Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939) Poster

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Zorro against Don del Oro
esteban174710 December 2002
There have been several films about Zorro, some even made in Europe, e.g. Alain Delon. This role has also been played by outstanding actors, such as Tyrone Power and Anthony Hopkins, but to me the best of all times has always been Reed Hadley. This serial gives you the opportunity to see an interesting western, where you will only discover the real villain, Don del Oro, at its end. The serial also has good performance of various actors of movies B like Ed Cobb, ex- Tarzan Jim Pierce, C. Montague Shaw, eternal villains like John Merton and Charles King, and a very good performance of Hadley as Zorro. He was quick, smart, used well his whip and sword, and his voice was the best for any Zorro.
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Wall to Wall Action!
bsmith55523 April 2005
As serials go "Zorro's Fighting Legion" is one of the best action serials of the 1930s. Made in a period when the studios could still field a large cast, this one has wall to wall action throughout its 12 chapters.

In 1824 the President of the newly formed Republic of Mexico Benito Juarez (Carleton Young) is trying to put his new country on a solid financial footing. To that end, he has arranged to have rich gold shipments forwarded to the capitol from the local San Mendolita mine.

Members of the local council plot to steal the shipments on behalf of Don-del-Oro a gold armored god, who with the aid of the local Yaqui tribe, hopes to install himself as the ruler of Mexico. Opposing him is Don Francisco (Guy D'Ennery) who forms a legion of locals to aid Juarez. When Don Franciso is murdered by Don-del-Oro's men, a stranger, the fopish Don Diego (Reed Hadley) arrives in town. Diego aka Zorro takes over the legion with the help of his friends Ramon (William Corson) and Juan (Budd Buster). The token heroine of the piece is Ramon's sister Volita (Sheila D'Arcy).

Both Diego and Ramon hold seats on the local ruling Counsil. It soon becomes apparent that some of the other members of the Council are in league with Don-del-Oro. First there is the Chairman of the Council (Leander de Cordova), the head of the militia Manuel (John Merton), Chief Justice Pablo (C. Montague Shaw) and Gonzolez (Edmund Cobb). Zorro suspects that one of these men is Don-del-Oro, but which one?

What follows are several hair raising escapes by Zorro and his confederates from the followers of Don-del-Oro. We have the ever present collapsing rope bridge, the deep chasm between two cliffs over which only Zorro can jump to safety, and the usual assortment of explosions, fires and coaches and wagons crashing or going over the cliff. Hats off here to Republic's fine team of stunt men lead by the legendary Yakima Canutt and the Yrigoyens, Bill and Joe. Canutt performs his signature stunt jumping on a team of runaway horses and then falling beneath the coach which he repeated in other films including John Ford's "Stagecoach" the same year.

Anyway, Zorro finally unmasks the false god Don-del-Oro and restores peace to the valley before riding off into the sunset in Chapter 12.

Others in the cast include Jim Pierce, Curley Dresden and Charlie King as Don-del-Oro's hence men and if you look closely you may spot bits by future serial star and Lone Ranger Clayton Moore and stuntman Canutt in bits. "Big" Jim Pierce by the way, may be best remembered for playing Tarzan in 1927's "Tarzan and the Golden Liom" (1927) and for his marriage to Joan Burroughs the daughter of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Thoroughly enjoyable.
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Zorro's Fighting Legion
halvorh21 May 2006
I loved this exiting republic serial! The story was one of the best I have ever seen! Even tough, the picture quality was not of the best, but OK. The fencing in this serial is also a bit bad, but not terrible. They only should have practised some more. As I said the story is GREAT! You're just sitting there and waiting to find out who Don Del Oro is! The theme music is excellent! It's the same guy who maid the music for Walt Disney's version of Zorro, who maid the Fightin Legion music. Costumes and buildings are very good. Zorro is really cool and so are the legioners! I highly recommend this serial. Buy it!

I love that Reed Hadley plays Zorro! He is funny, smart and brave! Mark: 6.
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Ain't that "Captain Braddock" as Zorro? And Hey! These Legionairres Sing !
John T. Ryan18 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
God! Zorro has been the the subject of about as many movies as Tarzan, and probably had about as many actors in the title role.

