The Trap (1946)

  • Year: 1946
  • Released: 30 Nov 1946
  • Country: United States
  • Adwords: N/A
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  • Available in: 720p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: Approved
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Runtime: 68 min
  • Writer: Earl Derr Biggers, Miriam Kissinger
  • Director: Howard Bretherton
  • Cast: Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland, Victor Sen Yung
  • Keywords: charlie chan,

The Trap Storyline

The Trap, Released 11-30-46A station wagon is stopped by a motorcycle patrolman, the officer explaining to the driver, named Rick Daniels, he was driving too fast. There are two women in the middle seat, a man, Mr. Cole King, and another woman in the front seat. Daniels says he will slow down, they are headed for the Rutherford mansion, on the beach. Sergeant Reynolds says the place cannot be missed, but take it slower.The wagon pulls up to the beach-side mansion in Malibu, they all exit the car, at the front door is Mrs. Weebles, the Rutherford caretaker, who escorts them inside. The wardrobe mistress of the company, Mrs. Thorn, introduces herself to Mrs. Weebles. There were six women total in the vehicle, five head up the stairs to their rooms, where Mrs. Weebles says their bags have been placed. The girls have their petty disagreements while unpacking, meantime, downstairs, Mrs. Weebles’ nature is prudish, cloth covers are removed from the furniture, as a request for dusting is promised. The place is untidy and hardly suitable for the arriving guests.Adelaide argues with Marcia in her room, once the women have exited. Marcia asks Adelaide, what if the Maestro were to find out Doc Brandt is your husband. Adelaide threatens Marcia, gesturing a hand-forefinger across the throat, claiming Marcia caused trouble in other countries during the tour. Marcia says the Maestro would be very interested in finding out who Doc Brandt really is; Marcia says to Adelaide we are all going swimming.Lois bumps into Adelaide in the hallway, Adelaide expresses her resentment toward Marcia, as Lois enters the room. Marcia orders Lois to go to Adelaide’s trunk, open the metal box in it, bring me three or four letters from the box. Lois protests the theft, while Marcia threatens her, by promising to tell the Maestro Lois is under eighteen. Lois states she cannot to lose this job, she needs the money. Lois stays, to enter Adelaide’s room, opening the trunk, then the metal box, reaching for some letters, seeing somebody come toward her with gloves and a rope held between them. Lois lets out a scream as the strangler comes closer. The person approaching Lois is never seen on camera.On the patio, all head to the water in swimwear, including Daniels, Cole King and Dr. George Brandt. Weebles scoffs at the show-business folk, pausing near the patio entryway, looking at the beach-goers enter the water. She turns to go inside. The scene is Mrs. Weebles grilling food for the guests, people enjoying the food and soft drinks. One woman exits the ocean, three are lounging in beach chaises, where’s Marcia? Adelaide looks at Doc Brandt, saying, you look like you have seen a ghost. He retorts, it is kind of chilly, I was in the cabana.San Toy, troupe Asian assistant, looks for Lois in her room, finding her on the floor, dead. She screams out, everyone comes running to the upstairs room, except Weebles, cooking at the barbecue; Weebles runs away from the house. Brandt is over the body, telling the others in the room, Lois is dead. The three men gather, Doc says Lois was garroted, with a cord around her neck. Maestro inquires what kind of cord? Doc says it was a silk cord.The girls are cloistered in the front room, Clementine is crying over Lois’s murder, Mrs. Thorn asks the girls to stay in the room until the police come. Marcia is missing from the room, while Mrs. Thorn assures San Toy no one is accusing you, however, mention of a silk cord is of Chinese origin. San Toy announces she will get to the bottom of this crime, she will contact the greatest detective, Jimmy Chan; he will solve this.The phone rings at Birmingham Brown’s bedside, he answers this is Mr. Chan’s residence, the girls are screaming into the phone, it’s murder, it’s murder. Birmingham is ordered by Charlie Chan to get his clothes on, we will go to the Malibu address given by the ladies. They drive to the Rutherford mansion. Jimmy comes home to find the address of 26 Malibu Drive, written on a pad, in Birmingham’s room.Charlie Chan enters the house with all the ladies talking at once, San Toy talks to him in Chinese, Adelaide in French, the others are shrieking, Charlie is looking for his son, getting relief, he is not present. Sergeant Reynolds is there to investigate the crime, welcoming Charlie to assist. Chan wishes