TRAPPED BY THE MORMONS

    

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 8, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: The silent British film “Trapped By the Mormons” (1922) was anti-LDS propaganda upon its initial release and apparently hindered the English missionary effort. President Ezra Taft Benson was on a mission there at the time and later mentioned the film in his writings. But now it’s a joke. Really. And you can see it on Friday, May 8, in The Organ Loft at 7:30 p.m., with live organ accompaniment. What follows is my Nov. 26, 1982, Deseret News review of the film.

TRAPPED BY THE MORMONS — Evelyn Brent, Louis Willoughby, made before ratings (1922), probable G.

Sometimes a movie can be inherently bad, but still worth a look. And "Trapped By Mormons" is definitely worth a look.

I've been told since seeing this film that it has occasionally made the rounds at local parties because it's good for a laugh, and whether or not you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are no doubt familiar enough with Mormons to enjoy the ridiculous stereotypical "melodrama" nature of this film.

Bear in mind this is a 1922 silent film and done in the manner that was popular at the time. Apparently intended as an attack on the "evil" Mormons, it has more than its share of camp value and occasionally is downright hysterical.

"Trapped By Mormons" is an English film, telling the story of a Mormon missionary, played to the villainous hilt by Louis Willoughby. He dresses in a black suit, black cape and black, wide-brimmed hat. He has hypnotic eyes that mesmerize young women. And his name? Why, Isoldi Keene, of course.

He's the first image on the screen (see photo above) and you just want to boo him immediately.

Then we see the young lady he has his eyes on, one Nora Prescott, played very well by Evelyn Brent. (A noted lead actress of the ‘20s and ‘30s, she made movies right up to the end of the 1940s.)

       

Evelyn Brent, publicity card for 'Trapped ... '

Little Nora lives with her mother and crippled father, and longs for her sailor boyfriend who is currently at sea. But soon she is bewitched by Isoldi and promises to marry him.

 

They go to London and stay in a Mormon building (sort of a combination meeting house-condominium) called "Gethsemane." There little Nora learns the truth about Mormons – they abduct young women and force them to become polygamous wives against their will. And if they refuse, they are killed.

 

The dialogue (on cards, of course) is particularly noteworthy, such as the line uttered by Nora when she learns of polygamy: "Oh, it is too disgusting and vile."

 

And every so often the filmmakers drop in some phrase they've apparently heard in connection with Mormons. Isoldi says that Nora "is for me the lion of the Lord!" Earlier he says of his impending abduction of her, "What a flower to crush!" And the descriptive cards tell of Nora being "lured from her home into the Mormon net." It also says Nora sees Isoldi as "a vision of all-conquering manhood." And Isoldi says he longs for Utah, "where the wide Salt Lake sits at the foot of the crystal temple that calls me son."

     

If that's not enough, there's a baptism ceremony with a young woman in white entering the font, getting wet up to her waist, then climbing out again.

 

And, of course, Isoldi drinks and smokes, eventually ties a woman to a chair as he prepares to kill her and then hides from the police in a series of secret passageways in "Gethsemane."

 

There's much more of course, but you get the idea.

 

Obviously intended as anti-Mormon propaganda at the time, "Trapped By Mormons" (originally titled "Married to a Mormon") is now so dumb and campy that it's impossible for even the most devout LDS members to be offended. No doubt, they would laugh the hardest at so idiotic and inept an attempt.

 

So, for the first time, I'm actually recommending a film that I have myself labeled a turkey. "Trapped By Mormons" is unintentionally hilarious, and provides more than enough laughs for its 75-minute length.