Tourist Trap (film)

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Tourist Trap
Tourist Trap one-sheet.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Schmoeller
Produced byCharles Band
J. Larry Carroll
Written byDavid Schmoeller
J. Larry Carroll
StarringChuck Connors
Jocelyn Jones
Jon Van Ness
Robin Sherwood
Tanya Roberts
Dawn Jeffory
Keith McDermott
Music byPino Donaggio
CinematographyNicholas von Sternberg
Edited byTed Nicolaou
Charles Band Productions
Distributed byCompass International Pictures
Manson International Pictures
Mid-America Releasing (Midwest United States release)
Release date
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budgetest. $800,000[1]

Tourist Trap is a 1979 American supernatural slasher film directed by David Schmoeller and starring Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, and Tanya Roberts. The film follows a group of young people who stumble upon a roadside museum housing mannequins that wield supernatural powers. Schmoeller co-wrote the script with J. Larry Carroll who served as producer for the film alongside famous producer/director Charles Band.


Eileen and her boyfriend Woody are driving through the desert. When their car gets a flat, Woody goes to find a gas station. Their friends Becky, Jerry, and Molly are traveling separately in a different vehicle. They reach Eileen waiting at the car and they all drive off to collect Woody.

Woody has found a gas station but it appears deserted. He enters the back room but becomes trapped. Various mannequins appear in the room, and multiple objects fly at him until a metal pipe impales and kills him.

The others find a tourist trap and conclude Woody is there. As they drive in, their vehicle mysteriously breaks down. Jerry tries to fix his jeep and the girls go skinny dipping in a nearby oasis. As they swim, Mr. Slausen - the owner of said tourist trap - appears holding a shotgun. Though outwardly polite he also seems embittered by the decline of his tourist trap since the highway was moved away. The nude girls feel awkward in the water as he chats and they apologize for trespassing.

Slausen offers to help Jerry with the jeep, but insists the group go to his house with him to get his tools. There, they see the tourist trap: animated waxworks figures, including armed bandits. Eileen is curious about a nearby house, but Slausen insists that the women should stay inside the museum. Slausen takes Jerry to fix the jeep, leaving the women. Eileen leaves to find a phone in the other house. There she finds several mannequins inside the house. Someone calls her name, and a stranger wearing a grotesque mask suddenly appears behind her. Various items in the room move of their own accord and the scarf Eileen is wearing tightens and strangles her to death.

Slausen returns to Molly and Becky saying that Jerry drove his truck into town. When told that Eileen left, he goes to the house and finds Eileen has been turned into a mannequin. He returns and tells Molly and Becky he did not find Eileen and will leave again to continue the search. The women are frustrated, and later leave the museum to search for Eileen. Becky enters the nearby house and finds a mannequin resembling Eileen. Becky is attacked by the masked killer and then by multiple mannequins. She later wakes up tied up in the basement along with Jerry. Jerry says the killer is Slausen's brother. Also held captive is Tina (Dawn Jeffory), who is strapped to a table. She is killed when the masked man covers her face with plaster, causing her to suffocate. Jerry frees himself and attacks the killer, but is soon overpowered. Jerry tries to reach for a key but the killer telekinetically moves it from his reach.

Molly is still outside and searching for the others. She is soon pursued by the masked man. She meets Slausen who drives her to the museum and gives her a gun while he goes inside. The masked man appears and Molly shoots, but the gun is loaded with blanks. The man removes the mask, revealing himself to be Slausen. She panics and tries to elude Slausen but is soon captured and restrained to a bed.

Becky and Jerry escape from the basement, but get separated. Slausen appears and takes Becky to the museum. There the Old West figures begin shooting at her. Becky is killed by an Indian Chief figure who throws a knife at her, stabbing her in the back of the head. Back at the house, Jerry arrives to rescue Molly, but he is revealed to have unknowingly been turned into a mannequin. Slausen dances with the figure of his wife, and Molly sees that the wife has become animated. Traumatized, she kills Slausen with an axe.

The next morning, an insane Molly is seen driving away in the jeep with the mannequin versions of her friends.




The screenplay for Tourist Trap was written by David Schmoeller and J. Larry Carroll, the latter of whom pitched the film to producer Charles Band.[2] Initially, Schmoeller intended for John Carpenter to direct the film, but Carroll was unsatisfied with the financial arrangements, and opted instead that Schmoeller should direct.[2] Carroll and Schmoeller had previously pitched the film to producers Samuel Z. Arkoff and Bruce Cohn Curtis, but were unable to secure a production arrangement.[3]

The original screenplay did not feature the telekinetic powers; according to Carroll, the idea was proposed by Band, who insisted it be implemented into the script.[2]


The production did not appoint a casting director for the film, instead relying on independent talent agents to help cast the roles.[3] According to director Schmoeller, $50,000 of the film's budget was dedicated to salary for the lead actor portraying the villain Mr. Slausen.[3] The role was offered to several older Hollywood actors, such as Jack Palance and Gig Young, but both turned the project down.[3] Chuck Connors, who was the production crew's third choice for the role, accepted the role.[3]

According to Schmoeller, each of the actors in the film aside from Connors auditioned for their parts.[3] Jocelyn Jones was cast as the female lead, Molly, after Schmoeller had seen some of her previous performances, while Tanya Roberts was given the role of Becky.[3] Jon Van Ness and Robin Sherwood were given the roles of Jerry and Eileen, respectively.[3]


