Officer Allard's Highway Patrol car is found abandoned and his body is discovered in the brush nearby. Auto painter Frank Handley tells Dan Mathews that Officer Allard was pursuing a car that he had been asked to paint quickly for no apparent reason. Dan learns that the car was registered to spinsterish bookstore owner Theo Nielson. Miss Nielson reluctantly reveals that she had recently given $10,000 to her "fiance" Larry Gardner and had loaned her car to his "brother" George. When Dan advises her that Larry Gardner is a convicted car thief and that George is the likely murderer of Officer Allard, she agrees to help set a trap for them. The two felons attempt to flee, but they soon find themselves bottled in by roadblocks. Written by
Larry (Gene Roth) and his accomplice are bad news. They steal cars and then sell them. Larry spots a sucker: a woman he romances named Theo (Ruth Clifford), takes $10 grand from her, and plans to run off with her car (a light green four-door Sedan). An auto painter who painted that Sedan black thought they were suspicious and fetched a patrolman after them. This patrolman is soon found dead (at first missing, with the police trying to find him), and this becomes a murder investigation. Theo is in the hot seat (sort of) as Chief Dan Mathews (Broderick Crawford) links the license plate of the painted Sedan to her. Theo realizes, thanks to Mathews' investigation, that she has been played a fool, but she could very well help the police catch Larry and put him (and the accomplice) in jail where they belong. Anyone familiar with Highway Patrol understands that this is all business: an austere, sincere enactment of the day-to-day activities and cases of the police on the road, specifically on the highways and into the streets of counties where all sorts of crimes take place, depicted in a manner that doesn't dick around with a lot of flash. You get the details, told in a straight-forward manner, with both sides, the police and criminals, elaborated as the investigations in crimes are developed. Because there's only twenty-two minutes for each case, the show had to cut out the fat, so there aren't long dialogue scenes; most of the time, dialogue--pertinent to the investigation and importance of the cases featured--isn't wasted and doesn't dilly-dally. In Dead Patrolman, I got a kick out of Crawford's scene with the auto painter, as he reacts a bit annoyed, as if he just wants to be done with the witness. My favorite scene, though, has Clifford responding to the fact that her character has realized how much of a patsy she was when falling for Larry's deceit it's all in her face, the blood draining and the disbelief right there (it was masterful). What I found fascinating about this episode was that there isn't a lot of time spent on the unfortunate death of the cop; this show was more about catching the criminals responsible for his murder...police die every day, and the show documents the response to that not by highlighting the trauma such death has to their families (well, at least not in this episode) but how the highway patrol catch those behind it. Crawford has that closing line: leave blood at the Red Cross, not on the highway.
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