In broad daylight, in the High Sierra of the Californian border, Cody Jarrett and his men board a train, suspicously opening the carriage doors. They don their long coats, only for a pistol to shine through as they shoot their way past the people because the “conductor didn’t want to play” . zuckie was meant to ‘throw the switch’ at the train tracks, but gets scalded by the steam engine when a small tussel of a shootout forms at the main compartment hitting the mechanics. The men take off with $300,000 in federal currency, leaving behind four dead.
Weeks go past, as Cody and his men, his wife Verna and Ma are couped up at a secluded cabin like a bunch of gophers. Things are looking too cosy for comfort as the men realise they may get caught. As the men bicker amongest themselves about their safety, Cody staggers to the floor in pain from a migrane “that’s the second one he’s had this month”, while Big Ed shamefully notes that “he’s nuts, just like his old man”,as Ma ushers him into the bedroom. Behind closed doors she comforts his anxities in her lap, telling him not to show his weakness to his men in a manner of vulnerability and with a small token of devoted love, she toasts his whisky shot to the “top of the world son”.
In an attempt to disguise his former breakdown, Cody shows he’s alright, as he emerges from the open doors to a storm coming. “Every roads gonna be blocked” said the guy on the radio. Tonight’s the night they all got packed up and hit the dirt roads of another unseen home , all except for Zuckie ofcourse, who’s bandaged body can scarcely cope and would scare off the worst of mummies, as he is left to contemplate his fate guarded by a pack of cigarettes at hand.
Meanwhile at the police department, an informant by the name of Willie, decides to reel in some cash that he didn’t get to to have a taste of, as he treats the authorities with his disconcerning information ” you know just dropping a word in the right ear”..while all the technology the 1940s could muster up, with their spectograph scans from the debris at the scene, and the fingerprints from zuckie all lead to the crime scene of the heist, soon puzzeled together to point the finger to none other than the Cody Jarrett gang.
On the other side of Los Angeles overlooking a motel, reside the gang. Verna admires her new mink coat in front of a mirror as she stands on a stool while Cody realises Ma is missing. ” she went to the market”,..you like strawberries don’t you..well she just had to get some for her boy”. A frantic and rather irritated Cody kicks Verna off the stool as she stumbles onto the bed in disgrace.
At the market, Ma is seen to be strawberry shopping as she wants to stock up on those vitamin c for her son, while an agent is shown to have followed her. A quick call to the authorities and the other men in grey are hot on her trail, as they follow her lead through the men at point A, point B and point C to track her every moves because ‘where Ma goes, Cody goes’.
Somebody must’ve tipped them off thinks Cody, as Ma is soon back in a hurry to inform him of her chase. Once more they rush to pack up their belongings to make their getaway as an annoyed Verna doesn’t understand “what’s the use of havin money if you gotta start runnin every time somebody sees a shadow”, before being pushed into the car at top speed.
It is at a movie screening where their parked vehicle stays put, that Cody comes up with a cunning plan, to give himself up but avoid the gas chamber for his murders by faking to be at another heist that had taken place on the same day, thus serving him a maximum of two years at most. A henious plan only his ‘sweet mother’ would support. ” you’re the smartest there is Cody”.
As Cody begins his two year sentence at Prison, he is met by some interesting characters and without Ma at his guidance, Cody is about to learn how much crime pays, no matter how good a bad guy you play. There’s a rat in the pact, people want him dead and that’s just the start of his worries on the inside, as on the outside, things are shaping up to be pretty hasty, for Big Ed has gotten some rather big ideas about who’s the big shot around these parts of the town.
Cody Jarrett is at full steam, a criminal with psychopathic tendencies. He has his consistent outbursts throughout the movie where he disregards the life of others that surround him, as noted by Verna that “ he ain’t human”. An unstable man who holds his pistol at any given gunpoint without much clarity, as though he was a gentleman going for a picnic.
With the litte display of affection he does show is given strongly to his mother that reflects the strange, somewhat oedipus complex relationship Norman Bates had with his own mother, whilst the other half lingers on his wife Verna who will stick around for the most part of the fun for her worth in fur coats.
Everybody sees the weakness in Cody’s mental state as it’s cut wide open as a sore wound that takes too long to heal. It is plastered only by his motivation from his mother to keep going in life ” when you’re around ma, nothing can stop me”, as any given moment it seems Cody will tear at the seams.
Notably at a scene at the office, the agents converse in the very fact that ” the only person he’s ever cared about or trusted is his mother, no one else has ever made a dent. Not even his wife”. His mother resemblems the ‘puppet master’ that holds him up from his downfall. Taking into consideration that perhaps singing some of his mothers good old lullabies would be enough to outsmart Cody Jarrett.
Cody is determined to slip out rather than slip off from Prison and with only a handful of those who he thinks he can seemingly trust is something he needs to bite the bullet for. With one trying to offer you a friendly handshake, the other may just stab you in the back. An adrenaline -fuelled crime thriller that’ll have you screaming ‘Ma i made it’ to the Top of the World!
Directed by : Raoul Walsh
Story by : Virginia Kellogg
Starring: James Carney, Virginia Mayo, Edward O’ Brien and others
Music by : Max Steiner