Tourist Trap was filmed in 24 days in Los Angeles County, California, with additional interiors shot at Rampart Sound Studios in Los Angeles.[1] Principal photography began on March 27, 1978.[1] A portion of the interior scenes were shot at an abandoned house located at 5255 Hollywood Boulevard which was scheduled for demolition.[1] Schmoeller made arrangements with the contractor to postpone the demolition of the building for five days, during which time the crew shot footage.[1] By using the abandoned location, the production saved an estimated $30,000 in set construction and soundstage fees.[1] David Wyler, the son of William Wyler, served a second assistant director,[3] while the director of photography was Nicholas von Sternberg, son of Josef von Sternberg.[3]

Production designer Robert A. Burns, who had worked on Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977), handled the art direction – and the majority of the special effects – on Tourist Trap, including the mannequins and their physical manipulations.[3][4] To accomplish the poltergeist-like effects in the film's opening scene, the set was constructed at a rotated 90 degrees; this allowed items to be hurled by the crew from the cabinet—which was in fact anchored to the ceiling—to the floor, which appeared on camera as a wall.[3] Other special effects were accomplished with the use of wires.[3] For the death sequence of Tanya Roberts's character, for example, a block of wood was taped behind Roberts's hair; a knife attached to a wire was hurled at the back of her head, which stuck into the wooden block.[3]

Schmoeller recalled the filming process as being a "learning" experience as he was a first-time director; he stated in a 2014 interview that he learned a significant amount of "how to work with actors" from actress Jones.[3]


Italian composer Pino Donaggio was in town working on Joe Dante's Piranha (1978) at the time that David Schmoeller was filming Tourist Trap.[4] Since Donaggio spoke Spanish – as did Schmoeller – the director was able to convince the composer to score the music for Tourist Trap. The two would have subsequent collaborations, including Crawlspace (1986).[4]


According to the American Film Institute Catalog, the film premiered in Los Angeles, California on March 14, 1979.[1] Despite its depictions of violence and macabre images, the Motion Picture Association of America awarded the film a PG rating.[3] Because of its rating, the film was able to receive significant broadcasting on syndicated television in the years following its theatrical release.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

From contemporary reviews, Variety wrote, "Although pic has some appropriately menacing music and occasionally employs some decent special effects, the plot is too loaded with cliches, from the concept to individual bits of dialog to be taken seriously and not silly enough to be regarded as delightfully bad."[5] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "has some moments of effectiveness, but even the hard-line shiverists are likely to feel it's a long time between shrieks."[6] Tim Pulleine of the Monthly Film Bulletin called the film a "wholly unimaginative exercise in low-budget horror plunders Psycho for its central plot gimmick in a fashion even more hamfisted than its is bare-faced." and that "Nothing much is made of the potentially sinister import of the wax dummies, by comparison with whom the human performers also fail to come off too well"[7]

From retrospective reviews, Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film one and a half out of four stars, stating that although the film had a couple of genuine scares, it was a "mostly boring thriller".[8] Author Stephen King, in his book Danse Macabre (1981), praised the film as an obscure classic, noting that the film "wields an eerie spooky power, as wax figures begin to move and come to life in a ruined, out-of-the-way tourist resort."[9]

Jason Buchanan from AllMovie praised the film, calling it "one of the most underappreciated low-budget horror films of the 1970s". In his review on the film, Buchanan commended the film's atmosphere, score, Conners' performance, and unsettling use of sound and imagery; comparing it to Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.[10] TV Guide awarded the film two out of four stars, calling it a "bizarre, eerie shocker."[11]

The film was satirized by RiffTrax on November 21, 2012.[12]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD by Cult Video on July 20, 1998. It was re-released on DVD by Wizard Entertainment on March 19, 2013. Full Moon Features released the film for the first time on Blu-ray on May 20, 2014.[13] The Full Moon Blu-ray release features a truncated version of the film; though the film's violent scenes remain intact, minor plot points are absent from this cut of the film.[14][15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Tourist Trap". American Film Institute Catalog. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Borseti 2016, p. 125.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Griffith, Daniel (dir.) (2014). Exit Through the Chop Shop: The Making of Tourist Trap. Tourist Trap (Blu-ray)|format= requires |url= (help) (Documentary). Full Moon Entertainment.
  4. ^ a b c "The Man Behind...Tourist Trap!: An Interview with David Schmoeller – November 1999". The Terror Trap. November 1999. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  5. ^ "The Tourist Trap". Variety: 28. March 21, 1979.
  6. ^ Champlin, Charles (March 14, 1979). "Chuck Connors and the Dummies". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 13.
  7. ^ Pulleine, Tim (February 1981). "Tourist Trap". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 48 no. 565. British Film Institute. p. 36.
  8. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide (1st ed.). New York, New York: Penguin Group. p. 1446. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
  9. ^ King, Stephen (1 March 2011). Danse Macabre. Simon and Schuster. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-4391-7116-5.
  10. ^ "Tourist Trap (1979) - David Schmoeller". AllMovie. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  11. ^ "Tourist Trap". TV Guide. Retrieved March 13, 2018. 2/4 stars
  12. ^ "Tourist Trap". RiffTrax. 2014-09-19. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  13. ^ "Tourist Trap (1979) - David Schmoeller". AllMovie. Retrieved December 16, 2017.
  14. ^ "Tourist Trap". Movie-Censorship. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Tonzelli, J. (December 30, 2014). "Blu-ray Review: Tourist Trap". CutPrintFilm. Retrieved March 13, 2018.

Works cited[edit]

  • Borseti, Francesco (2016). It Came from the 80s!: Interviews with 124 Cult Filmmakers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-1-476-62563-8.

External links[edit]