By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
The early 20th century saw an explosion of anti-Mormon propagandasome 30 anti-LDS films were produced between 1905 and 1936, mostly in Great Britain. As part of its Mormonsploitation festival, the Pioneer will be showing two staples of the genre, A Mormon Maid (1917) and Trapped by the Mormons (1922), a new silent remake of which anchors the series.
While positioned firmly as camp, the new Trapped by the Mormons is a surprisingly faithful renderingat least until the flesh-eating zombies show up. Stenographer Nora (Emily Riehl-Bedford) becomes infatuated with Mormon recruiter Isoldi (played in an inspired bit of casting by downtown drag king Johnny Kat) and soon finds herself imprisoned in a halfway house, about to be shipped off to Utah. Many intertitles are copied word-for-word, and first-time filmmaker Ian Allen accepts the black-and-white cinematography and limited mobility of early-'20s cinema as ground rules. Even the over-the-top final act merely makes explicit the vampirism latent in the original, with a turn to the supernatural preceding a series of gruesome deaths, and a much grimmer conclusion.
The earlier version contextualizes Britain's fear of the LDS within the greater anxiety of the encounter with modernity; a key scene where Isoldi takes Nora out to a London nightclub somewhat counter-intuitively (at least to contemporary audiences) links Mormonism to the decadence of the city. The new film makes this connection between polygamous Mormonism and licentious sexuality even cleareroffering a glimpse of a cavorting naked couple in the club scene, as well as a hornier Nora; this must be the first movie in which an LDS pamphlet is used as a masturbation aid.
The new Trappedplays daily during Mormonsploitation week. The series also features a pair of New York Dolls documentariesBob Gruen's vintage-shot All Dolled Up and Greg Whiteley's recent New York Dollas well as a collection of shorts, John Ford's 1950 pioneer western Wagon Master, and most bizarrely, last year's terrific sci-fi indie Primer, which is not a Mormon movie in any sense, but should be seen anyway.
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