The Deadly Trap

The Deadly Trap


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Director René Clément's The Deadly Trap (the rather more prosaic La Maison Sous Les Arbes or Home Under The Trees in French) is a psychological thriller that despite a good central performance from Faye Dunaway and some interesting stylistic choices, has not aged particularly well in the 40 years since it was made. Dunaway plays Jill, an American in Paris along with her husband Philip (Frank Langella, underwhelming). They live in an apartment with their young children Patrick (Patrick Vincent) and Cathy (Michèle Lourie), a hippy chic sort of place where Jill spends most of her days with the children wishing that the workaholic Philip would play with them more.

Their marriage is on the rocks and something isn't quite right with either of them. Jill can't remember borrowing an umbrella from her best pal neighbour Cynthia (Barbara Parkins) and a whole lot more besides, while Philip is being targeted by a shadowy outfit referred to only as "the organisation". All the ingredients, then, for a good dose of paranoia in the spirit of The Manchurian Candidate, The Parallax View or given the female-centric plot, Rosemary's Baby. Except the result never really coheres. Clément, writing with Daniel Boulanger, simultaneously reveals too much while not fleshing things out enough.

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There either needs to be much more about "the organisation" and Philip's dealings with it or much less indication as to what is really going on with Jill. Clément signposts the action too far in advance, so that with the tension gone, all that's left is to enjoy his craft - particularly a sinister little scene involving the children, a kid's hoop and a gloomy walk through Paris - and Dunaway's full-on performance. The use of colour is also interesting, with splashes of yellow and purple abounding. Yellow, in particular, becomes associated with little Patrick - a colour coding that, perhaps surprisingly, predates the superior Don't Look Now. There are themes here evident in Clément's other work, such as parallels being drawn between children and adults, decently fleshed-out female characters and an off-kilter dreamy quality to some of the action - but this trap is too obvious to be really deadly.

Reviewed on: 13 Jan 2013
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Paranoia brews for a couple of Americans in Paris.
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Director: René Clément

Writer: Daniel Boulanger, René Clément, based on the novel The Children Are Gone by Arthur Cavanaugh

Starring: Faye Dunaway, Frank Langella, Barbara Parkins, Patrick Vincent, Michèle Lourie

Year: 1973

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

Don't Look Now
Rosemary's Baby