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  • Aces all around except for the rather tame climax. Credit producer Harry Sherman for the general superiority of the Hoppy matinees. Here, he pops for scenic Lone Pine locations, expertly filmed by Harry Stradling— hard to beat that desert-mountain-big rock combination. Hoppy and the boys are trying to find a lost gold mine before the baddies led by the sneaky Ace Gibson (Ankrum) do.

    Note the movie's many extra touches—the well-staffed barroom, the busy street, the detailed shack interior. These show attention to background unusual for programmers. Also, catch that expensive line of gold-rushers heading for the mine, though the scene appears shot in the cost-saving LA area.

    For me, the scariest part is when the oily Ace looks like he's getting romantic with the winsome heroine (Stewart). Now, in his stellar career, the lordly Ankrum defeated A-bomb mutants, aliens from outer space, commanded armies, advised presidents, and also made a convincing baddie. But for some reason, the thought of his snuggling up to the girl ran a shudder right through me.

    Hard to say enough about Bill Boyd in his Hoppy role. He's easily the most charming and affable of the matinée heroes, but can also do the hard-eyed stare when necessary-- as he does here. He, Clyde, and Hayden make a winning team, as their amusing fireside byplay shows. Anyway, there's enough hard- riding, straight-shooting, and story interest to make this a generally superior Hoppy entry.
  • 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.
  • The Hopalong Cassidy movies and television show are fond childhood memories. This is the first Hoppy movie I have seen in more than five decades. While I certainly hope I watch B Westerns with a different eye than I did when a child, I still enjoy them and this one was superb. Hoppy's comic sidekick, California (Clyde) receives word that his distant cousin, a prospector named Ben, has been murdered. Ben had recently struck gold at the El Dorado mine and unfortunately talked about it in the saloon. Ankrum wonderfully plays the cold and vicious gang leader Ace Gibson whose henchmen murder Ben. The ambush of Ben at his cabin is a gripping scene worthy of being in an A Western. Hoppy, California and Lucky (Russell Hayden) head out to Rim Rock to find Ben's mine. Upon arriving at the cabin, they find Ben's niece Trudy (Eleanor Stewart) already there. Pretending to be an old friend of Ben's, Ace has befriended Trudy and later turns her against Hoppy, California and Lucky. Unraveling a cryptic clue Ben left, the three do discover the mine. I much enjoyed the comic moments, particularly the scene where Hoppy and California tease Lucky over his falling so quickly for Trudy. I know Ankrum often played the bad guy in Westerns but every time I see him, I think of his role as a judge on the Perry Mason television show. At any rate, this is a superior oater whose only flaw for me is the ending, which makes no sense in terms of any succeeding Hoppy films.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Pirates On Horseback is a somewhat unorthodox Hoppy picture. For one thing, Hoppy, Lucky and California don't even appear until 12 minutes into the film. The first reel being a pretty hardened Western with tinhorn gambler Ace (played by familiar face Morris Ankrum) showing the audience he's a ruthless crook and killer by cheating in a card game and gunning down the winner when he calls him on it.

    Ankrum next takes advantage of old Ben Pendleton, a prospector who comes into town bragging about finding Eldorado and dumping nuggets the size of hen's eggs on the saloon bar for all the greedy eyes to see. Of course Ace dispatches a goon squad to get the mine's location from Ben. When Ankrum's heavies get into a gunfight with the old coot it's a pretty brutal affair with old Ben taking a bullet, some shattered glass to the face and making a brave last stand.

    The mood shifts radically with the introduction of Hoppy, Lucky and California, who inexplicably has a gardening obsession in this film (California's green thumb serves to provide much of the comedy). The middle part of the movie is a nice mix of comedy and excitement as everyone tries to locate the mine working off a cryptic note Ben scrawled out just before he died.

    The movie certainly never drags, as even during the necessary talky scenes something is going on, whether it be California's embarrassing himself with the Indian, Ankrum doubling back to the house to eavesdrop or somebody sneaking off with Topper.

    The climax with Hoppy duking it out with Ankrum returns the picture to the mood of the first reel. Those punches look like they really hurt, and realistic details like kicking over a full spittoon add to the frenzy of the fight. Of course Hoppy comes out on top, but it's clear he's taken some hits and will be sore a spell.

