Clint Walker takes his shirt off in this episode. See more »
As Cheyenne turns to leave the Stagge house he brushes back his hair and puts on his hat. In the next shot from outside Cheyenne exits the house and again brushes back his hair and puts on his hat. See more »
With so many western series on TV from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, there was bound to be a certain number of plot duplications. One of the plots which turned up in various forms on these shows had the lone cowboy riding into a strange town, being arrested on some trumped-up charge, and then getting sentenced to work in a mine, on a chain-gang, at a prison farm, etc. "The Trap" may not have been the archetype for this particular plot but it was certainly one of its earliest examples and also one of its best incarnations.
Cheyenne rides into Stagge City, is arrested on petty charges, tried, and convicted -- all in a matter of minutes. He winds up having to serve 90 days hard-labor at a nearby silver mine. Cheyenne soon learns this is how the mine operators get the cheap labor they need. More ominously, he also learns that once a prisoner starts work in the mine, ways are found to extend his sentence indefinitely. Thus he's truly fallen into a "trap." The mine is owned by Brian Stagge who lives at a nearby house with his daughter, Virginia. Stagge, however, has suffered a stroke and can neither walk nor speak. Actual operation of the mine lies in the hands of Iris Danner, a determined and manipulative woman who'd originally been hired as Virginia's teacher. Iris rules with an iron hand using gunfighter Les Shore to enforce her authority.
Cheyenne grudgingly performs his duties in the mine, pushing ore-laden cars out of the mine on a track. He's shocked and angered, however, when one of his fellow prisoners, Whitey, is shot dead by a rifle-toting guard. Convinced of the need to escape, Cheyenne pretends to be swayed by Iris when -- impressed by his power, strength, and yes, desirability -- she offers him a job as overseer. This arouses Les Shore's jealousy, (as Iris probably intended), leading to a shoot-out between the two men and an eventual end to the slave-labor situation at the mine.
One reason this plot showed up on the episodes of so many TV westerns was the opportunity it afforded for the show's hero to appear, bare-chested and sweaty, in a "bondage" situation. (Usually without showing his belly button, however.) None of those episodes, however, could match "The Trap" for sheer "beefcake" appeal. In virtually all the mine scenes Clint Walker -- a perfect male specimen at age 29 -- is shown, (in leg-irons), stripped to the waist with that famously hairy chest of his gleaming with perspiration. No wonder Iris, whenever she looks at her muscular, half-naked prisoner, seems to be mentally pulling down his jeans.
This episode, alas, is not without its faults, largely due to the fact that it's stuffed with too many characters and relationships for an hour-long show. Brian Stagge's daughter, Virginia, for example, is poorly-developed and doesn't serve much of a plot function. She's young enough and pretty enough to qualify as a "romantic interest" but Cheyenne gives no indication he regards her in that way. (Despite his undeniable appeal to both men and women, Cheyenne seems to lead a monkish, almost asexual existence.) Even less is known about Virginia's wheelchair-bound father. What was he like before his stroke? What does he think of Iris? For that matter, who is Iris? Did she seek a job at the ranch with evil intentions in mind or did she merely take advantage of an unexpected opportunity?
A character named Ray Landers works for Iris and seems to be a rival for her affections along with gunfighter Les Shore but this whole subplot comes across as a needless complication and is soon eliminated from the proceedings. There's also the matter of a farmer named Lee Mitchell (played by veteran character actor Louis Jean Heydt) who's sentenced to do mine work along with Cheyenne and who may represent local opposition to the mining operation, but this aspect of a larger story is only touched on and never explored. What objections would farmers have to the silver mine?
Finally, Cheyenne seems to know young Whitey too briefly and too casually to be deeply moved by his shooting, and Whitey is quickly, almost callously forgotten after his death. Is he buried near the mine? Does Cheyenne visit his grave site? (Whitey, incidentally, is played by ex-physique model, Bob Hover.) A leaner, more focused story-line -- or an expanded one with enough time to answer all these questions -- would have strengthened this episode. A flogging would have helped as well. Howver, this episode's almost iconic images of Clint Walker as a powerful yet peaceable man forced into chains of submission still retain their power after the passage of 50 years and they help make "The Trap" something of a television classic.
(For a variation on this story, see the episode of "Cimarron City" titled "Terror Town" which was aired on October 18, 1958. In this episode, a shirtless and sweaty George Montgomery performs slave-labor inside a silver mine.)
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