Today: March 3, 2024

The Deadly Trap

Director Réné Clément attempts to replicate the style of a Hitchcock thriller with English language French psychological spy film, The Deadly Trap but unfortunately never quite achieves this high ambition.

Réné Clément attempts to replicate the style of a Hitchcock thriller with English
language French psychological spy film, The Deadly Trap but unfortunately never
quite achieves this high ambition.

Jill (Faye Dunaway)
and Philippe (Frank Langella) have
made the move from America to France and have been living in Paris for the last
two years, but they appear to be deep in marital crisis. Jill lives for their two children,
Cathy and Patrick, spontaneously running off with them on daily adventures and
refusing her husband’s advances while Philippe ignores his family in favour of
his work. Whilst continuing with
his working life, we learn that Philippe is being harassed by a company known
as ‘The Organisation’ which wants him to join for reasons, as yet,
unknown. Meanwhile, Jill seems to
be descending in to some kind of madness, with incessant forgetfulness,
paranoia and talking to herself.
When one day the two children suddenly disappear, with signs they have
been kidnapped, she must uncover past secrets and find her children before it
is too late.

The Deadly Trap showcases Faye Dunaway at her most beautiful
and natural and she does invoke some empathy as a desperate mother nearly
broken at the absence of her children.
You feel as though you are sinking with her, not because you empathise
with her but because like her, you haven’t a clue what is going on for the best
part of the film. While the film
does ask enough questions to keep you wondering and has elements of the
Hitchcock style, it is not so much suspenseful, but more incoherent. It is clear the writers have tried exceedingly
hard with a varied plot filled with industrial espionage, melodrama and an
interesting take on whether you should allow children to play with toy
guns. However a series of bizarre
inconsistencies prevent any of this from being believable. It could be deduced that the marital
difficulties between the couple have arisen from Philippe perhaps burying
himself in his work whilst Jill absorbed herself in caring for the children and
began to disappear in to herself.
But, despite Philippe describing himself as ‘haunted’ there does not
seem to be a great deal of trauma in their marriage to warrant such a break
down. Jill acts quite strangely around
her children, even laughing when they jump around her while she is
driving. Following a car accident
as a result of this, in the next scene they are all wildly playing together
with not a cut or graze in sight.
Jill becomes desperate and upset when she discovers her children are
missing, yet at many points in the film she happily lets them loose and leaves
them alone. Information on the
whys and wherefores of the action is dotted through the dialogue like little
clues but this only adds to the confusion.

Originally entitled La maison sous les arbres (The House under
the Trees) in France, the film’s title was altered to The Deadly Trap for
British audiences. You do have to
wonder about this alteration from such an eerie and interesting Hammer-esque title. When we do get a glimpse of this ‘house
under the trees’ it is only briefly.
It is a pity such a sinister setting was not used more and to better

From the director who brought us the likes of Purple Noon and Forbidden Games, The Deadly Trap is not what we have come to
expect. However, although it might
not completely absorb you in the action it is still worth a watch.

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