Friday, May 08, 2015

CODE TWO (1953)

This film follows three buddies as they make their way through training at the Los Angeles Police Academy. Ralph Meeker is the cocky, anti-authority guy who, even when he takes a wrong step and gets in trouble, doesn't learn his lesson—but we all know from WWII movies that there's something in him that will lead him to redemption; Jeff Richards, whose father was a cop killed in the line of duty, is handsome and quiet; Robert Horton has a stable married life, though Meeker and Richards become rivals for Horto'ns sister-in-law (Elaine Stewart). All three make it through the Academy, even though Meeker's superiors (Keenan Wynn and James Craig) disagree over his potential, and all three decide to apply for motorcycle duty—it's considered glamorous and exciting—but tragedy strikes when they clash with a gang of cattle smugglers and one of the three is killed, knocked unconscious and deliberately run over by a truck. The final confrontation between the bad guys and the surviving cops involves a chase in a slaughterhouse, a butcher knife, and a vat of quicklime.

This begins like a Dragnet-type police procedural with a long narrated segment on automobile accident statistics, but once the story kicks in, it becomes a traditional human-interest police drama. The acting is variable: Meeker can't do much different with his character as written, but he's compelling enough; Horton is a bit on the bland side—again, partly due to his bland character; Richards is good in a role that doesn’t give him much shading. Keenan Wynn is fine as the guy who puts his own reputation on the line for Meeker. As is par for the course, the women fade into the background, and the strongest connections are between the men. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Chuck Connors in a small role as a cop. Though predictable, the finale really is worth sticking around for. Pictured, left to right, are Meeker, Horton and Richards. [Warner Archive Instant]

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