A gang of robbers are terrorizing and robbing banks and payrolls in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. The gang's leader, George, seems to take particular delight in "bumping off" women who cross him. The film starts with comments from then-governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland about how crime doesn't pay.
Steve Cochran as George Legenza
Virginia Grey as Mary Simms
Gaby André as Lee
Edmon Ryan as Detective Sgt. Truscott and the film's narrator
Robert Webber as William B. 'Bill' Phillips
Wally Cassell as Robert 'Bobby' Mais
Aline Towne as Madeline Welton
Richard Egan as Herbie Brooks
Edward Norris as Noyes Hinton - Gang Driver
When the film was first released, critic Bosley Crowther caustically panned it, writing, "The most disturbing and depressing of the many depressing things about the Strand's current Warner Brothers' shocker, Highway 301, is the fact that governors in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina endorse this cheap gangster melodrama as an effective deterrent to crime. In forewords which are personally delivered by Maryland's lame-duck Governor Lane and by Virginia's and North Carolina's Governors Battle and Scott, respectively, these eminent and honorable officials convey the solemn idea that what you are about to see is something that will prove to you how profitless crime is ... However, the whole thing, concocted and directed by Andrew L. Stone, is a straight exercise in low sadism. And the reactions at the Strand yesterday among the early audience, made up mainly of muscular youths, might have shocked and considerably embarrassed the governors mentioned above."
Film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a positive review, writing, "Andrew Stone (Julie/Cry Terror!/The Steel Trap) effectively directs this enjoyable action-filled B film crime drama that wants us to know that 'crime doesn't pay.'"