The Trap (1966)
Thanks to Kristina at Speakeasy and Ruth over at Silver Screenings, it’s time to celebrate the movies and people of my home country in the O Canada blogathon. For this years venture I have chosen The Trap. Filmed partially on location in British Columbia, it’s the rugged tale of a French Canadian trapper and the mute girl he buys for a wife. Click here to see last years entry in the Canadian celebrations.
Big, burly, bearded and covered in furs is the forceful screen presence of Oliver Reed making his way down river in a canoe. At times it’s conveniently filmed in close up with water thrown about while the projection screen behind him rolls film of some serious rapids, Ollie’s destination is a settlement where a steamship docks once a year.
Aboard the steamship are a group of mail order brides for the locals. Mainly prostitutes and women of ill repute who have been released from jail terms on condition of passage and marriage to men of the wild. Ollie’s about to arrive too late to claim a woman forcing him to wait another year.
There’s a subplot here involving the local store keeper who does business with the trappers. He owes Ollie for two years worth of furs amounting to $1000. He’d hoped to keep the cash and move his family back to civilized country. He’s also the guardian of Rita Tushingham. Rita is portraying a mute girl coming of age. Easily terrified, she carries the traumatic scars of seeing her parents and others tortured and killed by Indians when she was but a child. She’s playful when in the company of those she trusts but mindful of the store keepers wife who has designs on getting Ollie’s money.
It’s a cruel scene when the store keeper’s wife sells the drunken Reed the virginal Rita. The girl is petrified and has no way to voice her displeasure other then to struggle against the much bigger Reed to no avail. He whisks her off in his canoe and begins the journey to his secluded one room log cabin.
While Reed may be the “star” here it’s Rita’s character that drives the story. Her plight from living in comfortable surroundings to being sold off to a brutish ill mannered trapper takes on a story of it’s own. When Reed realizes sex is out, he treats her harshly. When they arrive at his plot of land along an inland lake shore he shows her his trap line and how to go about baiting them. She may as well earn her keep if she won’t bear him children.
She carries with her the desire to civilize Reed’s uncouth ways. Curtains, beds and a garbage basket are placed in the cabin to little avail when Ollie gets into his rum.
If you’re like me you can never help but wonder if dear Ollie is really drinking and inebriated when the scripts call for his characters to be over the edge of sobriety.
Fate will lend a hand when Reed finds himself on the trap line in winter and through misfortune finds himself badly injured and having to fend off a pack of hungry wolves. It’s a harrowing scene and done very well through the editing process and director Sidney Hayers. With darkness closing in, it’s Rita who comes to Reed’s rescue. A vital decision will have to be made to help Reed through his injuries that only adds to the film’s harsh realities of life in the early days of inland exploration.
Adding to the strength of her role is the fact that she is now the provider for the badly injured Reed.
I won’t get in to the final reel as I’ll hope that you may seek the film out and see how the script plays itself out.
The final credits point out the movie was filmed partially in B.C. and at Pinewood studios in England. I would imagine most of the interiors and back screen process shots were done in Reed’s homeland. The outdoor shots are of course breathtaking with the location filming of Canada’s western interior.
According to an onset interview, Reed states that he spent five days in Montreal to immerse himself in the French dialect. While he doesn’t speak French in the film his English is conveyed in a choppy sentence form with a heavy lean towards the Canadian French accent. He goes on to describe his role as that of a loner, an animal. As for his co-star? He points out “she’s got a pair of eyes I’d like to go swimming in.”
On the world stage, this is one of Ollie’s earliest leading roles that isn’t associated with Hammer Studios. While we may look back fondly at the Hammer Films, they were not necessarily thought of as the “big time” for a young actor. The Trap would help to move Ollie along the path to international stardom.
As to Rita’s eyes, she uses them magnificently throughout the film as it’s her main asset in communicating her happiness and fears. It’s a strong female role that is the centerpiece of the film and while I’m not always in favor of remakes, it would offer one of today’s leading ladies a good role on screen. A common complaint we continue to hear about nowadays is the lack of good women’s roles.
Be sure to check out the other films that are celebrating Canada’s heritage, it’s stars and movies by just clicking here to see what else the great white north has to offer by way of this years contributors. Okay, eh’.