Friday, August 21, 2009


Hopalong Cassidy: The Mystery of Skull Valley 1/22/50

Hopalong Cassidy is supposed to be the head of the Bar 20 ranch, but I cannot for the life of me figure out when the heck he had time to do any ranching.

Oh, he always seems to be trying. He’ll be on the way to do some sort of ranch business, but some sort of trouble or mystery will always divert him.

In this episode, he and his sidekick California Carlson are riding somewhere to check out some cattle they might want to buy, but an old Spanish coin, some bloodstains and a few hoof prints soon point them off in another direction. As near as I can tell, they never do get around to checking out that stock.

Oh, well, I suppose it really doesn’t matter. Hoppy seems to get the Bar 20 books to balance somehow, since he kept the place in business through a couple of decades of movies, TV shows and radio episodes.

This particular episode is, as is usual for this show, a solid and well-plotted mystery/Western. It’s easy to perceive why William Boyd was so popular as Hoppy during the 1940s and early 1950s—his portrayal of the cow hand is very likeable and occasionally boisterous. Plop such a personality down into a well-written story and you are bound to tell an entertaining tale.

And that’s just what happens here. Hoppy and California find a wounded man, chase off a couple of gunmen, trail a missing amateur archeologist to an abandoned mine and finally confront the bad guys in deadly climax amongst the rotting support beams of the mine.

It’s a great story—but how Hoppy has time to keep the Bar 20 in the black is beyond me.

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