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Talbot uses a phony land grant to rule thirteen million acres, taxing everyone heavily and evicting those who won't pay. The Three Mesquiteers becomes mysterious "night riders" to fight this evil. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[the outlaws are shooting through the windows of the building where the townsmen have holed up]
Well, they're askin' for it!
Yeah. Let's give 'em an answer.
[the townsmen return fire]
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The Three Mesquiteers were able to jump through time from one film to another. In The Night Riders, newspaper headlines are used in transitions between scenes, and those newspapers show dates in 1881. So, there are no automobiles or radios in this one, just horses and telegraphs.
There is a nice plot that sets up the action for The Night Riders. A corrupt former engraver for the U.S. Mint and a crooked riverboat gambler team up to pull off a land swindle using a forged Spanish land grant. The forger, Hazleton, orchestrates everything by having Talbot, the gambler and former actor, pose as Don Luis Serrano. Immediately they start taxing and evicting the settlers on 13,000,000 acres of land.
The Don's henchmen and an apprehensive sheriff run the Mesquiteers off of their ranch, and the Mesquiteers see others dealt the same fate. Stony makes a perfect John Wayne speech about what America means, and writes to President Garfield for help. The President is bound by the laws of the country and cannot help. Not content to let the Don take every settler's land, the Mesquiteers become Los Capaqueros, three masked riders that rob the tax collectors and give the money to ranchers facing eviction. As Los Capaqueros, the Mesquiteers accidentally meet with President Garfield, who is on a cross country tour. Garfield promises his help if the Mesquiteers can find evidence of something illegal. Eventually the Don raises an army to search for Los Capaqueros, and the Mesquiteers find a way to get themselves included so they can infiltrate the Don's compound. Stony is determined to prove that the Don is really Talbot. Everything ends with justice being served in Mesquiteers fashion.
I have not seen all of the Mesquiteers films, but I have never seen a "3 M Ranch." Perhaps it only existed for this one film as a plot device. In almost every other movie the Mesquiteers have been some kind of federal agents, but in The Night Riders they have absolutely no connection with law enforcement at all. I must assume that the script was written without the Three Mesquiteers in mind, and adapted to fit the team later.
The Night Riders has a cast with many of the B western regulars. It was fun looking for all the familiar faces. Glenn Strange and Horace Murphy are uncredited, but they both have more significant parts than the credited Tom London. Kermit Maynard had been a leading man shortly before this film. Sadly, he was destined to play supporting parts from around the time this movie was made onward. It was interesting to see Tom Tyler as one of the bad guys, because within a couple of years he would play the part of Stony Brooke through the end of the Mesquiteers series.
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