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MONEY TRAP, THE(director: Burt Kennedy; screenwriters: from the novel by Lionel White/Walter Bernstein; cinematographer: Paul C. Vogel; editor: John McSweeney; cast: Glenn Ford (Joe Baron), Elke Sommer (Lisa Baron), Joseph Cotten (Dr. Horace Van Tilden), Ricardo Montalban (Pete Delanos), Rita Hayworth (Rosalie Kenny), Tom Reese (Matthews), James Mitchum (Detective Wolski), Fred Essler (Mr. Klein), William Campbell (Jack), Ted de Corsia (Police Captain); Runtime: 91; MGM; 1965)
“An acceptable film noir.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An acceptable film noir, enhanced by Glenn Ford and Joseph Cotten giving life to their fallen characters.

Joe Baron (Ford) is a veteran hard-nosed police detective known for his honesty, who grew up in a poor neighborhood and married a very wealthy and attractive woman, Lisa (Elke). Their marital bliss and rich lifestyle is tested when Lisa’s stock inheritance portfolio stops paying dividends. Her father stipulated in his will that the stocks can’t be sold. Lisa gripes that her hubby can’t support her on his lowly wages.

We first see Joe and his partner Pete (Ricardo) on a case where a Mexican woman has been hanged by her hubby, who found out she was a prostitute. They are also assigned on a robbery/homicide case. A small-time crook, Phil Kenny, gets shot breaking into the safe of a wealthy, well-connected society doctor, Horace Van Tilden (Cotten). In the ambulance, before his demise, he tells Joe there was $500,000 in the cracked safe. This puzzles Joe, since he found the safe empty and the prominent doctor who shot the intruder said he kept no money there.

With the case closed Joe thinks about the money and how he could use it to straighten out his life. He therefore unofficially continues on the case as he goes to interview Kenny’s wife, who works as a bar waitress. When he approaches her at work, he’s surprised to find that she’s an old flame from his childhood neighborhood named Rosie (Rita) that he lost touch with.

Warning: spoilers to follow in the next two paragraphs.

Joe becomes protective of her when he realizes she could be in danger from the crooked doctor with mob connections. He gives her money to get her out-of-town, but she has become a lush who has given up hope and refuses to leave town. This results in the doctor’s strong-arm man Matthews (Reese), pushing the potential squealer, Rosie, off the roof of her apartment building.

Joe’s slimy partner gets wind of the money, and insists in robbing the doctor’s safe and splitting the money. When they rob the safe thinking the doctor is on vacation they find he set a trap for them, and the doctor critically shoots Pete. They also find, after Joe brings Pete over to his house to get patched up, that besides the money there’s heroin and that Kenny was an addict looking for dope.

The film makes up for its lackluster story, by convincingly showing how Joe tries to get out of his money trap. It makes for a pessimistic ending, as Joe’s redemption and Lisa’s unswerving love comes too late and with too heavy of a price to pay. Joe worked in the inner city he couldn’t escape from, even though he thought he could escape his fear of poverty and his bad childhood memories of living in a ghetto by now living in the fancy part of town in an expensive private house with a pool.

The partners are viewed as basically good cops with character flaws, who have had their fill of working for low pay and taking public abuse. They unfortunately bite at the temptation of all that money in front of them. They are upset that a dishonest doctor has the respect of the community instead of them, and believe that money is their ticket out of their dilemma. The story of the cops and the drug-dealer doctor as greedy individuals who only want more money, parallels the tragic story of the Mexican family. Contrary to these three fallen men who have no excuse for their criminal misconduct, the Mexican family is poor and really needs the money–but the husband didn’t think it was worth it to have his wife become a prostitute to support them and therefore kills her.

REVIEWED ON 10/26/2001 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”