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Patrick Schoenmaker

Indiana Jones' Influences
Classic Adventures
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Inspirations
Zorro Rides Again
Zorro's Fighting Legion
Stagecoach
Gunga Din
Casablanca
China

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

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TheRaider.net Research Indy's Influences Inspirations Zorro's Fighting Legion
 
Zorro's Fighting Legion
 

Released by Republic Pictures - 1939

Directed by: John English & William Witney
Written by: Ronald Davidson, Franklin Adreon, Morgan Cox, Sol Shor & Barney A. Sarecky
Produced by: Hiram S. Brown Jr.

Starring:
Reed Hadley .... Zorro
Sheila Darcy .... Volita
William Corson .... Ramon
Leander De Cordova .... Felipe
Edmund Cobb .... Gonzalez
Billy Bletcher .... Don Del Oro (voice)

 

Zorro 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 of cinema.


One of Zorro's classic
dagger fights.

Zorro's 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.


Zorro trapped 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.

Zorro's 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.


Zorro and his Masked
Singing Musketeers.

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)

 

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