Hopalong Cassidy: 5 Classic Feature Film Westerns [DVD]

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Sinister Journey
The long-running "Hopalong Cassidy" series trudged on with its 61st entry, Sinister Journey. William Boyd, looking pretty much the same as he did when the series started in 1936, is back as Hoppy, with Andy Clyde and Rand Brooks as his cohorts California and Lucky, respectively. Like most of the late-1940s Cassidy films, Sinister Journey is more of a mystery than an actioner, with Hoppy trying to clear his young pal Lee Garvin (John Kellogg) of a trumped-up murder charge. For a while, it seems that the wealthy father of Garvin's bride (Elaine Riley) has arranged the frame, but the real villain is exposed in the final reel. Though the "Hopalong Cassidy" films weren't the box-office hits they'd once been, within a year the films would win a whole new audience on television. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pirates on Horseback
Producer Harry Sherman once again brought the "Hopalong Cassidy" unit to picturesque Lone Pine, CA, and the result was yet another tidy little sagebrush oater about the search for a missing gold mine. California Carlson (Andy Clyde) learns that his only remaining relative, Ben Pendleton (Britt Wood), may have struck gold just prior to being murdered in his isolated cabin. But when California and his two friends, Hoppy (William Boyd) and Lucky (Russell Hayden), arrive to learn more about the claim, they find the place already occupied by Trudy (Eleanor Stewart), Ben's niece. The old prospector's murderer, gambler Ace Gibson (Morris Ankrum), befriends Trudy and persuades her that the newcomers are outlaws out to jump the claim. Of course, the smooth-talking heavy has no idea who he is up against and is soundly beaten in a final confrontation with Hoppy. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

In Old Colorado
The cast and crew of Paramount's "Hopalong Cassidy" Westerns returned once again to Lone Pine's famous Alabama Hills for this above-average entry in the long-running series. Ma Woods (Sarah Padden) is about to lose her ranch due to the machinations of the not so neighborly George Davidson (Stanley Andrews), who refuses access to the only water in the vicinity. But unbeknownst to both Ma and the always law-abiding Davidson someone else is stoking the fires of the feud for his own greedy reasons. But who? Robbed en route to Ma Woods' Colorado ranch, Hoppy (William Boyd), Lucky Jenkins (Russell Hayden) and California Carlson (Andy Clyde) manage to settle matters between Davidson and Mrs. Woods but the money to buy the Ma's cattle seems to have vanished. According to some sources In Old Colorado was co-written by co-star Russell Hayden. The Western marked the debut under that moniker of leading lady Margaret Hayes, who had previously been billed Dana Dale. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Fool's Gold
The second of William Boyd's self-produced "Hopalong Cassidy" films, Fool's Gold maintains the standards set by the first (Devil's Playground), though it's a step down from the vintage Cassidy films of the late 1930s-early 1940s. Once again, Hoppy (Boyd) is teamed with California Carson (Andy Clyde) and Lucky Jenkins (Rand Brooks). Our three heroes try to help Hoppy's old army buddy, whose son has been keeping company with a gang of crooks. Posing as a disgraced army captain, Cassidy infiltrates the gang and tries to save the boy from himself-if he can avoid detective by The Professor (Robert Emmet Keane), erudite leader of the criminals. Originally released at 63 minutes, Fool's Gold was cut to 54 minutes for its TV release, through the simple expedient of lopping off the entire first reel! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Border Patrol
Though released after Hoppy Serves a Writ, the 1943 Hopalong Cassidy entry Border Patrol was filmed first, to capitalize on America's new "Good Neighbor Policy" with Mexico. Hoppy (William Boyd) and his pals California (Andy Clyde) and Johnny (Jay Kirby), investigate a group of crooks who've been smuggling alien laborers across the border. The villains treat their Mexican help as virtual slaves, killing off anyone who complains. When Hoppy and company invade the illegal work camp, they're subject to a kangaroo court and sentenced to be hanged. But with the help of the Mexican prisoners, our heroes not only escape, but bring the bad guys to justice. Border Patrol features Robert Mitchum in an unbilled bit, but it's difficult to determine whether or not this was his first movie appearance. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