to speak with the Sgt. alone. Charlie says he was looking for number two son, Jimmy. Reynolds says he has not seen Jimmy. Charlie identifies the murder weapon as a robe’s cord. Daniels enters the room, introduces himself to Chan, being familiar with him from a previous case. Charlie refers to Daniels as press agent, the Maestro, Cole King, enters the room, recognizing Charlie. Charlie asks what George Brandt’s part is with the show troupe. He calls himself the show’s physiotherapist, in charge of diet.The women are congregating in one room for safety through numbers, Madge Midge is in charge, per Mrs. Thorn, while the men look for missing Marcia; Clementine remains hysterical. The men come upstairs, the ladies saw a man out on the porch, entering the next room through the window. Sergeant Reynolds draws his weapon, enters the room first, followed by everyone else. Reynolds checks under the bed, he hears a noise from the closet, out stumbles Jimmy Chan. He tells his father, he thought Pop could use his help, so he came. Charlie orders Jimmy and Birmingham to positions in driveway, no one is allowed to leave the premises, all others are to remain in the house. Charlie consults with Reynolds in the murder room, the Sergeant identifying the location of the victim.Jimmy and Birmingham are in the street side of the house, hiding, as Jimmy sees someone entering through the cellar doors. The assistants enter the cellar, Jimmy keeps going deeper through the basement, Birmingham wanders, as someone holding a baseball bat is seen only with hand on bat. As he moves further, there is a stranger in a hat in the foreground, ducking out of sight. Birmingham gets tangled in some mesh decoration, as he yells for Jimmy’s help, the person with the bat knocks him out and flees up the cellar stairs. Jimmy finds Birmingham, stating he saw the stranger with a bundle in his hands. They both exit the cellar, meeting Charlie, Jimmy tells his father somebody tried to stuff a bundle in the furnace. Charlie tells them to resume vigilance, person with bundle most important.San Toy is walking in the upstairs hallway, someone tries to cover her with something. She escapes the attempt, screams and runs, falling at the bottom of the stairs, alerting Charlie. Charlie tells Jimmy to remain near the cellars doors, the women gather around San Toy, helping her up. The smell of ether is present in the air, the men gather at the foot of the stairs, including Reynolds and Charlie. Charlie asks the doctor to confirm the ether. He says the cloth must have been saturated with it. Reynolds is seen with Madge entering onto the patio with the others. The ladies discuss some slept, some did not. Reynolds assures the ladies, Charlie Chan is in control of the investigation.Up in the murder-bedroom, Jimmy demonstrates, as he lies on the floor, Charlie is there asking Birmingham to simulate taking something from the trunk. Charlie holds the cord like a garroter, as he shows the cord-technique to Jimmy, the strangler cannot be caught, if the victim suddenly grasps the cord. Charlie’s mimicry of the killer proves to Jimmy the victim, i.e. Lois, recognized her killer, moved away from the trunk, based on the manner the body was found on the floor. Lois possibly could have escaped through the window nearby, had the intruder been someone Lois did not know. Charlie and Jimmy agree, Lois knew her assailant, possibly a friend. Charlie exits, followed by Jimmy, then Birmingham.The women are gathered on the patio, Charlie enters, says a swim would be most invigorating. The women head to the beach, Daniels returns with a bundle, Charlie orders Jimmy and Birmingham follow movements of Mr. Daniels closely. Ruby scares Clementine with a tiny crab in her palm; one of the girls shouts at Clementine, get the beach ball before it goes in the water. Clementine goes after the stray ball, tripping over a mound of seaweed, and discovering Marcia’s body. Everybody comes running to the shrieking woman and victim. Charlie instructs Doc to carefully notice the knot in cord around Marcia’s neck, ordering everyone into the house, except the Sergeant to wait for the coroner. The Doc said it was a granny knot and the trachea was flattened. Charlie asks Doc Brandt for estimated time of immersion of the body, he says ten to twelve hours. Jimmy bursts into the room, telling his father, he’s going up the beach with that package; Birmingham is watching him, Charlie says he will take care of the dilemma on the beach. Charlie turns to the group, instructing them not to leave the main room of the mansion, for he has much to discuss with them later.A unidentified person is burying something on the shore, Birmingham watches, Charlie approaches and waves off Birmingham and Jimmy; he moves toward the man with the shovel. It is Daniels, who is told by Chan, he