DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
HIGHWAY 301 (director/writer: Andrew Stone; cinematographer: Carl Guthrie; editor: Owen Marks; music: William Lava; cast: Steve Cochran (George Legenza), Virginia Grey (Mary Simms), Gaby Andre (Lee Fontaine), Edmon Ryan (Detective Sgt. Truscott/Narrator), Robert Webber (William B. 'Bill' Phillips), Wally Cassell (Robert 'Bobby' Mais), Richard Egan (Herbie Brooks), Aline Towne (Madeline Walton), Edward Norris (Noyes Hinton - Gang Driver), Lyle Latell (Police Officer Murray), Paul Maxey (Earl, inside man), Bill Cartledge (Elevator Boy); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bryan Foy; Warner Bros. Archive Collection; 1950)

 
"Enjoyable action-filled B film crime drama that wants us to know that 'crime doesn't pay.'"

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Andrew Stone ("Julie"/"Cry Terror"/"The Steel Trap") effectively directs this enjoyable action-filled B film crime drama that wants us to know that 'crime doesn't pay.' It opens with the real life governors of Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina saying this crime drama is loosely based on a real crime spree by the Tri-State Gang, operating along Highway 301 in their respective three states, and that this factually based WB docudrama deserves our attention because it can prevent a potential criminal in the audience from a life of crime when they see this film and realize the police mean business going after killers and armed robbers. It ends with all the male gang members killed. Narrator Detective Sgt. Truscott (Edmon Ryan), located in Washington D.C., heads the investigation of the gang and through his voiceover we are filled in on the details of their deadly crime spree.

It opens with the bold armed robbery by the gang, wearing no masks, of a bank in Winston-Salem, N.C. The five members include the leader, the psychotic killer George Legenza (Steve Cochran); Herbie Brooks (Richard Egan); Bobby Mais (Wally Cassell); Bill Phillips (Robert Webber) and the driver (Edward Norris). Though the gang has been operating for a long time, the cops get their first important clue when a good citizen reports they switched cars after the bank robbery and gives them a partial license-plate number of their Lincoln.

After the robbery, Legenza eliminates his girlfriend (Aline Towne) in front of her hotel's elevator man (Bill Cartledge) when she becomes too talkative and too much of a risk for the vicious gang.

Much later the gang's Lincoln is spotted parked in front of their hideaway Richmond apartment by the cops, and Phillips is killed resisting arrest while sitting in the Lincoln by an alert policeman (Lyle Latell). Legenza later plugs Phillips' new naive French-Canadian wife Lee Fontaine (Gaby Andre) before she blabs to the cops in her fearful attempt to escape from the gang. But Lee is not dead, only in a coma. This leads to the exciting climax, that has the gang trying to pull the plug on Lee in a Richmond hospital, even though she's guarded by cops. There's a shootout in the hospital and a car chase, as the cops get their men and soap opera fan Mary Simms (Virginia Grey), Bobby Mais's gun moll, who was a rod-packing willing crime family member (which gets her a thirty-year stretch in the slammer).

REVIEWED ON 2/3/2011       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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