Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Trap Snaps Shut at Midnight (1966)

The Trap Snaps Shut at Midnight (Um Null Uhr schnappt die Falle zu) was the third of the West German Jerry Cotton crime thrillers. The Jerry Cotton movies were not wildly dissimilar in style to the hugely popular Rialto Edgar Wallace krimis but were more action-oriented and had a harder edge. The Jerry Cotton movies were set in the United States and were obviously influenced to some extent by American crime thrillers.

The Trap Snaps Shut at Midnight gives the viewer a sense of excitement right from the start. The opening titles are stylish and accompanied by wild crazy music, then it cuts to a huge explosion and then to a truck with warnings plastered all over it that it contains explosives. It doesn’t just contain explosives, it contains enough nitro-glycerine to blow up half a city.

The truck is ordered to turn back, to get away as fast as possible from a raging fire in a chemical plant. Then the truck gets hijacked. Why would anyone want to steal nitro-glycerine? We will soon find out.

It’s all part of a plan for a very clever heist, a spectacular jewel robbery. That’s a problem for the New York Police Department but they’re more worried about that huge shipment of nitro-glycerine which has now disappeared. The F.B.I. is called in.

Ace G-Man Jerry Cotton (George Nader) is assigned to the case. To add to the Bureau’s headaches there’s race against time aspect. The nitro is frozen. When it thaws it will become highly unstable and it’s almost certain to explode. It could take half of Manhattan with it. And if the news gets out there will be a panic which could be more dangerous than nitro-glycerine.

The heist had been planned by a small-time gang with ambitions but now a big-time gangster, the very nasty very crazy Larry Link (Horst Frank) has involved himself.

There’s also a dangerous blonde, naturally. She’s Maureen (Dominique Wilms), she was part of the gang that pulled off the heist but now she has plans of her own.

It’s not just a race against time, it’s a race between the F.B.I. and Larry Link to get hold of of that nitro-glycerine. It’s not clear what he would do with it if he did gain possession of it but it’s bound to be bad news.

It’s a fun ride with plenty of action along the way.

There’s definitely an attempt to capture a gritty feel but combined with an outrageous almost comic-book style plot and 1960s pacing and freneticism.

The nitro counter on the wall in F.B.I. headquarters slowly counting down the hours until the nitro blows is a nice touch.

Another nice touch is gang boss Larry Link’s apartment, with a wading pool with an office chair sitting in the middle of the pool. Larry sits in the pool and plays with his toy boats. It’s the kind of thing you could only get in a 1960s movie.

George Nader makes a fine square-jawed hero. Dominique Wilms plays Maureen as a bit of a femme fatale and she does a fine job. It’s Horst Frank however who steals the movie as Larry Link - charming, sadistic and totally deranged.

Peter Thomas was responsible for the music. It’s over-the-top insane and sometimes completely appropriate but I liked it - it gives the movie even more of a 60s vibe.

There’s a lot of rear projection and some use of stock footage but that was par for the course in 1966 and unavoidable in a modestly budgeted movie. And it’s done quite well.

The action scenes are effective.

The recent German DVD boxed set contains all eight Jerry Cotton films and the English dubbed versions are included for all of them. The 16:9 enhanced transfer for The Trap Snaps Shut at Midnight is acceptable but not great. The movie was shot widescreen in black-and-white although the last few movies in the series were filmed in colour.

The Trap Snaps Shut at Midnight is a treat for fans of 1960s German pop cinema. And 1960s German pop cinema really is tremendous stylish occasionally crazy fun. Highly recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment