Using inside information from Sandy Collins, Jack and George Willis stop a truck carrying Collins and 11 fellow itinerant fruit pickers, all of whom are carrying their month's pay of $200. The Willises rob them at gunpoint and shoot Joe Valentine when he disobeys their orders and attempts to follow them. Collins gives Dan Mathews false information in an attempt to divert the investigation, but Dan easily exposes the flaws in his story. When Valentine dies, interrogation of Collins intensifies and additional evidence implicating him in the crime is discovered. Collins breaks down and provides information that Dan uses to set up roadblocks that will trap the Willises before they can flee the area. Written by
Migrant Workers is one of the more emotionally involving entries this fine series, as it concerns the theft of a month's wages from a truckload of migrant workers by a couple of lazy farm boys who, as natives if the valley, ought to have known better. Well, they're criminals, so I guess that's why. The sight of honest, hard working men who worked their tails off being held up at gunpoint and forced to hand over their earnings was enough to get my blood boiling, and it kept me involved in the story.
Screenwriter Don Brinkley (Christie's dad) and director Paul Guilfoyle, do solid work with this one. The way the story is told isn't in itself remarkable or brilliant but it gets the job done. As was so often with Highway Patrol we get to see just how rural California was a half-century ago; and it's interesting to see real criminals who are also real country boys; country boys gone bad. Their accents don't suggest that these two have criminal tendencies even as their actions do. We see it in their characters, not in their mannerisms. As a city boy, I found this fascinating.
It was nice to see future leading man Stuart Whitman in a small supporting role as a highway cop. Broderick Crawford's performance, while often blustery (his trademark, it seem) also shows real empathy and concern for the poor farm workers who had their wages taken away from them, as one senses real moral outrage in the man; or rather in the character he plays.
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