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Highway 301

Highway 301(1950)

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Highway 301 (1950)

Musical and light comedy specialist Andrew L. Stone turned to crime for Highway 301, the violent story of the real-life armed robbers known as The Tri-State Gang. Warner Bros wanted a follow-up to the James Cagney gangster hit White Heat that would showcase new star Steve Cochran, who was Jack Warner's idea of a guy women can't resist. Aiming for documentary realism, Stone filmed a prologue in which three state Governors address the camera. Yet the bulk of the picture is straight drama filmed on studio sets, with Los Angeles locations standing in for Virginia and Maryland. Cochran's tough outfit includes a young Richard Egan and Robert Webber in his first screen appearance. Along for the crime spree are Virginia Grey's seasoned gun moll and Gaby Andre's relative innocent. Cue magazine noted that the film teaches the lesson that crooks should stay away from girls, as that's what trips them up. The less-amused Bosley Crowther condemned the show's two robbery scenes and seven killings, one of them a brutal execution of a terrified woman, as "a straight exercise in low sadism." Cochran's criminal maniac is finally cornered when he invades a hospital to rub out a witness. Director Stone and his editor wife Virginia soon went independent for a series of highly realistic crime and suspense stories with sensational titles like The Night Holds Terror (1955) and The Decks Ran Red (1958). For their seagoing thriller The Last Voyage (1960) the Stones took realism to an extreme and partially sank an actual ocean liner. The filmmakers' judgment on credibility was usually correct. The studio rejected the early title "The Million Dollar Robbery" because they felt such a high figure was unbelievable. Then the famous Boston Brinks holdup occurred, which netted its thieves almost three million in cash and bonds!

By Glenn Erickson

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