Tuesday, October 29, 2019

"Harrowing 'Hoppy'"

It was the scariest Hopalong Cassidy movie of all time.

A little background...

Back in the 50’s, Hopalong Cassidy was most of our’s favorite onscreen cowboy.

Even though Hopalong Cassidy was the only cowboy with white hair.  (Well earned, as William Boyd, the actor who played Hoppy, was born in 1895.)

I watched all the “Hoppy” movies and the subsequent TV series, filled with ripsnortin’ adventure and Bad Guys gettin’ shot in the hand. 

Here’s the thing, making what I am about to tell you so memorable.

In all his rip-snortin’ adventures, Hopalong Cassidy never got hurt.

Well, he did, but he never acted like he was hurt.  Hoppy’d get “winged” in the shoulder, and his sidekick “Windy” would come racin’ up, “Hoppy!  You hurt bad?” and he’d calmly answer, “I’m fine!” and just keep on a-fightin’!

Except one time, he didn’t.

(Which brings a shiver to me even today.)   

In a tense one-on-one sequence, Hoppy blasts his way into a “line shack”, facing a dangerous owlhoot whom he ultimately subdues.  The thing is, during the fiery gunfight,

Hopalong Cassidy gets shot.

(In the upper left leg, for “B-Movie” scorekeepers.)   

I am, like, nine years old. 

Watching alone.  

And here’s my all-time hero,

Shot in the leg.

And he’s not casually shrugging it off.

The guy really looks bad!

I remember the blood.

Copiously oozing through Cassidy’s wound-staunching fingers.

The times Hoppy got shot in the shoulder, they didn’t even show blood.  They rarely showed damage to his shirt! 

But now, there’s all of this blood!

‘Movie blood” experts – please weigh in.  It seems to me black-and-white “movie blood” – which appears black on the screen – is the most authentic-looking “movie blood” there is.  

It looks like actual blood!

(As compared to the ludicrous “melted crayon” blood used in 50’s Technicolor movies.)

Imagine this.  A nine year-old kid, watching his hero’s “actual blood” trickling inexorably down his leg as he drifts ever increasingly towards “unconscious.”  
And you know what that means.  The cornered Bad Guy “turns the tables” and that’s it!

“Oh, Hoppy!  Don’t fall asleep!”

Who’s ridin’ to the rescue?  Not me.  I’m in Toronto – you should pardon the expression – sweating bullets in my pajamas.  Some of Hoppy’s pals are, indeed, on their way.  The question is,

Will they get there on time!

For what feels like forever, we see Hoppy, trying desperately to stay awake, the grinning Bad Guy he’s ‘”covering” simply “bidin’ his time.”

Behold petrified nine year-old Earlo,

Watching in dread.

That is the memory I have kept with me, throughout all of this time.

Then, sixty-five years later, I turn on “Hoppy” on The Westerns Channel

And there it is. 

(File that under “… if a persons lives long enough…”)

There on Spectrum Cable Channel 607 is a televised rerun of that outlier “Hoppy” containing the darkest and direst sequence in its long and glorious oeuvre.

I am reluctant to watch it.  But because, you know, I am older, I do.

And you know what?

It wasn’t that bad.

(Though there was still that black blood.)

Instead of what I recall as virtually an entire movie involving Hopalong Cassidy coming “this close” to “bleeding out” in a “line shack”, the harrowing “shot-in-the-leg” sequence runs less than a minute. 

The actual footage involved three “cutaways” between a recedingly conscious Hopalong Cassidy clutching his blood-soaked wound, and a posse of compadres, ridin’ to the rescue. 

And – anyone surprised? – they arrive there on time.

Was I disappointed by this startling contrast? 


But I was also relieved.

A harbored scary moment in my brain?

And it turns out,

Hoppy was fine.

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