The usual gang of bad guys is out to grab up all the available ranch land. This time their object is land belonging to Chinese. As an aside, Hoppy leads some archaeologists through parts of California.
Hoppy is leading a scientific expedition and the Chinese who have a hidden settlement nearby are trying to stop them. Saulters and his outlaw gang are also in the area looking for a gold mine. When Saulters men attack, the gold mine is found. Hoppy agrees to file for the Chinese and heads after Saulters in the chase to the land office. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
Just who is the villain in Secret of the Wastelands? Is it Salters the lawyer? Are those Chinese store owners evil or just mysterious? What secrets will be uncovered by the archaeologists digging around abandoned Indian dwellings built on a mountainside? Secret of the Wastelands starts off like a good Hopalong Cassidy adventure, but it gets stranger as it goes.
Hoppy, California and Johnny are hired to escort a team of archaeologists into the desert. A knife attack from a Chinese man is a warning to cancel the trip, but Hoppy is not so easily dissuaded. The cook hired for the trip happens to be Chinese, and is a strong suspect for attempts at sabotaging the expedition. Concern by the Chinese merchants is apparent, but there is no obvious reason for a connection between them and the Indian ruins. Slade Salters observes the situation and suspects that the archaeologist may find a source of gold connected that connects the Chinese with the abandoned Indian ruins. Salters has his men follow the team so he can take over if and when the time is right. The story keeps the viewer slightly off guard until the end when all questions are answered with an ending that I found to be unrealistic.
The scenery goes between normal western surroundings like the town and the open range. The site of the archaeological dig looks more appropriate for an Egyptian or South American setting. The Chinese characters seem a bit unrealistic, too. Any time cowboys are taken out of a traditional western settings a movie takes a chance. Usually the outcome is disappointing. Viewing with an open mind helps sometimes.
As in every adventure, Hoppy's younger sidekick chases after the girl. This time it is Jennifer Kendall, the young female archaeologist. Sadly for Johnny, the girl just is not interested in him. Brad King played Johnny Neslon in this movie, and even had a singing part. I have seen better acting and singing by King in other Hopalong Cassidy movies.
Secret of the Wastelands is an odd entry into the Hopalong Cassidy series. While Hopalong Cassidy movies were often better than other westerns, this one is not my favorite Hoppy movie.
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