False Colors
A young Bar 20 cowboy is killed in this fine Hopalong Cassidy Western directed by the efficient George Archainbaud. Having signed an agreement making Hoppy (William Boyd), California Carlson (Andy Clyde), and Jimmy Rogers part owners of his ranch, young Bud Lawton (Tom Seidel) is promptly killed by a couple of strangers, Sonora (Glenn Strange) and Lefty (Pierce Lyden). The killers, it turns out, are working for crooked banker Mark Foster (Douglass Dumbrille), who has a look-a-like, Kit Moyer (also Seidel), waiting in the wings. To the consternation of Bud's sister, Faith (Claudia Drake), the imposter immediately plans to sell their valuable property to Foster, whose men are scaring the help away. When Hoppy attempts to halt the sale, the entire Bar 20 crew lands in jail, accused of being imposters themselves. To get rid of the opposition without appearing to be doing so, Foster plans to have the crooked sheriff (Roy Barcroft) release the men to the enraged townspeople, but Hoppy manages to force a confession from Kit and the villain is defeated in a final struggle. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Forty Thieves
In this entry in the long-running western series, Hoppy is running for sheriff and is beaten by the yellow-belly who had garnered the support of the local outlaws. Hoppy stands by for a while and watches as the once law-abiding town becomes a veritable den of inequity. Finally, unable to stand it anymore, Hoppy impeaches the spineless lawman, takes over, and then faces down the forty gunmen the outlaw ringleader sends out to stop him. The clever, and fast shooting Hopalong gets them all and saves the day. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Dangerous Venture
A group of archeologists is sent to the American Southwest to investigate a tribe's claims that they are descendants of the ancient Aztecs. However, a gang of crooks are trying to discredit the claim by dressing up as Indians to commit crimes. Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) must rescue the archeologist and catch the criminals. ~ John Bush, Rovi

Borrowed Trouble
"This town ain't big enough to hold both of us," saloon owner Dink Davis (Cliff Clark) tells his new rival Steve Mawson (John Phillips) in the opening of this lighthearted Hopalong Cassidy Western. Schoolmarm Lucy Abbott (Anne O'Neal) couldn't agree more; in fact, the spinsterish teacher is outraged that Mawson is establishing his den of inequity more or less in her own backyard and decides to take matters into her own hands. But before she can do much more than hurl a couple of apples through the barroom window, Miss Abbott finds herself the victim of a gang of kidnapping thugs. "I'll box your ears," the aggrieved school mistress promises her abductors, all of whom used to be her pupils. Back in town, Mawson appears the most likely suspect of this newest outrage, but Hoppy (William Boyd) has his doubts. With California Carlson (Andy Clyde) left behind as a substitute teacher, Cassidy and sidekick Lucky Jenkins (Rand Brooks) do a little digging and come up with a most surprising result. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Leather Burners
A superior Hopalong Cassidy Western, The Leather Burners benefits from a good script by Joe Pagano. In trouble with a gang of cattle rustlers who have murdered his neighbor, former Bar 20 ranch hand Johnny Travers (Jay Kirby) sends for old friends Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) and California Carlson (Andy Clyde). Hopalong Cassidy immediately suspects mine company president Dan Slack (Victor Jory) to be behind the rustlings and decides to go undercover. As it turns out, the Slack mine is not what it appears to be and there is a traitor among the ranchers. But who? With the assistance of Sharon Longstreet (Shelley Spencer) and her young brother Bobby (Bobby Larson), who have discovered Hopalong Cassidy's real mission, the secret of the mine is revealed and peace is restored to the area. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Hidden Gold
