This film is interesting because it combines two rather recent phenomenon of the time - sound film and police patrolling in cars equipped with two way radios. Do note that such patrols were less than ten years old at the time. This film follows a group of patrolmen through the police academy, into their first assignments as radio patrolmen, and the development of their professional and personal lives. In parallel there is a story of a group of gangsters that move in on the unnamed city from St. Louis. One of the gangsters even signs up for the police academy to get a look at the police department from the inside, but he's quickly discovered and booted out. The gangsters are also constantly trying to bribe the police into looking the other way at their illegal activity.
It's also odd that, even though this is the tail end of prohibition, liquor does not seem to enter into the fiscal plan of these gangsters at all. Instead the gang is into peddling dope as well as the traditional gangster trade of protection rackets and outright theft. The film focuses on patrol partners Pat (Russell Hopton) and Bill(Robert Armstrong). Complicating matters is the fact that Bill basically steals and then marries Pat's girl out from underneath him. With the local population more interested in disbanding kids in parked cars than the disruptive force of the mob, low pay, and low regard from the public, will any of the patrolmen succumb to temptation and become corrupt? Watch and find out.
This film had rather stilted acting in it by both the guys playing the police and those playing the mob, but it is interesting in that it does not play out according to any formula you usually see in crime films of the early 30's. It's like nobody told the guys at Universal that this is not how you make a crime drama, so they went with their gut and something rather unique was the result. For example, this early 30's film has an African American patrolman on the force (John Lester Johnson as Smokey), and the film shows him accepted by his fellow officers, patrolling a white area of town and even escorting a white woman by the arm across the street. Later, Smokey is also shown doing something quite heroic. It's not that I'm surprised that an African American would be a model cop, I'm just amazed to see such acts committed to celluloid in a mainstream film almost 80 years ago.
This one is definitely worth checking out for the novelty of it all, in particular if you're interested in what Universal was doing in the early 30's when they weren't making horror films.
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