will listen to his explanation accompanied by your friends at the house. Daniels picks up the robe he was to bury and heads back.Reynolds listens to a phone call, says thanks over the phone, turns, tells the ladies, Cole King, Marcia could not have died drowning. Doc Brandt and Adelaide speak of giving up to the authorities, Chan walks in with Daniels, robe in hand. Daniels tells Chan, he was burying the robe to try keeping someone from being framed; the robe was planted in the Maestro’s closet.Daniels asserts, there is not anybody in this house who could have killed Lois, except Marcia; then, Marcia killed herself. Chan comes back with suicides do not kill themselves by tying a granny knot at the back of the neck. Conclusion, someone killed Marcia, Marcia did not kill herself.They enter a full room, Charlie tells everyone, Marcia did not kill Miss Lois. The women exchange barbs, offering their opinions on who killed whom. San Toy says the black cord in Mr. Chan’s hands was part of the wardrobe; it was attached to Cole King’s black beach robe. Charlie shows the silver threaded cord to the Maestro, which was from Marcia’s gown; that silver cord killed Lois. Daniels interrupts Cole, telling Charlie to get him alone for a confession. Cole tells Daniels, it is a trick to have each of them accuse one another. Daniels continues to throw his accusations around to everybody, Doc and the girls included. Chan tells Cole he wants to hear more from Daniels. Cole turns on Daniels, accusing him of the crimes, naming him as the Marcia’s killer, dragging the body out to sea. Daniels tells Cole, he has been loyal, he took the robe out to try to bury it, because he thought someone was trying to frame you. Daniels goes further, accusing Doc Brandt of hiding secrets, too. Doc yells back at Daniels you haven’t got the evidence. Cole comes back to Daniels, accusing him of the murders, since Marcia took Winifred’s job in the show, you have been moody. You also tried to make Lois’s death as suicide. Chan accuses Daniels of obstruction of justice, he instructs Reynolds to make investigations, then bring proper charges. Daniels bringing the robe to the shore and trying to bury evidence is the obstruction.Chan instructs the men to return to their cabanas, the ladies are to remain in the house, and he wishes to speak to Brandt and Adelaide in his headquarters, first room on the right, at the top of the stairs. He asks the Sergeant to join his assistants, guard the doorways; no one leaves the house. Charlie adds, he is convinced the murderer is in this room.Madge makes a break in Charlie’s car, Jimmy sees her leave, Reynolds says he will catch her, he takes his motorcycle after her. The patrolman pulls over the car, will send for the bike later, gets in the car, finds an envelope addressed to the State Board of Medical Examiners, he confiscates the item.Brandt confesses to Chan the envelope contains his state medical board application, deadline tomorrow, he decided to drop it. Chan sits down with a confessing doctor and his hysterical wife, Adelaide. He tells Brandt he knows about his exoneration of a wrongful death suit in New York of his wife. The suit ruined Brandt’s life, he went to war, met a girl and married her, Adelaide. He also goes on about meeting Marcia in Paris; Marcia gives Adelaide a job and there was a job for Doc. Chan wishes not to open old wounds, but Brandt is suspect in other murders. Charlie claims Brandt found Lois’s body in this room, also found certain articles in trunk, removing same from the room. Brandt says the metal box contained Adelaide’s correspondence, he found it lying next to Lois; he removed it. Brandt continues his explanation to Chan, the metal box contained letters referring to that affair in New York, I saw the whole thing being bungled by the local police. Brandt says the metal box was the only fireproof lock box on hand, it contained things from everyone in the troupe; the box is in his cabana. They look for it in his suitcase, it cannot be found. Charlie warns of the suspicion this places on Brandt, as Charlie exits the room, while Adelaide comforts Brandt. Charlie meets Jimmy and San Toy at door, Jimmy says he is going with her to get some air. Charlie is planning to bait trap, he says hunter in haste must set trap to capture prey. Jimmy is ordered to join other assistant guarding exits, Charlie will accompany San Toy on walk.Daniels tells the ladies Doc is with the Maestro in his cabana, his nerves are shot, he is trying to calm him down. The ladies continue to talk of the murders, about staying in the house, Mrs. Weebles says Clementine hears the mice in the walls, they are overrun with them. Birmingham lies on the cellar doors, Jimmy comes out of the doors, sending Birmingham to the ground in fear. Jimmy and Birmingham discuss the Maestro’s