Hidden Gold was the 29th installment in the "Hopalong Cassidy" western series. It perhaps goes without saying that "Hoppy" is played by William Boyd, while his sidekick Lucky Jenkins is essayed by Russell Hayden. The eponymous hidden gold is being covertly mined from an equally hidden mine by a gang of outlaws, who take time out to stage a series of stagecoach holdups. Hoppy and Lucky arrive in town to put an end to the robberies, but first they have to determine the identity of the outlaw leader. After five reels' worth of "cat and mouse", the action is laid on thick and heavy in reel six. Future singing cowboy star Eddie Dean shows up in a very minor role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Devil's Playground
After a two-year absence, the "Hopalong Cassidy" western series returned with The Devil's Playground. William Boyd, now executive-producer of the series, returns as Hoppy, with Andy Clyde as California Carson and Rand Brooks as Lucky Jenkins. More plot-oriented than earlier Cassidy efforts, Devil's Playground finds our three heroes coming to the rescue of widowed Mrs. Evans (Elaine Riley). The villain of the piece is Judge Morton (Robert Elliot), who hopes to force the heroine off her property for reasons unknown. Hoppy uncovers Morton's motivations and saves the day, but not without putting up one whale of a good fight. While Devil's Playground upheld the standard set by the previous "Hopalong Cassidy" films, the quality of the series would gradually deteriorate during the next eleven installments. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Stagecoach War
A lesser entry in the long-running Hopalong Cassidy Western series, Stagecoach War features veteran character actor J. Farrell McDonald as Jeff Chapman, a stage-line owner about to lose a lucrative Wells Fargo contract after his driver is shot in a holdup. The crime opens a door for Neal Holt (Harvey Stephens), who is not only a rival stage-line operator, but also the former boyfriend of Jeff's daughter, Shirley (Julie Carter). Hoppy (William Boyd), meanwhile, discovers that Neal's foreman, Twister Maxwell (Frank Lackteen), knows more about the holdup that he cares to admit and when Holt begins to question the merit of Jeff's equipment, Hoppy enters a race for the contract with Lucky Jenkins (Russell Hayden) driving Jeff's Bar 20 mustangs against Neal's team. Lucky, however, is forced to throw the race to avoid harming Shirley, and, dejected, joins Smiley (Rad Robinson) and his gang of highwaymen. But does Lucky stay "bad" for good? As a nod to the popularity of musical-Westerns, producer Harry Sherman corralled baritone Rad Robinson, Eddie Dean, and the King's Men, who perform Phil Ohman and Foster Carling's "Lope-Along Road," "Westward Ho," and "Hold Your Horses." Surprisingly, the musical specialty acts all appeared as villains. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Showdown
The Showdown was the second 1940 entry in Paramount's "Hopalong Cassidy" western series. William Boyd (who else?) stars as Hoppy, while his sidekicks on this trip are Russell Hayden as Lucky Jenkins and Britt Wood as Speedy. When his rancher friend dies of a heart attack after being swindled by a gang of crooks, Hoppy vows to see that justice is done for the sake of the dead man's niece (Jane Clayton, aka Jan Clayton, who at the time was Mrs. Russell Hayden). There's action aplenty in Showdown, ranging from a burning barn to a runaway train, but the film's highlight is a rigged poker game, wherein supposed tenderfoot Hoppy flummoxes the bad guys. Perennial "Cassidy" heavy Morris Ankrum seems to be having a wonderful time posing as a European count, though he reverts to his usual Ugly-American self in the final scenes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Doomed Caravan
This Hopalong Cassidy western finds Hoppy (William Boyd), Lucky (Russell Hayden) and California (Andy Clyde) trying to save Minna Gombell's wagon-freighting line. Bad guys Morris Ankrum and Trevor Bardette (five points to anyone who can tell these mustachioed miscreants apart) plan to sabotage Ankrum's operation so they can take over the franchise. The climax is a rousing wagon chase, which came in handy as stock footage in later years. Ingenue Georgia Hawkins attracted warm praise from reviewers, but she disappeared from films shortly afterward. Co-written by Johnston McCulley of Zorro fame, Doomed Caravan was the 32nd "Hopalong Cassidy" entry. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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