Sunday, May 6, 2018

LON CHANEY, "MAN OF 1000 FACES" BLOGATHON: The Trap (1922)


Maddy of Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and Ruth of Silver Screenings are our hosts for a blogathon salute to LON CHANEY "MAN OF 1000 FACES" on May 5th and 6th.



Yosemite National Park locations were used for this story set in the Province of Quebec. Sadly, copies of the film are of dubious quality and we cannot fully enjoy the scenery and are distracted from the melodramatic proceedings.

Lon Chaney stars as Gaspard the good, a fellow brimming over with the old joie de vivre. A long winter trapping in the Quebec wilderness is over and now that spring is here, Gaspard has returned to his love Thalie played by Dagmar Godowsky, and the mine left to him by his father that he works after the spring thaw.

It takes a while for Gaspard to understand that things have changed. A stranger in town, Benson played by Alan Hale, has taken control of the mine on which Gaspard's father never legally filed a claim. Benson has also stolen the heart of the faithless Thalie. Gaspard is filled with righteous revenge for those who "broke his heart and killed his soul".


The following seven years find the boisterous Gaspard now a sullen and brooding man. Benson faces nothing but bad luck with the mine, and some of that bad luck is of Gaspard's doing in the form of sabotage. Thalie, the mother of a son, has ill health and an ill-tempered husband. Gaspard, however, is not content to let the misery exist without stirring things up. He sets a loutish bully, Pierre on Benson who fires a pistol in self-defense. The only witness, Gaspard, will not say for certain what occurred. Benson is sent to prison for wounding Pierre.

On her deathbed, Thalie pleads with her husband to care for their child. It is Gaspard to whom she is deliriously begging. Gaspard will take The Boy played by Stanley Goethals as part of his revenge. However, the loving nature of the lad eventually softens Gaspard's heart and they become true pals. Illiterate Gaspard even takes the lonely child to school. Their acceptance of each other has helped them find acceptance and joy in the world around them. The pretty schoolteacher played by Irene Rich brightens both their lives.

Benson the prisoner has reflected on his life and attitude. A changed man, Benson is released early for his good behavior. Gaspard learns his old foe will soon be returning and reclaiming his son. Gaspard does not want to return to his lonely existence, but he returns to the revenge that once consumed him. The reappearance in the woods of what is called the "devil wolf" precipitates an equally devilish plan in Gaspard's warped mind.

Gaspard plans to trap Benson in the cabin with the murderous wolf. Leaving nothing to chance, he has taken The Boy to a distant place of safety, but the child awoke in the night and made his way back to the cabin. Gaspard rushes into the cabin and rescues the boy, but himself is trapped in a life or death struggle with the wolf. The audience and Benson believe Gaspard to have perished. Gaspard, however, survives the physical battle with the wolf and the spiritual battle with his soul. Gaspard sees his wounds as the punishment of Bon Dieu for his sins and accepts that The Boy belongs with his father.


The movie ends on an unexpectedly upbeat turn with Gaspard and Benson parting as friends. We needn't worry about Gaspard as the pretty schoolteacher promises to teach him all the things The Boy will be learning so that upon his return he will be proud of his Uncle Gaspard.

Lon Chaney is credited with the story and Lucien Hubbard with the screenplay for The Trap. Hubbard wrote the earlier Outside the Law for Chaney. The central message of the film is "revenge is mine sayeth the lord" and these lads are not subtle about it.

Lon Chaney is the whole show as Gaspard the good. His animated and cheerful Gaspard draws you to him with his friendliness. His surly loner is worrisome. His malignant glee when his revolting plans are put in action is abhorrent. His change of heart at The Boy's affection is quite moving. Lon goes quite over-the-top in presenting us with this rollicking Quebecois character, yet also gives us lovely subtle moments in sharing the inner torment of Gaspard the good.












4 comments:

  1. I MUST see Chaney in this, not only for his portrayal of a French Canadian – even if it is a bit over top – but also to experience the kind of emotional range he always presents his audience.

    As an aside, I'm always surprised at the longevity of Alan Hale's career. It's always a treat to see him on screen.

    Thank you for joining the blogathon and paying tribute to the impressive Mr Chaney!

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    1. It was a pleasure to participate in this blogathon. Lon Chaney is so moving and impressive an actor. I really wish there were restored copies of this film.

      Alan Hale is a wonder, isn't he? It was a real treat to see him here.

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  2. I haven't yet watched The Trap and feel it's such a shame that all we have our poor quality prints left. Hopefully it is restored soon so we can enjoy its' visual quality. The spiritual journey of the character sounds fascinating and I'm looking forward to see how Chaney conveys that journey. Thanks for a great review!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, and for adding your good thoughts to the hope that someday we may find a good quality print of this interesting story and its unique setting.

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