The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Code Two

Did you ever watch an episode of CHiPs and think 'Man, I wish they made a movie about these guys?' Yeah, me neither.  But if you did, 1953's Code Two might be just the movie for you except without Erik Estrada, way too tight biker pants, and police seducing women every chance they get.  Almost serving as a public service announcement about how cool it is to be a motorcycle cop, Code Two has its moments in a quick 69-minute running time.

Made with a relatively unknown cast and with a smallish budget, 'Code' benefits from some cool on-location shooting in Los Angeles and the surrounding area which gives a nice window into 1950s California.  Add on top of that some even cooler footage of vintage motorcycles whipping around the city, and you've basically got this movie with a ham-fisted storyline thrown in for good measure.  Let's face it, what's a motorcycle cop movie without some ridiculous crime to solve?

Heading into the police academy, three officers-to-be dream of one day being motorcycle cops.  First, there's Chuck O'Flair (Ralph Meeker), a cocky, fun-loving SOB who wants to prove he's the best.  Second, there is Harry Whenlon (Jeff Richards), the boring All-American guy devoid of all personality.  Last is Russ Hartley (Robert Horton), a husband looking to provide for his young family.  But if these three crazy kids want to be motorcycle cops, first they've got to get through Jumbo Culdane (Keenan Wynn), the tough as nails veteran instructor who will throw everything in the book at them so they're ready for their jobs.  Even if they do pass, they've got the extremely dangerous job of patrolling the streets ahead of them.

Nothing from that storyline isn't straight out of the movie script cookie cutter formula maker.  Really, the plot is probably the last thing you'd look for in a movie like that.  'Code' at its best is with the trainees going through their equivalent of boot camp to get onto the LAPD and then their bike training to become motorcycle cops.  There's some great footage of these training sequences with much of the cast -- especially Meeker and Wynn -- looking like they did much of their own riding whenever possible.

The cast is nothing special with the only characters of interest being Meeker's cocky Chuck and Wynn's tough as nails Jumbo.  The All-American boy is about as cardboard as possible, and the family man cop tries to hide his job from his wife who worries about him.  Thankfully, not too much time is devoted to either of them.  Meeker does what he does best, play an a-hole, and while he's not particularly likable, he's at least interesting.  Wynn looks to be enjoying himself the most as Jumbo -- think the police equivalent of a foul-mouthed (for the 50s at least) of a Marine drill sergeant.

The already mentioned ridiculous crime that has to be solved is a doozy.  SPOILERS  During a routine traffic stop, Harry gets knocked out and run over by a cattle truck (William Campbell is the killer), but little evidence other than a tire track is left behind to provide clues.  Meeker's Chuck ends up breaking the case which even now having finished the movie makes me shake my head.  In 1952 Los Angeles, some criminal organization is rustling cattle, transporting them in trucks, slaughtering them and butchering the meat, and apparently running some sort of illegal deli.  Chuck tracks them down and gets in a shootout with a lot of nameless henchmen just waiting to get knocked off.

A completely forgettable movie but at least its entertaining.  Also watch for a young uncredited Chuck Connors in just his fourth movie, making a quick appearance as a sheriff's deputy.  Probably worthwhile for motorheads and for a nostalgic look at 1950s Los Angeles.

Code Two <----TCM trailer (1952): ** 1/2 /****

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