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The Trap


Lon Chaney, Alan Hale, Dagmar Godowsky, Irene Rich and Stanley Goethals are featured in this Universal Northwoods drama directed by Robert Thornby.

Gaspard LaRove (Chaney) is a happy-go-lucky Northwoodsman and owner of the Hyancinthe Mine in Canada. Gaspard soon learns that the city businessman Benson (Hale) has legally claimed ownership rights away and has employed a crew to work the mine. Gaspard, who cannot read, only posted a handmade sign to mark his claim willed to him by his father. Not only has the gruff Benson acquired the mine, he is also actively courting the affections of Thalie (Godowsky) whom Gaspard cherishes and loves. Expecting an answer to his marriage proposal, Gaspard learns that Thalie has left downriver with Benson. Gaspard’s once carefree demeanor turns vengeful and murderous.

After seven years, Gaspard has been consumed by the fires of hatred and Benson, back in the settlement with sickly wife Thalie and their boy child, has seen his fortunes diminish. Gaspard secretly gloats to see Benson is now the victim of bad luck and unhappiness. He goads brutish Pierre (Dick Sutherland) into threatening Benson, who defends himself with a pistol. When asked to prove Benson’s claim of self-defense, Gaspard denies the circumstance.

Gaspard visits delirious and dying Thalie who, mistakes him for her husband, implores him to care for their son (Goethals). Gaspard sees an opportunity to complete his revenge against Benson and Thalie by agreeing to the pact. Upon her death, the child is claimed by Gaspard whose malicious intent is barely masked but, inside him, there reluctantly blossoms a love for the boy. Months later, with Benson about to be released from prison, Gaspard fears he will lose the boy to his father, to whom he has confessed his several machinations to destroy Benson.

In an unexpected and illogical turn, Gaspard devises a plan to trap a large wolf to unleash on Benson inside his cabin. Through happenstance the boy is trapped in the cabin with the wolf but is rescued by Gaspard who is himself caught in his own trap with the vicious animal. Benson arrives to find the nearly-dead Gaspard and the very dead wolf. He is horrified to see the affaction his own son has for the man he hates so much.

Chaney received generally favorable reviews in this early starring role that runs the gamut of comically silly to intensely tragic. Much of the story attributed to Lucien Hubbard, Chaney and Universal executive Irving Thalberg is routine Northwoods melodrama. Only the gimmick of the cabin trap and Chaney’s performance lift the film up.

The filmmakers’ misguided attempt to convey Gaspard’s French-Canadian accent in elaborately slang-laden intertitles will challenge audiences to make sense of his dialogue. Some intertitles will fly by before they can fully be deciphered.

Exteriors for the film were partially filmed in Yosemite National Park and its beauty is featured in some spectacular establishing shots.

Overall, the film is not great but can be revisted more than once and not be disappointing.

Carl Bennett

coverKino Classics
2023 Blu-ray Disc edition

The Trap (1922), color-tinted black & white, 53 minutes, not rated,
with By the Sun’s Rays (1914), black & white, 11 minutes, not rated, and Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask (1996), color, color-toned black & white and black & white, 65 minutes, not rated.

Kino Lorber, K26226, UPC 7-38329-26226-6.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region A Blu-ray Disc; 1.33:1 aspect ratio picture in pillarboxed 16:9 (1920 x 1080 pixels) 24 fps progressive scan image encoded in SDR AVC format at 39.8 Mbps average video bit rate; DTS-HD Master Audio 48 kHz 2.0 stereo sound encoded at 1.6 Mbps average audio bit rate; English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles; 10 chapter stops; standard BD keepcase; $29.95.
Release date: 18 April 2023.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 8 / audio: 8 / additional content: 6 / overall: 8.

This long-overdue Blu-ray Disc edition of this minor Lon Chaney film has been mastered from a very-good but incomplete 16mm reduction print held by The Packard Humanities Institute that shows minor signs of cupping and warping. The 4K HD scan and digital processing performed by Universal Pictures minimizes this print defect and the source material has an opportunity to finally come alive for modern audiences. It appears that some digital clean-up has judiciously been performed, with some residual dust, speckling, emulsion scuffing and fine vertical scratches allowed to remain. Some missing or damaged shots have been inserted from a good 16mm reduction print provided by the British Film Institute, but some brief moments of inrecoverable footage remain lost to vintage splices. Even with these minor concerns, the overall viewing experience is quite satisfying.

The film is accompanied by a music score composed by Kevin Lax that may have been performed by a small orchestra (if not, those are some pretty convincing digital samples).

Supplementary material includes a presentation of By the Sun’s Rays (1914), which has previously been offered by Kino Lorber on their Blu-ray Disc edition of The Penalty (1920), and the documentary Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask (1996). For our reviews of these extras, see our By the Sun’s Rays on home video and Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask on home video pages.

This Blu-ray Disc is such a huge improvement over previously-available home video editions of this film that we enthusiastically recommend this release. If a case for film preservation and restoration needs to be made, simply look at this BD edition and compare it to the awful Alpha Video DVD edition noted below. Whoa, Nelly!

USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Your purchase supports Silent Era.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region A Blu-ray Disc edition from Your purchase supports Silent Era.
This Region A Blu-ray Disc edition is also available directly from . . .
Alpha Video
2009 DVD edition

The Trap (1922), black & white, 46 minutes. not rated,
with Outside the Law (1920), color-tinted black & white, 75 minutes, not rated.

Alpha Home Entertainment, distributed by,
ALP 5800D, UPC 0-89218-58009-2.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0 NTSC DVD disc; 1.33:1 aspect ratio picture in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan image encoded in SDR MPEG-2 format at 5.4 Mbps average video bit rate (capable of progressive scan upscaling to 60 fps); Dolby Digital (AC3) 2.0 stereo sound encoded at 384 Kbps audio bit rate; English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles; 6 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase; $6.98 (raised to $8.98).
Release date: 28 April 2009.
Country of origin: USA

Ratings (1-10): video: 3 / audio: 5 / additional content: 5 / overall: 4.

This DVD edition has been mastered from an analog videotape of a transfer from an 8mm reduction print. The resulting picture is low resolution and contrasty, with completely blasted out highlight details. As a result, all intertitles have been reset as video-based still frames to make them readable. (Our file copy of this release was a standard manufacture DVD disc; subsequent copies may be on MOD DVD-R discs.) The source print is quite dusty, speckled and worn, and has occasional clusters of splices. Action in the transfer runs a bit too quickly for natural speed, which can make Chaney’s overacting comical. Altogether, watching the disc is a challenge at best.

The disc features an original music score performed on digital piano and MIDI keyboards by Kevin Slick. If you have trouble sleeping, try listening to this soundtrack.

This edition of The Trap is a poor excuse for a commercial home video release and ultimately is a consumer rip-off. Best to avoid, especially given the Blu-ray Disc release noted above.

USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Your purchase supports Silent Era.
Canada: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0 NTSC DVD edition from Your purchase supports Silent Era.
Other silent era LON CHANEY films available on home video.
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