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Rock Movie Reviews

1983: dir. Julien Temple, Martin Fry, David Palmer, Stephen Singleton, Mark White, James Villiers, Lisa Vanderpump

A conversation... with special guest Erin.

K: Well the back of the video box says “file under ESPIONAGE THRILLER: MANTRAP” but I say file under “HUH?”

E: So what *was* the premise of this film??? I will now try to explain, though I myself have NO IDEA. Let’s see. Somewhere in a casino ABC sans a singer meets Martin Fry who is a losing gambler. After setting him up to win a lot of money with the help of his living Nagle paiting of a girlfriend ‘Samantha’ and setting him up to get beat up and have all his money stolen. The band save him from a beating and then want him to be the singer of the band.

K: You’re already so wrong. Obviously they’d been following him around waiting for the moment when he was vulnerable and his losing gambling streak was just the right time to hit him up with the irresistable Samantha. In fact I wonder if that was even a *real* casino considering that as soon as she told him to bet on “13” it kept coming up over and over until he had a stack o’chips.

E:Oh ya, it comes up at least 7 times in a row that we see - like they wouldn’t throw his skinny British butt out in the snow after the 3rd time. Then they obviously plan to have him beat up. OK, this might make sense but why they save him from the beating so that he’ll be so grateful he’ll have to audition to be the singer of their band...

K: I guess, ummm, well he was hit on the head and all. My question is the whole plot revolved on him being the singer in this band as they tour Europe but how did they know he could sing?

E: Well I guess it wasn’t that important since they already ‘had a shot at a big European tour all they need is a singer’ - huh? Lilke, who would want a band to tour Europe ‘if you guys get a singer’ - well then again the details don’t matter because ITS ALL A COVER FOR ESPIONAGE - but what the espionage is, is totally beyond me. Our only clue is that some evil Russian (this is the 80’ syou know) sits in a dark basement for 35 minutes of this film watching 16mm films of the band, learning to sing, dance (not hard - just painful), and look like Martin so he can REPLACE HIM but WHY WHY WHY???

K: I’m guessing that this was the plan from the beginning - why there was the “casino”, “robbery”, and “tour” so they could get the “evil” Russian guy out before he was “arrested.” Yes, I know this is a lot of guesswork. But this is a high-concept “video art” piece.

E: Wait, I didn’t think he was arrested, I thought they welcomed him home ‘good job’ and all that, his wife or daughter or something hugging him. I thought he was a spy.

K: The ”welcome home” was when they were leaving Czechoslovakia and it was supposed to be Martin returning home. Which I think it may have been because of the tie pin but I don’t know - why would Samantha have bothered even giving him such a thing. Anyway I thought when the other gold-lame suited guy was found out on the rocks (another big huh? there) that they were waving Wanted posters with his face on them. Or was that just me trying to project some sense into this?

E: I thought they were tour posters they wanted him to autograph. OK, let’s get back to the tie tack for a moment. So it’s all a plot, the girl, Samantha is just a tramp, sent in to seduce him, make him do what they want. She tells him she loves him and then, to really send the message home she gives him A TIE TACK. This sets new standards for romantic gift giving. Have you ever gotten something this thoughtful from a beau Kelly?

K: Well, at least it was jewelry which is a thoughtful well-respected gift unlike the maribou-trimmed camisole and TAP PANTS I received in a relationship that was weeks old!

E: I got a dictionary and thesaurus for my birthday once, after 2 years! I knew he meant well though so I didn’t act disappointed, and actually I still use those books now. It really would have put a different spin on that scene if she had given him a Thesaurus, don’t you think? then at the end he’d go back to the UK, and we’d see him look up some phrases and know “A-HA!’

E: But there were a lot of shiny, shiny suits so that was good.

K: Yes, but we can’t wholeheartedly praise the costume designer as they all wore white socks and hideous slip-on loafers.

E: I will say though that I thought after all this time Martin Fry still has a pretty cool voice, lots of attack in it, and I have a new appreciation for “All Of My Heart”. I think I’d rather stick to the records tho.

K: Or the videos! ABC had lots of cool videos and they half-assedly tried to incorporate “Poison Arrow” into this film when it probably could’ve been used to up the ante plot-wise.

E: Ya, what was that? It's in a dream sequence which is luckily just as incoherent as the rest. However, it’s incoherentness is masked by the next thing that happens being even more incoherent: he wakes up from his bad dream and plays with a flicka card of a dancing lady. Did you say “high-concept”?

K: So I guess the whole point of Mantrap was to make a concert film that wasn’t a complete bore to watch but I’d say that not only was the concert footage boring but there wasn’t enough “action” in the plot to justify having one in the first place. Sadly, I just can’t recommend this even as a piece of ‘80s nostalgia.

E: But it was laugh out loud baffling.