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This Hopalong Cassidy film Mystery Man has Hoppy dealing with the Bud
Trilling gang. The title of the film comes from the fact that while we
know that Trilling is actor Don Costello he's not known to anyone other
than his gang. No wanted posters with likeness are circulated so
consequently he can move around pretty freely.
Bill Boyd, Jimmy Rogers, and Andy Clyde at the beginning of the film happen to be in town when the gang pulls a holdup at the bank and in a very thrilling gun battle they're captured and hauled away to jail. Costello frees them however and the rest of the movie is a running battle between the Bar 20 crew and the Trilling gang. Costello is a resourceful foe, but you know comes out on top.
Costello certainly regretted he and the gang decided to diversify from holdups to cattle rustling.
It's a fascinating comment on "B" Westerns, and possibly on films in
general, that one of the reviews on this site plugs this simple Western
film as one the "better Hoppy films," while one of the other five cites
it as "lesser Hoppy." Both reviewers are right, of course, and each
took the time to comment from separate viewpoints. In a world as big as
the Wild West, there should be plenty of room for both opinions. Too
bad the world isn't so big any more!
Black-clad, cool-headed Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) must track down lawbreakers and get the guys in the slammer--and wouldn't it be a surprise to all of us if he failed to do so? Most Hoppy films have a distinguishing hallmark, and perhaps this one's is a Movable Herd and the men who move it.
Mystery Man is a low-key, genial cowboy movie with only one song tossed in for good measure, and the sheriff's daughter picking on whatever attractions Hoppy's second- hand man has to offer. For action fans, there is a good deal of gun-play behind boulders and dust-raising in Lone Pine, and' as is often the case, the cinematography by Russell Harlan is a major bonus point, taking what could show as dull chases and enhancing California desert landscape with background mountain majesties and banks of clouds. Harlan turns the ordinary into memorable--lucky us!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a fair Hoppy movie. I bother to review it to point out one
unusual thing. Virtually all of the Hoppy movies entail some kind of
mystery or some clever way to flush out the bad guys, get the goods on
them. ***Spoilers*** This Hoppy movie is very different! In this oater,
after Hoppy helps capture the Trilling gang (but not Trilling himself,
who is unknown outside of his gang) at the start of the movie, from
there until the conclusion of the movie it is one long caper: the bad
guys getting out of jail to rustle Hoppy's 1000-head of cattle being
driven for sale at the Circle J, and Hoppy recapturing and losing the
(1) The Trilling gang rustles Hoppy's herd by sneaking up to the cowboys' downtime camp, scattering the cowboys' horses and making off with the herd.
(2) Hoppy and his men gather their horses, follow the herd, chase off the rustlers and regain the herd.
(3) The rustlers pretend to be a posse of lawmen, get the drop of Hoppy, tie up Hoppy and his men at their hideout, and go off with the herd.
(4) Hoppy and men escape the hideout, but before they can regain the herd, Trilling has pretended he is Hopalong, owner of the herd, and Trilling sics the local Sheriff on the real Hoppy and company, who are thrown in jail.
(5) The Sheriff's daughter knows the truth, so she breaks the real Hoppy and crew out of jail, and they finally apprehend the Trilling gang.
Although Mystery Man is no contender for the best Hopalong Cassidy
movie ever made, it is definitely among the better movies in the
series. The action moves from one city to the next as Hoppy drives a
herd of Bar 20 cattle to its destination. This parallels the story as
it moves steadily toward its climax.
The villain, Bud Trilling (Don Costello), is introduced to the viewer early on, but Hoppy and the law do not expose Trilling until the end. During the course of the movie Trilling is a faceless villain who is able to enter towns and encounter sheriffs without fear of recognition. During a bank holdup by Trilling's gang, Hoppy, California, and Jimmy join the fight against the bank robbers. Jimmy's life is saved by a visiting young lady named Diane Newhall (Eleanor Stewart). She explains that her father taught her how to shoot and that he is the sheriff in the same town where Jimmy will be at the end of his cattle drive. This brief meeting pays off later in the movie. Trilling works up a scheme to steal both the Bar 20 herd and the money at the end of the trail while leaving Hoppy and his men at the mercy of the law.
No one stays put in Mystery Man. As soon as there is enough action in the first town, the story moves on to the cattle drive. During the cattle drive there is one musical performance which is rare in a Hopalong Cassidy movie, but it fits the scene well. Events along the way keep the story interesting then move to the last destination. There is no tired feeling from too much action in one place.
With a bigger budget this could have been a great movie.
Set in Holbrook in the 1880s, Hoppy is dressed all in black (usually a
sign, but not always). On the positive side, there's lots of action &
gunfights (four in all), & the heroine is especially helpful (she's a
Sheriff's daughter). On the negative side, Jimmy Rogers is as wooden as
always, the comedy is not too funny, the plot seems rushed between horse
chases, & most of all, there's no real sense of toughness from Hoppy.
Altogether one of the more minor Hopalong Cassidy entries.
I rate it 5/10.
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