The Bar-20 Three rides again. Sort of.
Somewhat of an odd duck of a movie, it didn’t take me long to realize it was all done on purpose. A Coppola family production, Francis Ford presents, written and directed by Christopher, Adrienne Stout-Coppola plays Mary Meeker, Buck Peters’ niece and Hoppy’s true love, and a number of other coppolas appear throughout the credits.
All the B movie tropes were here.
Stalwart hero, complete with white hat. Check.
Villain a bullying, cowardly type who fancies himself a top gunfighter. And wearing black. Check.
The hero’s girl friend taken by the villain. Check.
The hero’s friends shot up, sending him out to avenge them. Check.
Making the hapless townie dance to a hail of bullets around his feet. Check.
Cowardly Sheriff. Check.
Corny dialogue. Check.
Sparse sets(I mean really sparse). Check.
Hoppy sets off with Red Connors and Lanky Smith to rescue mary and exact revenge.
The Hopalong Cassidy here is not the Hoppy of the old movies and TV, a fact that most of the reviews on IMDB harped on incessantly. Most of them seemed to have no idea there was ever any Hopalong Cassidy but the William Boyd version. Only one reviewer noted the novels and he was the one who got that this wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.
Mostly the cast are unknowns, but there are a number of veteran actors on hand. Clu Gulager is Buck Peters, Will Hutchins(of Sugarfoot fame) is The Judge, Robert Carradine is The Kid, and Martin Sheen is The Stranger.
The two main roles are played by Chris Lybert as Hopalong and Lou Schwiebert as Tex Ewalt, here the villain. Their acting must have been very bad as the credits list a number of voice artists, two attched as the voices of Hoppy and Tex. I don’t know, maybe that was deliberate as well.
There’s a modern day framing sequence around the movie involving The Kid(Carradine) and The Stranger(Sheen). The Kid is a down-and-out county western singer, admittedly unable to write songs anymore, that arrives at a ramshackle building in the middle of nowhere that looks to be your standard western saloon when he enters. Empty, The Stranger soon arrives wearing black gloves with silver stars on the cuffs.
The main part of the film is a story The Stranger tells to inspire The Kid. The gloves are only worn by heroes good and true.
Near the end of the movie, there’s a rodeo leading up to the final showdown between hero and villain. Remember I mentioned sparse sets. Rodeo out in the middle of nowhere, no buildings, no corrals, just a big, open meadow.
I kind of liked this one. If you approach it as not a serious movie, you can enjoy it. Though not laugh out loud funny, a vein of humor runs through it. The spirit here is closer to Blazing Saddles than John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. The closing song over the credits, The Ballad of Hopalong Cassidy, co-written and sung by Johnny Rivers, is pretty good.
One final note. Most reviewers couldn’t figure the Sheen character out. Who was he? A ghost? I was pretty sure almost immediately, but at the end when he rode off on the same horse Hoppy rode throughout the movie(not a white stallion named Topper, another bone of contention with reviewers).
Check out the trailer: