Ageing playboy Michael (Tony Musante) is already having an affair with the married Hélène (Florinda Bolkan) when he spies an old flame, Marie (Laura Antonelli), in the apartment next door. Many years ago, Michael drew an innocent teenage Marie (Cristina Marsillach) into his kinky S&M sex games, only to abandon her for his next conquest. Now he jumps at the chance to pick up where they left off. But the morning after, Michael awakens to find himself tied to the bed as a vengeful Marie sets out to abuse and humiliate him. After days as a captive sex slave, Michael sees a chance to escape by seducing Marie’s daughter, Jacqueline (Blanca Marsillach), who turns out to be even more unhinged than her mother.
The Trap is not a horror movie so much as another of those morbid psychosexual dramas that proliferated in Italy in the wake of Last Tango in Paris (1972) and The Night Porter (1974). By the Eighties these kinds of arty soft-core movies were being overshadowed by glossily dumb Hollywood erotic thrillers like Fatal Attraction (1987), with which this shares some themes and a fair few failings in common. While the film puports to skewer the misogynistic mentality of heartless womanizers like Michael, in reality it reinforces an irksome Italian cinema stereotype that beneath the most elegant, rational-seeming woman lurks a sex crazed animal craving male domination.
If watching Michael indulge his S&M impulses with the naive young Marie was not queasy enough, the sight of psychotic nymphet Jacqueline succumbing to his advances edges the film further into middle-aged fantasy, with a further unsettling implication given we never really learn the identity of her father. Michael certainly suffers, bound naked and led around like a dog, but the film isn’t especially critical of his past actions. It is not abuse but abandonment that drives Marie. Once Michael is in their clutches, both women seem more intent on ravishing than torturing him, though things soon get out of hand when he tries to leave. Even so the film is an unlikely precursor to “torture porn” unless one considers being forced to watch Laura Antonelli and Blanca Marsillach cavorting in kinky underwear particularly torturous. Antonelli began her career as pretty much the one good thing about Mario Bava’s worst film, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966), before becoming a celebrated sex star in the likes of Venus in Furs (1970) and the acclaimed Malizia (1973). Thereafter she graduated to increasingly ambitious roles in movies by major auteurs, notably L’innocente (1976), the last film by Luchino Visconti, Passione d’Amore (1981) by Ettore Scola and Wifemistress (1977) which combined her twin aspects as sex symbol and serious actress. Patroni previously directed one of Antonelli’s most acclaimed films, Divina Creatura (1975), though he remains perhaps most infamous for Identikit (1974) a.k.a. The Driver’s Seat which paired Elizabeth Taylor with Andy Warhol in a rare acting role.
For what it is, The Trap is well crafted and fairly involving, but fatally silly with its tendency to brand all women as potentially dangerous and unstable. Even Hélène drags her little son away from home on Christmas day in search of her feckless lover and shrugs off revelations of his numerous infidelities with “a man is a man.” Interestingly, it is the little boy who proves the undoing of our antiheroines and is drawn as a potential misogynist in the making as he describes his young playmate as “a stupid porter’s daughter” and innocently, if significantly remarks: “Why do girls always try to play boys’ games? They’re just not good at them.” Shot in English, the film is well acted by the strong cast although dodgy sound recording renders some lines hard to follow. Ennio Morricone supplies the disco funk score.