This Serial is one of my own personal favourites, and as previously stated,it is one of the Top 5 Sound Serials. Oddly enough, this is one production that came out in that water shed year of 1939.* By the time of this production in '39, Zorro was really well known as a (Pulp) literary and movie character. The film opens up with a little foot note about the History of the Mexico's struggle for freedom from rule by a European Monarchy, namely Spain. The story invites comparison with the American Revolutionary War.

The story concentrates its attention to the mythical Province of San Mendelito and its 'Council'. It is being addressed by Benito Juarez**on their gold mine's relation to the new Republic of Mexico. Gold shipments must get thru to Mexico City.

Don Francisco Uncle to Diego Vega, states that he has organized a group of patriots to act as a protective force for the gold convoys.A thug from the Don del Oro mob, stages an 'insult' to himself and challenges Don Francisco to a duel with swords, Don Frasncisco getting run through.

Suddenly the dark clad masked swordsman appears to sword fight and after carving the trademark 'Z' on the face of the bad guy, he dispatches him to the hereafter. Don Francisco declares with his dying breath to his ward Ramon (William Corson) that Zorro is his nephew from the city of Los Angeles. He also attempts to tell of the true identity of Don del Oro, but expires before completing statement.

There is a big reception for Diego at Don Francisco's Hacienda, where Diego disappoints Ramon'sister (also ward of Don Francisco) with his timid act. "A FOP!!", she declares.

Later,Diego and Ramon slip away to join up with a meeting of the volunteers. When they ask, "who will lead us with Don Francisco now dead?", Ramon declares "Zorro, we are Zorro's Fighting Legion!" Well there is a big battle with the Legion, now all clad on gray, with masks and capes, protecting the Gold Train. Then Zorro seems trapped at a man-made avalanche intended for the convoy, when, well, you know cliffhanger end of Chapter One.

Wow! That was a lot of writing for one Chapter, but like most other Serials, the opening one is longer and has a lot of ground to be laid to set up the story line. Let's just let it suffice to say that there are 11 more good, well made, action filled Chapters following.

ZORRO's FIGHTING LEGION has all of the elements that made for top cliffhanger action. We have an unknown evil leader who is fomenting trouble between different groups. There is a number of suspects as to who was really behind of the mask of 'Don del Oro'. We had soldiers, renegade Whites, hostile Indians and the Legion.

In short, it's safe to say that there is everything one could want, and then some, in this Serial. And, incidentally, they wisely choose to not have the actors affect any Mexican accents.

As to just what is there here that makes ZFL stand out from the rest? What makes it different or unique? Well........

First of all, it has a much more elaborate and exciting musical score playing and underlining the drama and action on the screen. The opening theme even appears in a flamenco guitar rendition at the Cantina in Chapter One. This is probably the only time that such a highly specialized innovation appears in serial sound track.

And yet there is one more feature that really sets the Fighting Legion saga out in front from all others. That is, the film not only has a heroic musical theme, but it also sports Lyrics, yes, the Legionairres sing! We hear them singing in the opening credits and in several Chapters! It really works well and adds to the feelings we get from the viewing.

When the Serial was first shown on our local television (circa 1955), all of the gang immediately recognized the voice of Reed Hadley as belonging to 'Captain Braddock from RACKET SQUAD, the TV Series. Mr. Hadley had a very distinctive, deep voice.*** He also handled the role very well. His costume and especially the elongated mask looked very good and was probably very functional.

There is a small slip up. A sort of minor anachronism occurs by having Benito Juarez(Carleton Young)addressing the San Mendelito Council, as Juarez was about 18 years old at this time (1824) and, though he was later perhaps the greatest single figure in Mexico's History, he surely hadn't achieved such prominence yet. His inclusion in story probably was to cash in on the release of Warner Brothers' JUAREZ that year, which starred Paul Muni in the title role.

This is not only my pick as a top 5 sound serial, but also my favourite Zorro film.

