Rides Again was such a success that Republic
Pictures wanted lightning to strike twice
and immediately set about making a sequel. What
resulted from their efforts is arguably one of
the greatest serials ever made. With Reed Hadley
donning the mask of the Fox, Zorro's
Fighting Legion was a massive achievement
Fighting Legion can be considered a "prequel"
to Zorro Rides
Again, taking place in the nineteenth century
rather than the 1930s. In the film, Don Diego
comes to Mexico after the death of a councilman.
He and his friend Ramon know that something sinister
is afoot, so as usual, Diego plays the fop to
throw off the wiser while moonlighting as Zorro
discover what is really going on behind the scenes.
Militant natives known as the Yaquis
are attacking the Spanish soldiers in defense
of their ancient gold mines, which the Spanish
government is naturally pilfering for capital.
Rumor has it that the Yaquis are being led by
their once dead, now resurrected deity named Don
Del Oro. Zorro feels something is afoot and as
Diego, takes a place on the council, suspecting
their treachery. Soon, Diego realizes that someone
on the council is connected to Don Del Oro somehow
and therefore, he cannot trust the Spanish soldiers
and generals to help solve the mystery.
in a room
with walls closing in.
Zorro forms a militia of masked
riders who call themselves Zorro's Fighting Legion.
With their help, Zorro weaves through various
plots, traps, and deceptions in the hunt for Don
Del Oro's identity and the identity of the traitor
in their midst.
Fighting Legion is a rollicking adventure
serial, and probably the best of the best. Much
of this serial inspired the Indiana Jones films.
The most famous inspirational moment is during
a wagon chase in which Zorro dives under the horses
and slides between them only to grab the rear
of the coach and work his way back to the driver's
seat. This stunt was reconstructed exactly in
Raiders of the Lost Ark
for the climactic truck chase.
The Indiana Jones type of bullwhip
use is prevalent in the film, with Zorro using
it to full effect. He whips guns out of the hands
of enemies countless times, swings away from avalanches
and out of windows before barns explode, even
using it to force information out of his foes.
It is as much his trademark and trustworthy tool
as it was for Indy in Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Speaking of Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom, the sequences
with the "god" Don Del Oro seem to echo
Mola Ram and the Thuggees at times early in the
serial with the armoured god ordering certain
men to be sacrificed into a flaming pit. In one
action packed chapter of the serial, Zorro and
Ramon are searching the Yaqui mines when Don Del
Oro orders the tunnels flooded with water to flush
them out. The scene in Temple
of Doom in which Mola Ram tells the Thuggees
to do the same is clearly inspired by this serial
chapter. Earlier in the serial, there is a harrowing
scene in which Zorro is trapped in a room with
walls that begin closing in. While it reflects
the spike trap from Temple
of Doom, any George Lucas fan will clearly
see this as the original Death Star trash compactor
sequence, with the shots compositionally identical
as Zorro tries to stop the walls with his feet
and a wooden bed frame.
and his Masked
This serial is a step above the
majority, with quality action sequences and superior
performances across the board. Sure, Zorro seems
a little wooden at times while a little overplayed
in others, but it is all in good fun. His legion
of masked swordsmen are probably more accurately
described as "Zorro's Masked Singing Musketeers"
as they ride across the desert emoting the same
riding song while wearing Musketeer cloaks, but
they are fun to watch all the same.
Probably the most laughable character
in the whole film is Don Del Oro himself, but
this writer will not give away a good chuckle
for anyone who has not seen it. For Indiana Jones
fans, this serial is a real treat. (MF)