Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Steel Trap

So The Steel Trap was on yesterday as part of the Summer Under the Stars salute to Joseph Cotten. Looking at the reviews on IMDb, I must be one of the few people who didn't care for it. But it's been released to DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive, so you've got a chance to judge for yourself.

Cotten stars as Jim Osborne, a family man who talks about his family life almost the same way Dick Powell does at the beginning of Pitfall which I mentioned at the beginning of the week. Jim works as the assistant manager at a bank. In a voice-over narration, Osborne tells us about his work at the bank, and the security measures that greatly lessen the chance of a bank robbery: the tellers only know half the combination to their little safe inside the vault where they keep their money after the bank closes; the managers (including Osborne) know the other half. Unsurprisingly, Osborne has daydreamed about whether it would be possible to look over the tellers' shoulders to steal their combinations and then steal their money. Of course, there's a problem, which is the question of where you're going to go after you've stolen all that money. So Osborne actually starts doing research on the topic, discovering that Brazil is the one country with a flaw in the extradition treaty that would allow Osborne to make an escape -- and he could get from Los Angeles to Brazil over a weekend, from Friday afternoon when the bank closes to Monday morning when the bank reopens and the money will be discovered missing.

It's here that the film hits its big problem. Jim has to lie to his wife Laurie (Teresa Wright) about what he's doing. Now, there are interesting liars on screen, such as Charles Boyer in Gaslight, whose lies are so chillingly smooth as to make him a compelling character. Unfortunately for The Steel Trap, however, Jim Osborne is just a whiny jerk of a liar. And his lies get compounded one upon the other the way they do in one of those bad early 1930s drawing room comedies. The other thing that makes the movie have a big problem is the plot holes of nobody catching any of these lies. Osborne notes that the bank is going to be going to its winter hours next week, which means the bank will be open on Saturday, so the plot to steal the money has to be done this Friday. No! Why not use the winter to perfect your plan? Also, going to Brazil requires a passport, which is something most Americans didn't have back in those days, since you didn't need one to go to Canada (or, I think, Mexico). So he has to get the passports in like two days when, if he bided his time over the winter, he'd have the passports ready for whenever. And the guy at the consulate doesn't catch his lie about needing the passport in an emergency.

The idea behind The Steel Trap is a good one. But somewhere along the way, the script goes wrong, leaving me at least with something rather unappealing. But everybody else seems to have high praise for the movie. So watch it for yourself and judge.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Ted! You're famous!