* We are reminded of the great crop of top flight movies that year, what with GONE WITH THE WIND, MR.SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, THE CITADEL, JUAREZ, THE WIZARD OF OZ, OF MICE AND MEN, ONE MILLION B.C.,ZENOBIA, WE WANT OUR MUMMY all counted among the output that year.

** Once again, Juarez did not ascend to any national importance until around 1850, about 25 years later. Also, the political sub-divisions are referred to as 'Provinces' in the story. In actuality, they are called 'States'. Just as we are called the United States of America, so too,South of the Border they call their Repubhlic the United States of Mexico.

*** Reed Hadley was prominent in some very 'A' pictures in which his richly toned voice is exploited to good effect. Watch & listen for his narration in THE HOUSE ON 92nd STREET (1945) and GUADALCANAL DIARY (1945).
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review of Zorros Fighting Legion.
tomwal7 February 2002
I rank this the best of the Zorro chapterplays.The exciting musical score adds punch to an exciting screen play.There is an excellent supporting cast and mystery villain that will keep you guessing until the final chapter.Reed Hadley does a fine job as Don Diego and his alter ego Zorro.Last,but certainly not least,is the great directing team of Whitney and English.
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Great music, great stunt work
catherine yronwode24 November 2008
Reed Hadley makes a better foppish Don Diego than he does a dashing and daring Zorro, but that's almost beside the point because this serial features the bar-none best theme song of any serial, ever -- and the best version of Yakima Canutt's famous stagecoach stunt. There are other good stunts, and lots of action, and plenty of hair-raising cliff-hanger chapter endings, but if for no other reason, you must see this film to watch the stagecoach stunt, then re-watch it in slow motion. It is incredible, and, despite the lower budget for this chapter play, Yak turns in a better take on the stunt here than he did in the far more celebrated film "Stagecoach." Indiana Jones, eat your heart out: This is the real deal!
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one of the greatest action serials
orsino4411 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
If you are a fan of Zorro, Indiana Jones, or action in general this is a must-see. Directed by Republic's ace team of William Witney and John English, and starring Reed Hadley as Don Diego/Zorro, this serial delivers! I won't bore you with the plot (who cares? less talking, more fighting); what really matters here is Hadley's superb interpretation of the character/s and the stunt work of Dale van Sickel and Yakima Canutt.


You can see the influence this film had on Lucas and Spielberg -- Zorro gets caught in the original version of the Star Wars trash compactor in one chapter, trapped on a rope bridge a'la Temple of Doom in another, does a Raiders horse-to-coach transfer and even flees through a tunnel while the baddies knock over a huge water tank and flood the tunnel behind him, exactly as Mola Ram does to Indy in Temple of Doom. In addition to all this, the whip action is great as Zorro disarms villains, swings to safety, etc. with his trusty lash. Most of the sword work is fair to lame, except for chapter one, which features a terrific sword brawl in a cantina choreographed by sword/stunt legend Ralph Faulkner, who makes a rare screen appearance as the evil Rodriguez. This was the first serial I ever saw, on Matinée at the Bijou when I was a kid and I have been hooked on them ever since.

Zorro's Fighting Legion delivers "Z" goods!
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One of the best serials ever made
dbborroughs3 July 2008
Best of the Zorro serials and one of my favorite serials, period. This is a period serial set right after the birth of Mexico. The new nation is counting on the gold produced by this one town to keep the republic solvent. However a gold god, Don del Oro is stirring up the Indians and stealing the gold for himself. Its Zorro and his band of men to the rescue. Reed Hadley is a winning Zorro and he cuts a dashing figure as he gets into a nice selection of scraps (most all of which were reused by the later Zorro serials as well as other serials as well).The story moves and its nicely not clear who the real bad guy is. There is a reason that I've seen this the most of any serial I've seen, its simply a great action adventure film. The only thing I can compare it to is the Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power or one of the other swashbucklers of the period. Its super and highly recommended.
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One of the best....
Bond2a22 August 1999
My very favorite character in films, but in nearly all of them the character of Zorro has a small bit of cloth as a mask and if the villain`s can`t tell who is under that cloth then they are daft.