    A good, solid Cassidy film, one that swings between rough Western action and lighthearted comedy. Don't we Hoppy fans watch these less for the plots and more to see Cassidy and company interact and then go mix it up with baddies like Morris Ankrum? I know I do and I wasn't disappointed.

    A couple closing notes: The opening credits say this movie was filmed at the foot of Mount Whitney, and it is indeed a beautiful setting for a Western.

    The print on the Platinum DVD runs only 66 minutes, despite the box and IMDb saying it's 69 minutes.
  • To me this was one of the worst, most disappointing Hoppy films. Andy Clyde's never ending comic dialog was childish, unfunny and excruciating. There was hardly any action in the film, save a shoot-out at the cabin near the start of the movie.

    The plot was also a big nothing: at the end of the film, bad guy Morris Ankrum gets angry when the heroine won't sell her mine to him. He starts to manhandle her, and Hoppy rescues her. That's it! Not much of a crime to jail him for.

    The only fairly interesting and clever thing in the movie was the mysterious clue left behind by the killed miner ("eagle will show way to mine at sundown") and Hoppy's unraveling of it.

    As one reviewer pointed out, the title "Pirates on Horseback" has nothing to do with the movie. It also implies action which the film sorely lacks. The bad guy is merely a crooked gambler and conman, some pirate on horseback!
  • "Pirates on Horseback" is available to see on YouTube. And, like so many of the Hopalong Cassidy films posted there, it's the original version--not the edited for television version from the 1950s. Additionally, the print is pristine and simply looks great.

    When this story begins, an old prospector comes to town. He's discovered the lost Eldorado Mine but hasn't got the common sense to keep this to himself. Instead, he blabs in the saloon...and like nearly ALL Hopalong Cassidy films, this means the local baddie and his gang will soon take action. However, when they attack the old guy, they end up killing him...and the secret goes with him. They search his place from top to bottom....and they find nothing telling them about the mine.

    A bit later, Trudy arrives in town, as she's the prospector's nearest relative. On the stage into town, she spends time with the oily baddie responsible for the prospector's death...but she thinks he's a sweet guy. Later, when she meets up with California (who is also a relative), Hoppy and Lucky, she befriends them as well. Now for much of the rest of the film, the trio help her look for the lost mine...and they show consistently that they are her friends. Yet, when the oily baddie makes up some evidence that is easy to refute, she instantly assumes California and his friends are evil piggies. And, she lets the oily baddie and his men 'help her'. Of course, they are about to rob her blind and possibly kill her. Can California and his friends save her? And, after the way she treats them, should they even bother?!

    This is just an okay installment of the Hopalong Cassidy franchise. It has the familiar slimy boss-man you'd find in nearly all the films but the utter stupidity of Trudy is really hard to believe...and appears due to poor writing. Not a bad film but it could have been better.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    By the time this Hopalong Cassidy film came out, Britt Wood had already appeared in a few of them as Speedy McGuiness, one of Hoppy's sidekicks along with Russell Hayden as Lucky Jenkins. There was "The Showdown" and "Stagecoach War", both from 1940, so it was interesting to see him show up here as an unrelated character, only to have him take a bullet at the hands of the outlaws after being a bit too loose lipped about discovering a gold mine. That was kind of curious actually, because it was referred to as the mythical El Dorado Mine that no one knew the location of, but later when California (Andy Clyde) mentions he found some nuggets, there's a virtual stampede to the exact location. All for naught though, the 'Golden Nuggets' were a brand of giant mushrooms!

    Well never let it be said that these old time oaters had to make any sense. Another case in point would have been California's claim that he was Ben Pendleton's (Wood) forty-second cousin. How do you go about figuring that out? All in good fun though, as Andy Clyde had this believable quality about him even when he was making it up as he went.

