Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Payton, John Hoyt, James Todd, Russ Conway, Robert Karnes
Written by: Earl Felton, George Zuckerman
Directed by: Richard Fleischer
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 78
Date: 10/01/1949

Trapped (1949)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Plate Escape

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Produced by Bryan Foy (He Walked by Night), the film noir Trapped begins with a documentary-like introduction about the Secret Service and their fight against counterfeit money. This gives a sense of finality to the rest of the story, about former counterfeiter Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges). When bills made with his old plates begin circulating, the feds cut a deal with the imprisoned Tris; they will release him in exchange for his help in finding the plates. Instead, Tris makes a break for it, hooking up with his old flame Meg Dixon (Barbara Payton) with a plan to keep the plates and skip town. (One look at Meg and you can't blame him one bit.)

Bridges and Payton are terrific, perhaps a little too terrific. You begin to root for them even though it's clear that they're doomed. Director Richard Fleischer (whose credits range from The Narrow Margin to Red Sonja) uses the familiar noir technique of keeping the characters framed in tight, claustrophobic spaces, with the stark, black-and-white cinematography locking them down. It works, but somehow the movie didn't quite grab me the way that He Walked by Night — with its similar documentary-style setup — did. That film, directed by Alfred Werker and Anthony Mann and shot by John Alton, has an intense cutting edge that makes this one feel just a bit softer.

In 2020, Flicker Alley has rescued Trapped from the public domain and gave it a fresh transfer, from a restoration by UCLA. The Blu-ray/DVD combo set comes with a commentary track by author Alan K. Rode and film historian Julie Kirgo, two short featurettes (Feeling Trapped, with my friend and colleague Eddie Muller, and A Sedulous Cinderella: Richard Fleischer Remembered), and a great 24-page full-color liner notes booklet. The set includes both a DVD and a Blu-ray.

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