Saturday, June 17, 2023

The Trap (1922)

Just when you think you've seen all the Lon Chaney films that have been found, another one gets cleaned up and rereleased. I recently picked up the Kino release of what is claimed to be Lon Chaney's first starring role in a film, The Trap. By all accounts on IMDb, he had appeared in over 100 films and shorts prior to starring in this film. Like many other Chaney films I've seen, he plays a character who has been wronged, which makes it a perfect vehicle for him to demonstrate his talent at changing his appearance from one of innocent benevolence to crazed and vengeful. 

The Gist

Gaspard the Good is a happy go-lucky guy, he is as radiant as the sun, and all is well and good in his simple, illiterate life until Monsieur Benson arrives in the village and steals his gold mine and then his girl. Gaspard is filled with hatred and patiently orchestrates Benson's downfall, causing him to lose his fortune and setting him up to be imprisoned for shooting a man in a tavern brawl. He appears at his former fiancĂ©'s bedside, who mistakes him for her husband and asks him to care for their child before she dies. He takes the child with him for nefarious reasons, but through the child's innocent nature, soon discovers his good side again. At least up until he finds out that Benson will be released from prison, at which time he decides to set a trap to prevent him from losing the child he's come to love. 

Memorable Moments

Creighton Chaney, aka Lon Chaney Jr., aka The Wolfman,
 makes a debut appearance behind his dad in this scene.

Benson's guys mining his mine.

Gaspard the Good

Benson makes a move on his girl.

Strolling through Canada (Yosemite) on a fine sunny morn.

His last moments of joy.

Confronting Benson on the theft of his mine.

The Mountie says it's legal.

Seeking refuge with the one he loves.

She knows she's running off with Benson.

He has no clue of her real intentions.

He tells the dog she'll be moving in soon.

Meanwhile, she's eloping with Benson in a canoe.

Benson wonders if all the bad things happening
to him are part of a curse. Ya think?

Gaspard gets a new idea to further his vengeance.

Surely this will earn Benson the death penalty.

Mission accomplished. Buh-bye Benson.

Visiting his former love on her deathbed.

The kid becomes part of his scheme.

Rubbing it in.

A change of heart.

Off to school.

Gaspard gets some schooling too.

The devil wolf.

The plan is hatched.

Setting and testing the trap.

The trap door lifts allowing the starved wolf in.

The door becomes barred to prevent escape.

Check out the reflection on the water as Benson arrives.

The child unexpectedly wanders off.

The wolf smells something tasty to eat.

The trap is triggered.

Someone call the ASPCA. I think that wolf is really dead.

Letting go.

Forgiving the unforgivable.

Sailing off into the future.

The teacher takes on a new student.

A bright new future for Gaspard awaits.

My Thoughts

This is a beautiful film and timeless tale that portrays love, vengeance, forgiveness and redemption. Gaspard's transition from joyful innocence to cruel hatred is stunningly portrayed and it's hard to continue to feel compassion for him when he admits to Benson that he orchestrated his downfall and laughed when he got drunk and beat his wife and child. It may seem a simple tale, but the message of responding in kind to wrongs done serve only to harm, and that the healing capacity to forgive is profound. I appreciate seeing the majestic beauty of Yosemite captured over a hundred years ago in film. Some may find the French Canadian patois represented in the intertitles to be a bit hard to read and digest, but I suggest amusing yourself by trying to read those aloud. I enjoyed this movie, but I am a Lon Chaney fan and I never tire of seeing the multitude of feelings he can present on his expressive face. 

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