    Another frequent player in Hoppy's films was the villain of the piece here, Morris Ankrum as Hawkeye Bar owner and Rim Rock town boss Ace Gibson. Normally creepy enough as an outlaw, as another reviewer points out, he outdoes himself as a potential suitor for Pendleton's legitimate heir, niece Trudy (Eleanor Stewart). He's so dastardly that for a brief time, he's got Hoppy and the boys on the outs with the heroine. It doesn't last long however, especially after Ace makes a take it or leave it offer of five grand to Trudy for the gold mine.

    With a clue left by Ben Pendleton before he died - 'Eagle will show way to mine but only at sundown' - the cowboy heroes eventually figure out that a shadow cast by a rock formation points to the location of the hidden gold. Battling the bad guys, Hoppy and his crew save the day for Miss Trudy, and in one of those rare instances in a Hoppy flick that I've managed to catch so far, this time Lucky Jenkins actually winds up with the girl!
  • The silly title is a put off, but of course there are no real "pirates" in this film, which at 69 minutes, is one of the longest in the Hopalong Cassidy series. It starts off very well, with lots of action & a goldmine plot. Based on the way it started, I thought this would be one of the best Hoppy films; it was realistic, conveyed a good old-fashioned western feeling, & the gunfight between a prospector & the baddies was brutal. Hoppy first appears 10 minutes into the film, wearing a black hat, tan shirt, & light-colored pants. If you've read my other Hoppy reviews, you'll know that the lighter the colors he wears, the worse the film is. I thought this film would be an exception to that rule, but sadly, I was wrong. The comedy starts soon after Hoppy appears, which is to be expected anytime Andy Clyde is on screen, & that's OK, but in this film, the comedy went on & on & on, & eventually caused the film to lose all the momentum it had gained before Hoppy had even appeared. There were some good comedy segments to be sure; one that stands out is California's assumption that he's speaking to a dumb Indian & therefore resorts to pantomime, only to find out that the Indian speaks English in a more educated manner than any of the cowboys! Another humorous segment involved jokes about Lucky's propensity for immediately falling in love with any young lady he meets. But five to ten minutes of the film is wasted on a long, drawn out gold nugget joke situation. Amazingly, Hoppy is not involved in even a single gunfight, & fires his gun only once during the film (but at the ground). The first 10 minutes of the film were certainly the best part of this film, & it could have been so much better than it was, a disappointing effort overall.
  • bkoganbing14 November 2016
    Britt Wood who was a sidekick of Hopalong Cassidy for a few films makes a return to the series in Pirates On Horseback. But it's only a brief return as Wood is killed for the location of his hidden gold mine.

    The location of which is something that Eleanor Stewart his niece would also like to know. The only clue is a cryptic message left by Wood that Hoppy, Johnny, and California have a time getting a hold of.

    Sad to say for our cowboy hero he and the sidekicks have to tell a white lie to get dealt in on this game. Andy Clyd pretends he's a relative. When they're caught at it by the real villain, smooth gambler Morris Ankrum it's almost the end.

    The cryptic clue is something along the lines that both Glenn Ford and William Prince were trying to decipher in Lust For Gold. Let's say Hoppy had better success.

    Hoppy fans will like this.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A Paramount Picture, relased 23 May 1941. Director: Lesley Selander. Players include William Boyd, Russell Hayden, Andy Clyde, Eleanor Stewart, Morris Ankrum, William Haade, Dennis Moore, Henry Hall, Britt Wood. 69 minutes. (Available on an excellent Platinum Disc DVD).

    This one starts off with a bang, but unfortunately that initial promise is slowly whittled away when Hoppy and his comrades make their belated entrance. True, it still has its moments (thanks mostly to villainous Morris Ankrum and the lovely Eleanor Stewart), and its real locations are superbly photographed.

    Unfortunately scriptwriters Ethel La Blanche and J. Benton Cheney obviously decided to pander to the Saturday matinee audience by making our genial Hoppy helpful enough, but rather slow on the uptake. A ten-year-old could work out the clue to the gold mine right from the very moment it's presented. On the other hand, it takes the slow-witted Hoppy almost the entire movie - and even then he achieves the solution only by accident. Naturally, Russell Hayden is too bewitched by Eleanor to be of much help (we don't blame him!), while garrulous Andy Clyde of course is both too stupid and too self-absorbed.