Monday, September 06, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Code Two (1953)

CODE TWO (1953) is an entertaining MGM "B" movie about the training of LAPD motorcycle cops. It's no classic, but it's fun to watch and is likely to appeal to a variety of people, including Southern Californians, fans of vintage motorcycles, and those who enjoy watching TV Westerns and police shows.

This short 69-minute black and white film plays somewhat like an episode of DRAGNET, complete with the opening credits superimposed over a police badge. The documentary-style first half of the film is the best, as we follow three new recruits through their training at the Los Angeles Police Academy. The trainees supervised by Sgt. Culdane (Keenan Wynn) and Lt. Redmon (James Craig).

The rookies are played by Robert Horton (WAGON TRAIN), Ralph Meeker, and Jeff Richards (SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS). Horton plays the responsible family man, who's married to Sally Forrest; Meeker is the brash womanizer; and Richards is the shy hunk dating Forrest's gorgeous sister, played by Elaine Stewart. I especially enjoyed Richards and Stewart and wished they'd had a little more screen time.

The film shifts gears after the men make the motorcycle squad; tragedy strikes, leading the officers to work on solving a murder case involving modern-day cattle rustlers. I found this section of the film less interesting than the "nuts and bolts" of police training of the early '50s. There's a bit of "early CSI" info regarding tire treads and blood testing, but this part of the film has a more run-of-the-mill "catch the bad guys" storyline.

It's noteworthy that the actors did quite a bit of their own motorcycle riding, including, as far as I could tell, some of the more dangerous maneuvers. The riding sequences are done so smoothly that I didn't even think about the fact the actors themselves had been riding off road and even spilling their bikes until I read a review at Where Danger Lives. That aspect merits a closer look next time to see which scenes, if any, were done with stunt doubles.

Fans of classic TV Westerns will enjoy seeing not only Robert Horton, but Chuck Connors, who turns up as an L.A. County Sheriff near the end of the film.

The familiar character faces in the film include Fred Graham, Roy Engel, Robert Foulk, Tyler McVey, Frank Wilcox, and Almira Sessions.

It's interesting that IMDb notes the footage of Ann Doran as a police dispatcher is actually taken from her role in HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948). If that's accurate it's rather curious, as HE WALKED BY NIGHT was not an MGM movie.

CODE TWO was directed by Fred M. Wilcox.

CODE TWO is not available on VHS or DVD, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is available at TCM.

January 2013 Update: CODE TWO is now available in a remastered print from the Warner Archive.


Blogger DKoren said...

I'm envious! This is one I've been wanting to see (I'm a big Ralph Meeker fan), but because it's not available, I've not been able to catch it.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I TCM will run this again soon, or perhaps add it to the Warner Archive. You do such a good job researching film locations -- I'd love to know if scenes such as at the swimming pool were actually filmed at the Police Academy. There were pine trees and so on which looked like it could be the Elysian Park area and I assume the LAPD probably cooperated -- the movie would have been a good recruiting tool.

Incidentally, it's interesting to note, from the modern-day perspective, that all the wild riding in the movie was done without motorcycle helmets. :)

Best wishes,

8:59 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

I think you're thinking of Robbie Cress, who has those great posts about all the LA locations. I can name lots of Western film locations, and quite a few of the outdoor filming spots, but not so much building/city related, though I do live in LA.

Alas, don't have cable, so can't catch it on TCM, but if they add it to the Warner Archive, I will probably grab it!

11:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're right, I got the two of you confused! My apologies to you both. :)

Let's cross our fingers for an Archive release!! When I become aware of movies I've reviewed coming out via Warner Archive I try to go back and update the post with that info -- sometimes it takes a few weeks -- so you might want to check back on that post periodically, or else, of course, visit Warner Archive directly.

Best wishes,

12:51 PM  

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