Thursday, June 15, 2017

Border Patrol

Hopalong Cassidy is supposedly the head man at the Bar 20 ranch, but I really don't know how he finds the time to do that job. In many of the 66 Hoppy films that starred William Boyd, he and his sidekicks are working as lawmen.

In 1943's Border Patrol, Hoppy and friends are patrolling the Mexican border as Texas Rangers. But being accredited lawmen does not keep them from being falsely accused of a crime. When they stop to aid a dying Mexican, a pretty but perpetually angry Senorita rides up and assumes they murdered the man. She takes them at gunpoint across the Rio Grande to the Mexican cops.

They prove who they are, but the Senorita isn't convinced of their innocence. Hoppy finds out at least 25 Mexicans have crossed the border recently to find work at the Silver Bullet mine in Texas. But all of them have disappeared.

Hoppy and his crew decide to check out the mind, with the girl trailing them because she's still convinced they are villains.

 It turns out the owner of the Silver Bullet ("Orestes Krebs"--I love that name) has set himself up as essentially an independent country, refusing to recognized Hoppy's authority as a Ranger. In fact, he quickly accuses them of various crimes and, after a very quick kangaroo trial, sentences them to hang right after lunch.

The girl has shown up in Silver Bullet by now and Krebs uses her as a witness against Hoppy. But, though she is bad tempered, she is also smart and essentially fair-minded. She soon tumbles to the fact that Krebs is using the missing Mexicans as slave labor in the mine. Now all she has to do is figure out a way to spring Hoppy from jail and then together free the slaves and bring Krebs and his gang to justice. And she has to do this before lunch is over.

All the Hoppy movies are fun, with William Boyd playing the part with a mixture of authority and boisterous affability. The Hoppy movies are fun as much because we enjoy hanging out with the main characters as because of the well-constructed stories and great location photography.

This one is helped along by a fine supporting cast. Andy Clyde always brings a lot of humor to sidekick California Carlson. Jay Kirby is the third partner in the group-taking the part of younger sidekick who is available to develop a crush on whatever pretty girl they run into each movie.

Claudia Drake is the girl and she's certainly pretty. She's also quite good in the part--she's required by the plot to be stubbornly convinced Hoppy is a killer for half the film, but then must show herself to be smart and gutsy later on. She believably segues between the two attitudes and always makes sure we like her even when she's being bull-headed.

Russell Simpson is Krebs, the chief villain, and I would bet money that he was having great fun playing his part. As was usual for Hoppy films from the early/mid 1940s, Robert Mitchum is on hand to play a random outlaw (looking a little sleepy because he was working in a factory at nights). I wonder if he holds the record for getting killed the most times by Hopalong Cassidy?  Future Superman George Reeves is in the movie as well--he often also played a random bad guy in each film, but this time around he gets to be a good guy.

There is an imaginative and well-choreographed action scene to bring the movie to a satisfying conclusion.

You can find the movie on YouTube, but the ones I've found there are 10 minutes shorter than the version I have on DVD, so its an edited version. Rather than provide a link to a less-than-complete version, I'll just show you a clip that gives you a good sense of how fun the film is.

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