21 July 2005 | rsoonsa
A First-Class Production.
Producer Harry "Pop" Sherman, originator of the Hopalong Cassidy film series that stars William Boyd, is responsible for this well-devised work, released through Paramount, that recounts of gold miner Ben Pendleton, viciously gunned down by henchmen of gambler Ace Gibson (Morris Ankrum) during an unsuccessful endeavour to force Ben into revealing the location of his newly found rich strike. Since Cassidy's friend California Carlson (Andy Clyde) is a distant cousin of Pendleton, he, Hoppy, and their sidekick Lucky Jenkins (Russell Hayden) attempt to locate the concealed lode while simultaneously seeking Ben's killers, but when the trio comes to the cabin of the deceased, they find it occupied by his niece Trudy (Eleanor Stewart). When the evil Ace succours the young woman, in the process turning her head against Hoppy and his friends while planning to defraud her of her legacy, Hopalong and his pals face tough sledding and many anxious, danger fraught moments. Shot in the rugged high country of eastern California's Inyo County, the brief (69 minutes on VHS) film is replete with finely wrought detail and naturalistic dialogue, trademarks of director Lesley Selander who had benefited from his close friendship with Buck Jones, gradually developing into a top drawer helmsman of low-budget Westerns. Additionally apparent is the hand of assistant director Glenn Cook, one of the best at deployment of extras. The work showcases humour as often as it does action and melodrama, all smoothly blended by Selander, while crisp editing and effective sound mixing, especially of the scoring, are noteworthy, and skillful cinematographer Russell Harlan is consistently inventive. All of the featured players perform capably, the beautiful Stewart a nifty rider to boot, with brief but effective turns from Dick Simmons, as a cheated gambler, and lanky Wen Wright as a Gibson lackey; acting laurels go to Dennis Moore, cast as Gibson's principal henchman, who eventually joined cinema's Forces of Good as a Range Buster but still frequently fulfilled roles as a member of the Forces of Evil.