After being disappointed with Guest In The House, I decided to go ahead and watch the sixth film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set and I’m glad that I did. 1949’s Trapped turned out to be an entertaining little discovery.
Much like Port of New York, Trapped opens with documentary footage of the government at work and an official sounding narrator explaining to us that we are about to see a film about the hardworking agents of the Treasury Department. In fact, the narrator goes on for so long about the Treasury Department that he starts to sound downright worshipful. There’s nothing that the Treasury Department cannot do! Who protects the President? The Treasury Department! Who tracks down counterfeiters? The Treasury Department! Who protects the coast? The Coast Guard but guess what? The Coast Guard is actually a part of The Treasury Department! The tone of the narration is so worshipful that it could almost pass for a Scientology recruiting film. Just as only the Sea Org can protect us from Evil Lord Xenu, only the Treasury Department can stop phony money pushers!
Eventually, the narration ends and the actual movie begins. Fortunately, the rest of Trapped more than makes up for that awkward introduction. The film opens with a bunch of Treasury agents looking over a phony twenty-dollar bill. The bill is almost perfect and the agents believe that it was printed using plates designed by one of the world’s greatest counterfeiters, Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges). The only problem is that Stewart is in prison. Obviously, someone else has gotten their hands on Stewart’s plates.
Stewart is upset that someone is getting rich off of his work. So, he strikes a deal with the Treasury Department. In return for being released, he will help them track down his plates. The Treasury Department agrees and arranges for Stewart to “escape” during a phony prison break.
However, Stewart has plans of his own. As soon as he’s out of jail, he knocks out his handler and escapes for real. Tris is not only planning on tracking down his plates but he’s also going to go back into business printing and passing phony money. He also reunites with his girlfriend, nightclub hostess Meg Dixon (Barbara Payton).
When he meets Meg, he discovers that she has a new admirer. Johnny Hackett (John Hoyt) likes to hang out whenever Meg’s working. Even though Johnny appears to have a thing for Meg, he and Tris still become friends. Tris is even willing to bring Johnny in on the operation but, what Tris doesn’t realize, is that Johnny Hackett is actually Treasury agent John Downey (John Hoyt)…
Needless to say, violence, betrayal, and death follows.
Shot on location in some of the seediest parts of 1940s Los Angeles, Trapped is a fast-paced and exciting film noir. (This is one of those films, like The Black Book, where shadows are literally everywhere.) Lloyd Bridges (who, as a young man, could have passed for Kirk Douglas’s brother) gives a great performance as the charming but ultimately cold-hearted Tris Stewart while John Hoyt does a fairly good job as the conflicted Downey. Barbara Payton, one of the more tragic figures from Hollywood’s Golden Age, does such a good job as Meg that it’s even more tragic to consider that, just a few years after making Trapped, her career would be destroyed by alcoholism and personal scandal and she would eventually end up as a homeless prostitute on Sunset Boulevard.
Trapped was a good discovery and you can watch it below!