*. An ending. Not the end of Charlie Chan on screen, but the last turn taken by Sidney Toler as the great Asian-American detective, and indeed Toler’s last screen appearance. He’d been diagnosed with intestinal cancer and was effectively dying on his feet through the last several Chan movies, apparently in such ill health he could sometimes barely walk or deliver his lines. So in addition to The Trap being a lousy movie, it’s sad too.
*. Efforts had been made to have Jimmy Chan (Victor Sen Yung) and Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland) carry more of the load. This they do (Toler doesn’t even appear until 16 minutes in), but they do so in only the usual ways. Birmingham walks around scared to death at everything, including his own reflection in a mirror. while Jimmy hits on a pretty Chinese girl. But neither of them accomplish much.
*. This is one of the more disappointing things about the Chan movies in general. It’s not like they present a bunch of suspects and then build them up with distinct motivations while throwing in some red herrings along the way. Instead, none of the players are clearly distinguished and at the end Charlie usually just plays a hunch or sets a trap to catch the killer. You’re left with no clear idea of what was going on. The Trap (and I’m not sure what the title refers to) is better than most in this regard, as the killer does have a motive that at least makes sense, but it’s reveal also just feels dropped in at the end.
*. The story has a female troupe of . . . entertainers (singers? dancers? I wasn’t sure what they were) renting an oceanside property in Malibu, where a couple of them end up being garroted. One of the girls knows Jimmy Chan and this inadvertently gets Charlie on the case.
*. Just a sad conclusion to a series of films that were never very good to begin with. The mystery isn’t worth paying any attention to and the moments of comic relief all fall flat. They weren’t putting any effort into these at this point and it shows. But just because Toler was gone didn’t mean there they were going to stop. At least not quite yet.