his father into simply turning a blind eye to what he has no choice but to become a part of. Obviously this puts them at odds and causes some tension between them - Lloyd is not happy that his son has grown up to work for a criminal. Tippy, on the other hand, is more interested in seeing that justice is served, despite the fact that he's got a drinking problem. If this weren't enough for poor Ralph to have to cope with, there's the not insignificant matter of Linda (Tina Louise), a girl he once carried a torch for who just so happens to be married to Tippy now.
The Trap is a solid mix of crime drama and suspense film performed by a very able cast who really make this one well worth watching. While Richard Widmark might be just a tad older than his character seems to be he handles the part well, portraying some believable conflict in the role and rising to the occasion. Lee J. Cobb is great when he's on screen, occasionally stealing the show, but he's not given as much to do here as some might have hoped for. Still, his inimitable screen presence definitely adds some weight to the movie when called for. Carl Benton Reid is solid as the grouchy Sheriff/father character while Earl Holliman is decent as the untrustworthy brother. Lorne Greene's supporting role is also strong, while special mention just has to be made of the simply gorgeous Tina Louise. Shot a few years before she'd go on to be cast as Ginger in Gilligan's Island, she's not dolled up here the way you might expect her to be given the way she carried on in her most famous TV role but that only serves to make her more appealing as her character just seems much more realistic.
The film makes great use of the desert locations that were used for the shoot. The cinematography that comes courtesy of Daniel L. Fapp (the same man who shot West Side Story among many other films) really brings home the arid feel of the rural California landscape. It fits the fairly bleak tone of the story quite well and definitely helps to enhance the atmosphere of the movie. Norman Panama's direction is strong and stoic, he keeps the pace going well even if the movie takes a bit of time to find its stride. Once we hit the middle stretch, things pick up very nicely and if characters sometimes deliver dialogue that seems corny by modern standards or come dangerously close to chewing through the scenery here and there, that adds to the entertainment value that the movie provides. On top of that, we get some solid action scenes and a really satisfying build up to an equally satisfying (if not necessarily realistic) conclusion. If this isn't a masterpiece or a lost classic, it's definitely an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half in front of the TV.
The Trap arrives on dual layered Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer in your choice of framing - 1.78.1 widescreen or 1.33.1 fullframe, both seeming to have been taken from the same source material just matted differently. As far as which sizing looks better, that'll be up to the individual to decide but the fullframe version does open things up more. The elements used for this transfer appear to have been in pretty good shape, though some minor print damage does pop up here and there - tiny stuff, really, minor specks and the like, nothing too serious. The colors in the image are occasionally a bit off but more often than not they look pretty good. There are some decent black levels here as well, and solid shadow detail throughout. There are no noticeable compression artifacts to point out nor are there any problems with edge enhancement, aliasing or noise reduction. As is the norm with their releases, Olive probably could have done a little bit of cleanup work here but that's not really their style. The results, however, are still pretty good.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono mix, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. Clarity and quality here is fine, there's maybe a tiny bit of hiss in a couple of spots if you really listen for it but otherwise the levels are well balanced and the dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow.
Aside from a static menu and chapter selection, there are no extra features on this disc at all.
The Trap is a lot of good fun. It's definitely got some obvious flaws and there are some moments in the film that are a bit tough to take seriously but the cast all bring their A-game here, resulting in some impressive scenes of tension. On top of that, the film is nicely shot and well put together on a technical level. Olive Film's Blu-ray offers nothing in the way of extra features but it looks and sounds pretty good, making this one pretty easy to recommend to anyone who can appreciate a heavy handed crime film such as this.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.