Highway 301 (1950)

Director:

Andrew L. Stone (as Andrew Stone)

Led by a psychotic killer, a vicious gang of armed robbers terrorizes Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, robbing banks and payrolls and murdering anyone who might identify them

HIGHWAY 301 is a rip-roaring Warner Brothers return to their hard-hitting early 1930s gangster cycle complete with a “Crime Does Not Pay” prologue delivered by the governors of the three states the events take place in. Filmed in a semi-documentary style with sporadic voice-over narration, the tale is based on “cold, hard fact” and is surprisingly sadistic -which could be the reason why I never saw it on TV growing up.

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Like many good crime melodramas, H301 opens with a bank robbery and follows the gang and their molls as they live life on the run and I was reminded of 1967’s BONNIE & CLYDE in its depiction of a “family” of outlaws contending with pressures from within as they’re relentlessly pursued by the long arm of the law.

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The brutally handsome Steve Cochran dominates his surroundings as the flint-eyed, heartless, “take-no-prisoners” leader of the “Tri-State Gang” who can calmly kill at the drop of a fedora and Robert Webber and newcomer Gaby Andre (whatever happened to her?) are believable as a young con and his naive bride in over their heads. Familiar face Virginia Grey scores as a radio-addicted dame who knows the score and the reliable Eddie Norris and Richard Egan are also on hand in small roles. The director, Andrew Stone, wrote the never-a-dull-moment script and, in addition to the solid direction and “A” production values only a major studio can provide, the violence directed at women and the high body count made this fast-paced police procedural a slick “shocker” for its day and it still packs a punch. Warners also made WHITE HEAT, KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE (both with James Cagney), and THE DAMNED DON’T CRY (again with bad boy Cochran) around the same time. Highly recommended for fans of this type of film -and you know who you are.

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a real humdinger of a cops and robber movie.

6 February 2007 | by sharynordon-1 (United States) – See all my reviews

I saw this very exciting and fast paced gangster movie over 50 years ago and remember it fondly to this very day. I even remember the theater I saw it in on a Saturday matinée. It kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end and the action never lets up. It’s a classic Steve Cochran performance. A real bad apple with no redeeming qualities. Andrew L. Stone directed which is really no surprise because he specialized in action and suspense films which don’t allow the viewer to take a deep breath such as the Last Voyage, Cry Terror and Blueprint for Murder. This is the kind of cops and robbers film that they don’t make any more.

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Good stuff in Steve Cochran’s “White Heat”

Author: jadedalex from United States
5 April 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I will always have fond memories of Steve Cochran’s portrayal of the scheming but doomed “Big Ed” in Raoul Walsh’s classic “White Heat”.

Cochran gets to play the brutal lead gangster in “Highway 301”. I wonder how much Cochran absorbed watching Cagney play the criminally insane “Cody Jarrett”. Cochrane has a brutally handsome sinister face, but not much else. To be fair to Cochran, the script is hardly of the caliber of “White Heat”. Steve is one mean son of a gun here — he seems to get a real kick out of murdering women and bank guards. But whereas Cagney’s performance in “White Heat” is a fleshed-out fully alive personality, Cochran’s Legenza is a cardboard villain whose sadism is never explained.

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There are some good moments. Director Stone crafts a scene that is worthy of Hitchcock (and no doubt inspired by the Master) when Gaby Andre’s character uses a piece of paper and a hairpin to unwedge a key, drop it onto the paper and slide it over to her side of the door. It doesn’t sound like much on paper — but the editing is well done and the scene becomes that overused term “Hitchcockian”.

Cochran’s death is fairly hideous, a brutal affair involving a freight train, but the scene only reminds me of how great Cagney was on “top of the world’.

If you can get past the slow opening with three fine governors from the states bordering “Highway 301” (this film is supposedly based on a true story) pontificating about what a wonderful film you are about to see, you are in for a rough brutal ride.

Actually, thinking of Cochran, he was fairly effective as “Big Ed” in “White Heat”. Even though we have seen his character in a love affair with Cody’s wife Verna, there is still a curious admiration for this young gangster when he declares to Verna that he must take a stand against Cody Jarrett. As I said, had the script been better, Cochran could have done something more interesting on “Highway 301”.

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Ruthless law breakers who dared to defy the government, the law, and the people!

8/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
28 September 2012

Highway 301 is written and directed by Andrew L. Stone. It stars Steve Cochran, Virginia Grey, Gaby André and Edmond Ryan. Music is by William Lava and photography by Carl Guthrie. Story is based on a real gang of robbers known as The Tri-State Gang, who terrorised and thieved in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. Plot chronicles their activities and the pursuit of them by the authorities.

It opens with a trio of state governors cringe worthily pumping up the hard sell, for what we know is going to be a “crime doesn’t not pay” message movie. I half expected the Star Spangled Banner to come booming out the speakers and an FBI version of Uncle Sam to flash on the screen telling us to come join the Crime Stoppers! Thankfully, once the cringe stops the film kicks in with a ruthless bank robbery and never looks back from that moment.

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Led by cold blooded George Legenza (Cochran), this gang don’t wear masks, they are ruthless but not beyond error, and tagging along are molls who are either oblivious to the gang’s activities – fully complicit – or ignorant. It’s a pressure cooker dynamic and as we soon find out, women are not going to be treated well here at all, if they are in the way or a threat to safety, they will cop it. Highway 301 is a violent film with some cold characterisations, and there may even be a subtle homosexual relationship between two of the gang members.

Andrew Stone’s direction is tight and in tune with the jagged edges of his characters, with barely a filler shot used in the whole running

time, while his scene structure for dramatic impacts work very well. Refreshingly there are no cheat cut-aways either. His cast are on form, with Cochran looming large with an intense and thoroughly dislikable portrayal leading the way, while Guthrie photographs with shadows prominent and a couple of night time street scenes that are visually noirish. Unfortunately Stone’s screenplay hasn’t the time to put depth into the principal players, the gang are bad and greedy, the women scratching around for purpose or brains, but that’s all we know. It’s the one flaw in an otherwise great crime movie. 8/10

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“Don’t dance with strangers or talk to anyone with a mustache.”

6/10
Author: utgard14 from USA
4 December 2014

A gang of well-dressed armed robbers, unimaginatively dubbed the Tri-State Outfit by police, go on a crime spree across three states. The opening bit with the real governors of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina giving speeches about law & order will have you rolling your eyes. But stay with this one because it does get better. Steve Cochran is great as the cold-blooded leader of the gang. Robert Webber, Wally Cassell, and Richard Egan are among the other familiar faces in the cast. Lovely actresses Virginia Grey, Gaby André, and Aline Towne pretty things up as molls. Grey’s character is a radio junkie, which leads to some funny moments. I liked the location scenery and the cars, fashions, and architecture of the period. It’s a well-paced B crime picture with lots of grit and some atmosphere. Cheesy at times and never anything deep but it is solid entertainment. Were it not for the corny “crime does not pay” messages, this one would probably be more well-known and liked.

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