Directed by Burt Kennedy, written by Walter Bernstein (Kiss the Blood Off My Hands) based on the novel of the same name by Lionel White (The Killing). This film has quite the line-up of Classic Film Noir actors, Glenn Ford and Joseph Cotten ( both with 8 Classic Film Noir each), Rita Hayworth (Gilda (1946), Affair In Trinidad (1952), Lady From Shanghai ( 1948)), Ricardo Montalban (Border Incident (1949), Mystery Street (1950)), Ted de Corsia (7 Film Noir to his record) and Elke Sommer (Daniella by Night (1961)). Cinematography was by Paul Vogel High Wall (1947), Dial 1119 (1950), The Tall Target (1951), The Sellout (1952) the bongo/jazz/beatnik score was by Hal Schaefer.
|Catching the squeal|
|Joe Baron (Ford) Pete Delanos (Montalban)|
But Joe Baron , off the job, is living high on the hog. In bright contrast to the night before we see him drive up in a '65 Plymouth Fury to an impressive terraced hillside house, in the driveway is a '61 Jaguar XK-E. In the backyard a pool, in the pool a blonde bombshell trophy wife. Lisa Baron (Sommer) is young, 25-ish, bubbly, socialite, about half the age of hubby Joe who has a weary hangdog look that vanishes simultaneously as he sheds his hard exterior emotional armor and enters his castle. He caresses the Jag in the driveway, then lovingly embraces Lisa poolside, and they settle scandalously together she on top into a lounge chair under the bright sunshine.
|Joe and Lisa's mini mansion|
But their playhouse is about to come tumbling down. Lisa gets a letter from her father's estate lawyer stating that they won't be paying a dividend this year. Lisa reacts like a non comedic Lisa Douglas from TVs Green Acres (which also came out in 1965). The loss of her dividend get's a bubble head reaction.
Lisa: Well we'll have to live on our savings.
Joe: What savings?
Lisa: We have an account.
Joe: You know how much we have in it? Enough to live one month the way we live here."
Lisa: We'll have to sell more stocks.
Joe: You're not allowed too.
Lisa: Since when?
Joe: Read your father's will.
continuing in the bedroom later...
Joe: I'm happy, I have everything I want, I have this beautiful home, I have the wife I want, the job I want, a swimming pool, three cars, two servants, I'm happy.
Lisa: Does it bother you because it's my money.
Joe: I married you for your money. We bought this house with your money. The cars, we bought, now the money's going to stop, no dividends no money.
Lisa: Then we'll just live on what you make.
Joe: I make ninety-two hundred a year that just pays for the servants.
Lisa: Then we'll just get rid of the servants.
Joe asks Lisa to remember where he lived when they first met, and if she'd like living there with him. She replies that something will work out. This is the Money Trap of the title.
|The wife I want|
|The house I want|
Back on the case Joe and Pete question the sister-in-law of the dead hooker, she lives in a crowded Bunker Hill flop house apartment. She tells them that the wife only did it for her little girl Amaya after her husband lost his job. Joe and Pete decide to set up a continuous stake out of the house to catch the father if he shows up to see his daughter.
|Flop house stakeout (the old Brousseau Mansion on S. Bunker Hill St.)|
|Police brass Van Tilden Joe and Pete|
Kenny: two bags full one for my master, one for this dame, and none for the little boy.... (dies)
|'60 Buick ambulance|
|"One for my master, one for the dame, one for the little boy...."|
A million dollars of illegal money would solve his money problems so Joe breaks bad. Later when Pete asks Joe if Kenny spilled, Joe tells him no.
|The Captain (de Corsia)|
|Detective Wolski (James Mitchum)|
|Rosalie Kenny (Hayworth)|
|Pete suspects Joe is holding out|
One thing leads to another and Joe and Rosie end up in the sack, for old times sake.
|You would have been a lawyer if you married me|
The next day at the gym Pete gets right in Joe's face and tells he wants in on the money. Joe is pissed that Pete has followed him. Pete tells Joe that not putting down interviewing Rosalie in his report is falsifying evidence. But he won't report it if they split the money, and besides who is Van Tilden going to go to, the police?
|I want in, I want to be rich|
The next sequence is very interesting for film Noir fans. The flop house where Amaya lives is the old run down Brousseau Mansion at 238 South Bunker Hill Avenue. By 1965 the Bunker Hill redevelopment had cleared out most of the houses. That's why the house is surrounded by empty lots. Ford then tails the aunt and Amaya to Third & Olive and rides with them down Angels Flight, which is also surrounded by empty lots, the end of an era along with the end of a Classic Noir location.
The aunt and Amaya board a bus and Joe and Wolski follow them with their car out to the Santa Monica Pier where Amaya meets her father. Joe let's Amaya spend her birthday with him before they arrest him.
Joe tailing Amya sequence
|Third & Olive, Amaya and her aunt|
|Angles Flight on Bunker Hill|
|Bottom of Angels Flight|
|Bus to the Santa Monica Pier|
|Joe (Ford) on Hill Street|
|Joe and Wolski at Santa Monica Pier|
Pete needs a doctor and the only crooked doctor Joe knows is Van Tilden. He'll trade the dope for Pete's life. Of course it all goes Noirsville.
I look at Films Noir and Neo Noir like you would a combination lock. If you get all the tumblers lined up it works, sometimes they all align perfectly enough to shine a bright light through the hole and you get a 10/10, others you get one component off a bit and it's a 9/10, and so on and so forth down the line. Sometimes a production will just get just enough of components into wack to see some light and you still have a barely Noir Noir, but it's a dim light.
So why isn't this film better known or talked about, why has it dropped off the radar?
A few guesses.
It's a partial throwback to the early part traditional Classic Noir Era period the 1941-1946 before the lighter cameras made location shooting more feasible. Half the film is shot on back lot and looks it. This gives it a dated feel which is in direct contrast to it's modern look of being shot in widescreen. It has a jazzy bongo beatnik score when the country was getting its rock and roll funk on. The Pawnbroker (1964) (which I consider a Noir BTW) was among the first American movies to feature nudity during the Production Code, i.e bare breasts and it received Production Code approval.
This film, had it had Elke Sommer go topless like she already had appeared in Daniella by Night (1961) would have brought it some notoriety and a hook. As it is, it's in the rearview mirror of the general Zeitgeist of the culture that was speeding towards the Age of Aquarius. Finally, most of the great later Noirs the 8-9-10s/10 had memorable shots or iconic sequences, I can rattle some off:
The old lady in the wheelchair that Richard Widmark pushes down the stairs in Kiss Of Death.
Cloris Leachman running down the highway in Kiss Me Deadly.
Ted de Corsia falling off the Williamsburg Bridge in The Naked City.
Joseph Cotten going over Niagara Falls in Niagara.
Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte blowing themselves up on a gas tank in Odds Against Tomorrow.
The finale of Down Three Dark Streets at the Hollywood Sign.
The Money Trap does have a memorable opening sequence, but it never quite tops it. It sort of just idles along. It could have shown Rosalie spectacularly going off the roof, now that that would have been memorable. A last Noir call for Noir greats Ford, Hayworth, Cotton, de Corsia, Montalban. It's entertaining nevertheless, DVD from Warner Archive Collection. 7/10