One woman's prospective husband has died and so she is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Jean tries to bid but is too late. Later, after a night of drinking, he arrives at the home of the owner of the trading post (Rex Sevenoaks), demanding the money he owes him. The trader is in financial trouble, heavily in debt, and Jean's appearance makes things worse. He had been told that Jean was dead, but now he has to find money to pay this debt too.
But his scheming wife (Barbara Chilcott) has another idea. If Jean wants a wife then he can have her servant girl, Eve (Rita Tushingham), a bargain at only a thousand dollars. Eve was rescued by the trader as a child, after her family were burned alive by Indians, and brought back to the trading post. Eve hasn't spoken a word since, but she is young and a virgin, and not a petty criminal like the other women being brought to the post. So Jean agrees, accepts the girl in lieu of the money he is owed, and drags the reluctant Eve off to his cabin in the mountains.
Jean expects Eve to help him hunt, warm his bed and bear him children, but she's understandably not that enthusiastic, especially as he mostly barks at her and calls her “woman”. In the mountains, the two face the dangers of the wild, including wolves and wild cats, and gradually Eve attempts to domesticate Jean and his shack beside the river. When Jean is injured in an attack by a wolf pack, he becomes dependent on Eve for survival. She now has to show a lot more grit, trudging miles across the snow to get help from an Indian village, and finally bringing herself to kill a deer for them to eat. Although she warms to him when he is injured, there is also the possibility of escape. Will she stay and become the wife he wants, or return to the trading post and civilization?
The Canadian locations are, as you would expect, magnificent. Hayers has the cinematographer of The Third Man and Brief Encounter, Robert Krasker in his final feature film, to photograph them, but you only really need to point a camera at the mountains of British Columbia to get some beautiful footage. The location filming is mixed in with studio work (at Hollyburn Studios in Vancouver and Pinewood in England). The back projection scenes are OK although a little obvious, but the studio interiors playing exterior locations are quite good, save for some very unconvincing-looking fake snow. The animal footage is a mixed bag, with some of it convincing and some less so. Quite a lot of it looks like stock nature documentary footage spliced in, and to my eyes some of the ravenous wolf pack look a bit too much like domestic Alsatians.
Unfortunately, it's hard to find a decent copy of The Trap on DVD or Blu Ray. The film was originally shot in Panavision, as befits some of its spectacular location footage, but most DVD releases seem to be 4:3 pan-and-scan versions. Hopefully someone will make the effort to release this film in high definition in the right aspect ratio, because I think it deserves it.
The TrapYear: 1966
Genre: Adventure, Period Drama
Country: UK / Canada
Director: Sidney Hayers
Cast Rita Tushingham (Eve), Oliver Reed (Jean La Bete), Rex Sevenoaks (The Trader), Barbara Chilcott (Trader's wife), Linda Goranson (Trader's daughter), Blain Fairman (Clerk), Walter Marsh (Preacher), Jo Golland (Baptiste), Jon Granik (No Name), Merv Campone (Yellow Dog), Reg McReynolds (Captain)
Screenplay David Osborn Producer George H. Brown Cinematography Robert Krasker Art director Harry White Editor Tristam Cones Music Ron Goodwin Costume design Margaret Furse
Running time 106 mins Colour Eastmancolor Widescreen Panavision
Production company Parallel Productions Distributor Rank Film Distributors
This review was for the O Canada blogathon, hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina at Speakeasy.