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Patrick Schoenmaker

Indiana Jones' Influences
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Help Support Research Indy's Influences Inspirations Zorro Rides Again
Zorro Rides Again

Released by Republic Pictures - 1937

Directed by: John English & William Witney
Story by: Johnston McCulley
Screenplay by: Franklin Adreon, Morgan Cox, Ronald Davidson, John Rathmell & Barry Shipman
Produced by: Sol C. Siegel

John Carroll .... James Vega
Helen Christian .... Joyce Andrews
Reed Howes .... Phillip Andrews
Duncan Renaldo .... Renaldo
Noah Beery .... J.A. Marsden
Richard Alexander .... Brad 'El Lobo' Dace


In the fledgling decades of sound cinema, one of the best parts of going to the movies was to catch the latest serials before the feature. Each chapter in a serial was around fifteen minutes in length and related the exploits of some comic hero, such as The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, or even Flash Gordon. Every chapter would end with a cliffhanger and the only way to find out what happened was to go to theatre the very next week and see the next installment. One of the most popular serial characters was Zorro.

After initial success with the silent Fairbanks film, The Mark of Zorro, in 1920, Hollywood took the character to the serials. Zorro Rides Again was the first, soon followed by Zorro's Fighting Legion. In this first serial, the original Zorro has been dead for many years, but when the Vegas are threatened by a group of bandits working for a profiteer bent on destroying the Vegas' railroad project, Zorro's great-grandson takes up the mask and whip and squares off against the injustice.

Sure, the acting was not excellent. The sets were cheap, the editing was less than masterful, and the dialogue was hardly Shakespeare, but all serials were that way, and they thrived on their endearing sense of moral innocence. Also, the serial was the incubator for the modern stunt man. A good serial sported the best stunts and action scenes cinema could offer, and it was in the Zorro serials that pioneering stuntmen like Yakima Canutt (who was huge inspiration for the Indiana Jones films) honed their craft.

Zorro as a serial character was a massive influence on Indiana Jones. It was from Zorro that Indiana Jones acquired his trademark weapon, the bullwhip. In Zorro Rides Again, the whip is put into play over and over, getting almost as much screen time as Zorro himself. In exactly the same fashion as Indiana Jones, Zorro carries his whip coiled on his belt. In the beginning of the film, in a scene similar to the Ravenwood Bar from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Zorro arrives just in time to save the Vegas from the bandits, starting the fight by whipping the gun from the leader's hand. He makes this a habit throughout the film, consistently disarming people with the whip, even pulling it off with his back turned in one scene!

The whip antics do not end there. During a fight on the train tracks, Zorro grapples with the leader of the bandits, who traps his foot in the rails using the track switch. With the train barreling down on him, Zorro grabs his whip just in time and manages to snag the switch and release his foot. Later in the film, Zorro uses his whip around a high post to climb an adobe fort, which echoes Indiana Jones climbing the statue in the Well of Souls. Later, Zorro uses the whip to swing out of a high window, very much like Indy does at the castle in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Zorro jumping from his
horse onto a truck.

Besides the whip action, other elements of this serial inspired the adventuring archaeologist as well. The action and stunts throughout the serial are in the same spirit as the entire Indiana Jones series. The most striking of these stunts is a scene in which Zorro jumps from his horse onto the side of a moving truck and into the cab. The shot, compositionally, is almost exactly the same as the shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy jumps from his horse into the truck to steal back the Ark.

Zorro Rides Again is a great popcorn flick. All right, so Zorro tends to sing like a troubadour in some riding sequences, he wears his holsters backwards for some strange reason, and he sounds like Dark Helmet from Spaceballs, but any Indiana Jones fan will get a kick out of watching it.


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