In a nutshell: Zorro
rides to the rescue in old Mexico in one of the best serials ever made.
This serial is one of the top five chapter plays that were ever made.
It has everything; an engaging mystery, a stalwart hero, fair cliff-hangers,
and lots and lots of action.
The newly established Mexican state of San Mendolito is having problems.
They need their gold from a local mine to help prop up the new Mexican
government, but the local Yaqui Indians are starting to revolt. They
are being led by a mysterious person dressed in a metal suit who is claiming
to be Don Del Oro, one of their gods. This Don Del Oro want to use
the gold and the Indians to rule all of Mexico himself.
Enter Zorro, the masked hero who is an expert with both the sword and
the whip. He bands together a group of like minded men to combat
Don Del Oro and right the misguided Indians. From the beginning,
Zorro suspects that someone on San Mendolito's governing council is really
Del Oro, but who?
Directed for Republic Pictures by the dynamic duo of serials John English
and William Whitney, Zorro's Fighting Legion is a rip-roaring good
time. Everything just comes together in this serial to make it very
exciting and entertaining. The story is strong for a chapter play,
creating a reason for the action, not just serving as padding between cliffhanger
as happens in many mediocre serials. The mystery of just who is behind
Don Del Oro's mask is quite captivating. All of the council members
are suspects, and several of them appear to be strong candidates for the
villain as the story progresses. Don Del Oro's revealation in the
last chapter brings the series to a satisfying conclusion.
The stunts that are preformed in this series are really top-notch,
not just for a serial, but for any film. Yakima Canutt, arguably
the best stunt man to ever live, did a lot of the stunt work and he really
went all out. This serial has the famous sequence were Zorro (Cannut)
jumps onto a team of galloping horses pulling a stage. The villains
shoot at him, so he drops down between the horses, lets the coach roll
over him, and then grabs the back of the stagecoach as it flies by.
This impressive stunt was later lifted for the first Indiana Jones movie.
This serial has some really great breath-taking and original cliffhanger
endings too. I'm glad I didn't have to wait a week to see how everything
turned out. The cliffhangers don't cheat in this serial either.
In many of them they'll remove an important shot, the hero jumping out
of a car before it runs over a cliff for example, but they don't do that
in this one. If you see Zorro being shot at and falling under a team
of horses hooves at the end on one chapter, that'll happen at the beginning
of the next one too.
This series also boasts some of the best scenery that is to bee seen
in a serial. There are some great tracking shots of Zorro riding
full speed through the desert, the fast paced incidental music adding
a lot to the wonderful visuals.
Reed Haley is a great Don Diego/Zorro. His deep voice and tall
stature creates a wonderful larger-than-life action hero for Zorro, yet
he can convincingly play the foppish Diego.
The acting, action, music and script all came together to make this
an exciting and fun filled serial. One of the best.
The two channel mono track is fairly clean for a film of this age.
There isn't any distortion and the hiss is almost unnoticeable. The
dialog and the sound effects come through clearly, though there isn't a
lot of dynamic range.
The full frame video image is pretty soft over all. All of the
copies I've seen of this serial have had this problem, including VHS editions.
While this DVD in no worse than the others, it's still softer than I'd
like. The lines are a little blurry and not distinct. The black
and white image also looks a little washed out and too light most of the
time. Of course, with a series of this age, there is some print damage;
scratches, spots and the rare torn frame, but these are minor. Overall,
the image was a little disappointing.
This serial has been released several times on DVD, and I also own the
VCI release. Both the Roan and VCI DVD use the same print, with the
same scratches and tears in the film. The scratch that runs on the
right side of the credits during the opening of chapter two is exactly
the same. The VCI disc is also very soft, but it is a little
darker than the Roan DVD. The VCI doesn't look quite as washed out,
but it does have a few more digital artifacts, though these are minor.
I'd give the edge to the VCI disc, though not by a lot.
Image has also released a version of this serial that is supposed to
be printed from the camera negative, but I have not seen that version unfortunately.
As with other Troma DVDs, the Radiation March is included, as
well as the first chapter of Radar Men from the Moon and a short
text piece on Zorro.
This is one of the greatest serials ever put to film. A lot of
action, a good story, and some great suspenseful endings put this in the
top ten. Unfortunately the image is a little disappointing, mainly
because it is so soft. That knocks the overall grade down a notch,
but this is so much fun, it is still recommended.