20 May 2002 | wrbtu
First, a trivia question for those of you who have seen this film already: what was the name of the horse Hoppy rides throughout most of this movie? This is a fairly good Hopalong Cassidy movie with too little of Hoppy. He's known for being off-screen more & sharing more of the footage with his side-kicks & other characters than his main rivals, Gene Autry & Roy Rogers. And indeed, one of the reasons the Hoppy movies were better than the others is that he was not center screen at all times. But in this movie, he "underdoes" it, & there's just too little seen of him during the film. The main character of this film almost seems to be Lucky, & he may well have more on-screen minutes than Hoppy. We do learn some interesting things, though, about the main film characters. If we're to believe George "Gabby" Hayes (in his character of Windy), he says to Hoppy "I learned you how to ride" (& Hoppy accepts the statement as if it were true). We learn that a "California collar" is slang for a "noose" (so why was Andy Clyde known as "California" in the later Hoppy movies?). We learn how Windy lost his teeth ("A Cheyenne chief knocked all my teeth out in a hand to hand duel...That happened at the Battle of Bull's Tail" (ha! Get it?). We learn that Lucky has been at the Bar 20 Ranch less than 5 years at the time of this story. This film is more violent than later Hoppy movies (Windy is seemingly shot, Lucky is grazed in the head with a bullet, Hoppy is wounded in the arm, & the character of Belle Starr is shot twice). After a few moments, I noticed how beautiful the rock scenery was (but the story is set in Arizona, near Nogales, Mexico); little did I know how significant the rocks would be to the story. Hoppy is dressed all in black (a good sign, see my other Hoppy reviews), but he lends Topper to someone else, & rides a plain brown horse for most of the movie. How odd! And (answer to trivia question) the name of this horse was Yuma. Strange that Hoppy should mention that horse's name but never mentions that his own horse is named Topper. Uncharacteristically, Hoppy really loses his temper in one scene where he slaps a baddie silly, & says "Say something, or I'll smash your brains in!" My, what violence! Mistake: Gabby Hayes trips over William Boyd's foot while trying to mount his horse. Since there was no comment on this, & no laugh, I'd have to assume that it was accidental. Second problem: Natalie Moorhead (a decent actress) plays Belle Starr as if she were on the Broadway stage. Her mannerisms & speech are too refined for a wild west rustler who just spent time in jail. Unlike most movies, everyone in the listed cast had a part big enough to be readily identifiable when the end credits came on. Despite all the shooting, Hoppy himself was involved in only one of the gunfights. I rate it 6/10.