Friday, February 3, 2017

Forgotten Noir Fridays: Motor Patrol (1950)

In last week’s review of Radar Secret Service (1950), I joked that the movie’s narrator was the third-place victor of a fictional “Reed Hadley Sound-a-Like Contest.”  This week—we get the genuine article!  Once several motorcycles are gunned during the opening credits of Motor Patrol (1950), we soon spot Mr. Hadley’s name nestled snugly among the names of the cast…and for me, there was much rejoicing.

Hadley plays Detective Robert Flynn in a not-even-remotely-noir tale of two motorcycle beat cops, Larry Collins (Bill Henry) and Tom Morgan (Lucio Fulci), who are first at the scene of an apparent hit-and-run.  The victim is a man named Richard Thompson, a used car salesman, and as Flynn and partner Bill Hartley (Richard Travis)—both of whom are with LAPD’s Traffic Division—conduct their investigation into Thompson’s death, the two men find themselves on the trail of a jamoke named Russ Garver (Charles Victor).  Garver is involved with a stolen automobile ring, and when Collins and Morgan recognize that Garver’s ride is a vehicle what’s been “liberated,” they take off after them on their sickles.  Garver deliberately slams his car into a tree, leading poor Larry to hit the wreck and wind up kilt when he’s thrown from his motorcycle.

Larry’s brother-in-law, Ken Foster (Don Castle), is enrolled at the Police Academy and hopes to follow in his bro-in-law’s kickstand by also taking up motorcycle policing once he graduates.  But all that must wait: he persuades Flynn to let him participate in the hunt for Collins’ murderer…which will necessitate his posing as a Chicago car thief to infiltrate the organization and expose the miscreants.  (Kind of like how Clarice Starling gets to work with the FBI in The Silence of the Lambs even though she’s still an agent-in-training.  Motor Patrol has considerably less cannibalism, though.)

My sentiments precisely.
I’m going to damn Motor Patrol with faint praise: it is not as terrible as Radar Secret Service.  But that doesn’t mean you need to rush out and snap this one up in a hurry—I fell sleep twice while watching it, much to my mother’s annoyance.  It’s your standard Lippert programmer, neither good nor bad, directed by B-movie maestro Sam Newfield (with his faithful sidekick Barney Sarecky producing), and dotted with the usual Lippert suspects in the cast: Richard Travis, Sid Melton, Margia Dean, etc.  Curiously, Melton isn’t a member of the auto theft gang (he’s usually the comic relief in the criminal contingent); instead, he’s a wisecracking bartender at a roadhouse café who identifies Thompson’s corpse as a goof who had a heated argument inside the jernt a few hours before his death.  Dean’s character actually gets bigger laughs (if I’m any judge) with her brief bit as a “model” giving Collins the lowdown as a witness at the scene of Thompson’s accident…while her “boyfriend” (Joseph J. Greene) ineffectively tries to conceal his impatience.  (Margia’s character is “Renee Roulette”—I guess that’s because so many johns have taken her out for a spin.  Try the veal!)  Onslow Stevens plays Hadley’s superior, and character fave Frank Jenks is on hand as “Mac.”  So…there’s that.

Like the proverbial bad penny, Sid Melton always turns up.  (He'll be in more "Forgotten Noirs" to come, too.)
When I wasn’t snoring through Motor Patrol, I had difficulty figuring out why a master auto theft ring would allow the vehicle that played a role in Collins’ death to be collected by the cops—wouldn’t it have made more sense to strip that baby and dispose of what couldn’t be sold as parts?  Be that as it may, Motor Patrol is over and done with at 65 minutes, and I’d recommend it only to those who aren’t particularly discriminating in their movie choices.  (I know—I have very little room to talk in this area.)  It’s available for rent at ClassicFlix.


Scott said...

Wait -- Lucio Fulci was one of the motorcycle cops? The Italian director of Zombie and Don't Torture a Duckling? Talk about versatility!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will recognize, well, everybody, since Lippert supplied at least six movies as grist for the riffing mill, many featuring the unwelcome input of Sid Melton, Reed Hadley, and Sam Newfield. So even if this were a good movie I probably wouldn't watch it, since it feels like I already have.

M. Bouffant said...

Two coppers on bikes: Inspiration for CHiPs?