guilt, at least according to Jimmy. Birmingham stands by the cellar entrance, while Jimmy sets off to Cole King’s room. Mrs. Weebles passes by Birmingham, pad and pencil in hand, enters the house, then Reynolds appears, inquires about anybody coming by, Birmingham tells him the housekeeper; he enters the same door, which leads upstairs. Reynolds enters a bedroom, looks around, enters the closet, looking for something in the closet, as Jimmy comes up the stairs. He peeks out the bedroom door, eyeing Jimmy, in front of Cole King’s bedroom. Jimmy enters the room, searches the trunks and suitcase, looks in the closet, when someone knocks him out with a baseball bat.The women are congregated in the main room, they are all restless, but about to retire, when Clementine lets out with her usual screams, someone’s in the wall. Mrs. Weebles appears from the wall behind Clementine’s bed, the screams alert everyone present, as Reynold’s appears from the hidden panel, following Weebles. Chan comments about her taking notes on her writing pad, he says the hidden panels were quite common from Prohibition days. Mrs. Thorn invites San Toy to stay in her cabana; all of the women depart the main room.Chan and Reynolds are outside, Reynolds answering Chan’s inquiry of where other three men, they are in their cabanas. Charlie telling Reynolds the high surf must have prevented them hearing the screams. Charlie requests the Sergeant keep a careful watch between cabanas and the house. Charlie dismisses Mrs. Weebles as harmless. No one must pass between the cabanas and house, Chan tells Reynolds. Also, check on the three men, but do not disturb. Reynolds walks toward the cabanas and Charlie heads away.In a cabana, the Doc is about to give the Maestro a mild-sedative, through a hypodermic, with Daniels shouting, he should be given truth serum. Cole King is stretched out on a bed, confessing about the box, taken from the Doc’s trunk. Daniels exits, saying he will get the law. The doc gave the Maestro the shot. Reynolds sees Daniels running around the house perimeter, he pursues him. The Sergeant catches Daniels at Chan’s car, cuffing him to himself, they leave.Jimmy comes to, accidentally removing a mesh grid from a duct, he looks in it with a lit match, it is a passageway. Jimmy removes a drapery cord, goes back to the passageway, begins entry. Birmingham is entering the cellar stairs, he hears Jimmy calling for help, he is stuck in the passageway. Birmingham moves about the cellar toward Jimmy’s voice. There is a crash of ducts falling, Jimmy falls out, soot stained face, claiming he has got it. He says it was in the furnace. He shows Birmingham the metal box he found in the duct, saying how important it is and we have to get it to Pop.A person’s shadow lurks in San Toy’s bedroom as she sleeps; Jimmy and Birmingham are outside saying they need to find Pop, they see the silhouette of a person in a cabana, they enter, scare off the mystery person. A woman runs away through San Toy’s bedroom, Charlie appears, telling Jimmy he had trap all set, and you put foot in it. A woman drives away in the Chan car, followed by the troupe’s vehicle with Charlie, Birmingham and Jimmy in pursuit. The lead car loses control, careening off the road, down a small embankment, the three follow on foot to the accident site, uncovering a severely injured Mrs. Thorn. She states, you’re too late Mr. Chan. I wanted to ruin him, I wanted to make him suffer as badly as I have. Charlie asks Cole King? I was his wife, I ran away from him, when I tried to come back, he wouldn’t even recognize me, he gave me a job, wardrobe mistress, I was humiliated, cast aside, like something unclean. Charlie tells the dying woman, he can understand about Marcia and Lois, but why San Toy? San Toy knew, she stole my papers, my papers in the box. Charlie tells her no, it was others, not San Toy. Mrs. Thorn’s last words are I hope he suffers. Mrs. Thorn dies from the car crash wounds in front of Jimmy and Charlie Chan. Charlie covers her head with a cloth, asks Jimmy to direct the Highway Patrol to the victim site.At the house, Cole King tells Charlie, she deserted me years ago, ran away with a dancer, Cole shows some her letters, addressed to Mrs. Irene Thorn, Paris, France. Brandt and Adelaide are present. Brandt says Mrs. Thorn put the bathrobe in Maestro’s closet, hoping the local police would make the obvious arrest, then clinched by the evidence with the cords. Is that the way it was meant to follow, Mr. Chan? Exactly, replies Chan. Now you can resume your medical endeavor Doctor Brandt. Clementine says Marcia went up the beach while we were in swimming. Mrs. Thorn went up the beach in Marcia’s robes, making it seem as if Marcia was killed in the house, and then carried out. Mrs. Thorn used Marcia’s robe to carry her body ashore.

