By even the most lenient of cinematic standards, "Trapped by the Mormons" is not a good piece of filmmaking. In fact, local film historian Hunter Hale concedes that "seen today, it plays as unintentionally hilarious."
Much of that has to do with the depiction of the main character in the film a sinister Mormon missionary named Isoldi Keene (Louis Willoughby), who seduces young British women using his "mesmeric" powers.
"The English clergy, books, films and the sensational newspapers of the day were always warning English girls to beware of being seduced and taken to Utah by lustful Mormon missionaries," Hale said. "The contrast between their perceptions and the reality of the LDS Church is what makes ('Trapped') so fascinating to watch today."
Hale also described the movie as an important artifact "from a time when motion pictures depicted the LDS Church in a negative way. Most of these films no longer exist, making the preservation of this one, in the best possible way, all the more important."
That's why Hale and his brother, Richard, helped spearhead efforts to bring the infamously inaccurate 1922 silent film to the DVD format. The two volunteered their services to help make what Hale believes is the "definitive" version of the movie released so far.
"('Trapped') has long been in the public domain," he explained, noting that it has been issued on several videotape versions, "all with terrible music tracks and no extras."
However, the new version being released by Arizona specialty-film distributor Grapevine Video, was duplicated from what Hale believes is one of the best existing copies of the film. And the new DVD release is chock-full of extras, such the 1905 Thomas Edison short "A Trip to Salt Lake City" and new music scores for both the feature and the Edison short, performed by Blaine Gale on the restored Wurlitzer Organ at Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden.
Other extras include an audio-commentary track by James V. D'Arc, Brigham Young University film archivist; a short documentary about LDS filmmaking; and the full text of Winifred Graham's 1911 novel "The Love Story of a Mormon," the source material for "Trapped by the Mormons."
Hale transcribed the novel onto his a laptop computer from a rare copy at the LDS Church History Library (though those efforts became easier when another copy of the book became available).
As a kickoff for the DVD release, the Organ Loft will be showing the film the next two weekends, with Gale providing live musical accompaniment. (Hale also serves as the Organ Loft's programming director.)
The DVD has a limited print run of 1,000 copies, 300 of which will be available locally. As of Wednesday, the Organ Loft will be selling copies for $16, as will Ken Sanders Rare Books, 258 S. 200 East.
The Hales and the Organ Loft will be donating proceeds from DVD sales to the LDS Perpetual Education Fund. "So, in a way, this anti-Mormon film will now do a little good for the (LDS) Church," Hale said.
What: "Trapped by the Mormons"
Where: The Organ Loft, 3331 S. Edison (approximately 150 East)
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $5
E-mail: [email protected]