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The Trap Movie Reviews

Amateurish, convoluted and great fun

An acting troupe rents an oceanfront mansion to stay in while they get ready for the show. Before you know it, the star of the show has disappeared and a fellow actress is found murdered. The situation seems grim.

Luckily, one of the cast members named San Toy has an idea: “I met a detective. The world’s greatest detective. His name is Jimmy Chan. Great Chinese detective. He’ll protect his countrywoman.”

Soon Jimmy Chan is on the case, accompanied by associate Birmingham Brown, and you know that Charlie Chan himself cannot be far behind. Sidney Toler moves a little slowly but is wise as ever in his final appearance as the great detective. Sen Yung and Mantan Moreland are energetic if not exactly inspired as Jimmy and Birmingham.

The supporting cast is pretty standard and features an assortment of young women who seem to be designated by type (the French one, the hysterical one, the cute flirty sarcastic one). The suspects, of course, all accuse each other of murder and lesser crimes, and it’s up to Mr. Chan eventually to sort it all out.

The whole thing appears to have been put together pretty quickly, and I’m not at all sure the plot makes any sense…but it’s undeniably fast moving and contains a bit of humor. There are also some great shots of oceanfront highway and beach in the picture’s opening moments. For those who are not sticklers for tight plot or strong production values, this picture is actually a lot of fun.

heartbreaking goodbye from Toler

‘The Trap’ is better than ‘The Scarlet Clue’, it reminded me of certain mystery movies with Gabin (they were Maigret mysteries), ‘The Trap’ is more psychological, in its modest way, it’s also heartrending, and we know that it is the last time Toler, as he was by then approaching his end, plays the great detective, this time a puzzle plot on Malibu Drive, and many girls, caged; after the denouement, there’s a heartbreaking scene, Toler leaving, saying goodbye, and the whole movie has these asides (about race, the movie’s own style, etc.), with a self-consciousness less used before. The movie takes an interest in a different type of case: more psychological, and this also expresses the limits of a Monogram script.

Its style and plot is very much that of Monogram’s mystery comedies. This movie doesn’t resemble the others in at least a few respects: no technological concerns (aside from the garrote), a straightforward mystery, and we get actually less of Birmingham and the son Jimmy (some seem to believe that the assistants took over much of the action in Toler’s final movie, but they obviously didn’t, in fact we get less of them). Each movie provides a location for the assistants to wander through; in this one, it’s a cellar.

Sidney Toler’s swan song

Sadly, this is one of the weakest Charlie Chan movies (though even at that, it provides good, average B movie entertainment) – and even much more sadly, it was the last film that Sidney Toler could finish before he died. There are moments where it’s obvious that he struggles with his fatal disease; which makes the whole thing even more sad, but also increases enormously our respect for this great actor who gave everything literally until the end.

The story is somewhat confused, the movie seems like it’s been done hastily (perhaps because Sidney Toler didn’t have much time left?); and the hysterical crowd of ‘bathing beauties’ certainly tends to go on the audience’s nerves, even though they display the latest and most daring bikini fashion of the time. There’s a variety troupe on holiday at the seaside, and it becomes clear very soon that the ‘star’ of the group is SO unsympathetic that sooner or later she WILL be killed… But first it’s one of the other girls’ turn, whom shrew Marcia blackmails into stealing papers from another girl’s trunk (threatening that she’ll reveal that the girl is under age), so that she can blackmail the other one, too, whose husband seems to have a dark past. The little girl is strangled, and her Chinese colleague San Toy (one of the few nice girls of the troupe) calls on her friend Jimmy Chan for help – in somewhat of a confusion, so that Birmingham, who picks up the phone, is under the impression that Jimmy has been murdered!

So he and Charlie haste to the beach house, where they soon catch an intruder: Jimmy, who found the paper with the address on Birmingham’s desk! No need to say that Charlie is immensely relieved; but now he’s in the middle of a murder case, of course – and, as was to be expected, the next day on the beach the body of hated Marcia is found… Now everybody starts accusing each other, some of the girls get fits of hysteria – and Charlie, together with his two assistants, tries to make head or tail of the whole muddled case.

As I said before, this movie certainly isn’t among the better Charlie Chans – but it’s our last opportunity to see our beloved trio Sidney Toler – Sen Yung – Mantan Moreland together; so let’s just enjoy the jokes and the suspense, and laugh and let’s be entertained by them once more…