But in Reed Hadley`s "Zorro`s Fighting Legion" (serial 1939) the mask fills his whole face making it a real mystery as to who Zorro really is.

But anyway Zorro is one of the best character`s in films and to bring it up to date l think Anthony Hopkins in "The Mask of Zorro" (1998) is a delight.

My interest in films is vast, but l have a real liking for the serial`s of the 30s/40s....

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Good Stuff
Wizzlon26 January 2006
Along with "King of the Rocket Men", this was still being repeated on BBC TV in the early to mid eighties. If I was loading up a time capsule of this period both these series would definitely go in.

Someone watching it for the first time will think it is silly but this is one of the best examples of the "Serials". Don Del Oro will make you laugh (When I was little my nickname for him was Mr Dustbin head) and it was funny upon being shot at he says "Your bullets can't harm me" then he stumbles back, seemingly less than happy. I also like the way he dispenses with Sebastian in the first episode.

I watched this again because I had good memories of it from years back, there are some good stunts and good music, it has the ingredients you expect including water,rockfalls,runaway carts... Apart from the first episode(with Ralph Faulkner)the swordplay wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it, and yes it features the inevitable "flashback" episode! It gets 8 out of 10 because it still suffers from slow pace, padding and the other tricks. If you are interested in these serials I recommend the book by William Witney, "In a Door, Into a Fight, Out a Door, Into a Chase" although there is only a small entry about this series in it.
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"Republic" serial -- I like the sound of that word
Michael Morrison16 March 2009
Sitting on the front porch of his Burbank home, Ted Mapes told me that he and Reed Hadley wore the exact same size in every item of clothing except hat.

Ted, one of the greatest of the stunt men, said that every time Zorro put on his mask, he was the one on the screen.

That was a little bit of an exaggeration: There were times that Zorro was obviously Reed Hadley, but in the stunts we can be satisfied it was Ted at work.

And what stunts! "Zorro's Fighting Legion" is, as witness the comments here, one of the greatest of serials. It is exciting and generally very well made.

Reed Hadley was a fine actor, and, as someone else commented, he made a very good fop.

But, admittedly, it is the action that makes this movie so great.

And what else could we expect, with direction by that excellent team, Witney and English, with great music from the amazingly prolific William Lava (the listing here says he was uncredited, but that is incorrect; those other composers listed here were indeed uncredited, and I don't know if they did write any of the music -- it sounds like Lava), and with villainy from, among others, the great Charles King, and with dozens of bit parts?

Also noteworthy was a villain played by the radio Tarzan, Jim Pierce, who was Edgar Rice Burroughs' son-in-law. (I urge you to read his mini-bio.)

There is one chapter that slows things down depressingly, but, heck, it's only a few minutes long (maybe 20) and when you wade through it, well, you're back to the excitement.

Turner Classic Movies deserves a great big THANK YOU for presenting this excellent serial, and we should ask TCM to bring us more.

And we should thank everyone involved that we get to see it as a chapter-play, or serial, and not as a re-cut feature.
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One of my top ten serial favorites!
JohnHowardReid4 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Many critics regard chapter 7 as the best of the serial. Personally, I prefer number 8, though I must admit 7 runs it close for thrills with Merton's brilliantly edited stagecoach escape and chase. 7 ends right in the middle of Canutt's famous under-the-coach stunt. 8 has the stunt complete, plus a marvelous sequence with Ramon trapped in a blazing jail by a wonderfully vicious peg-legged turnkey. 9 is the economy episode, most of it consisting of footage from chapters 1 and 2 featuring Merton, plus a bit of Cobb from chapter 3. The tie-in council conference is all directed by English in his usual lackluster style, including would you believe the cliffhanger itself. 10 is certainly an improvement, as we get back to a bit of Witney action and Lydecker miniature work. 11 is one of the best. The ceremonial cave atmosphere is creepy enough, while the cliffhanger is a real humdinger. 12 has the longest introductory reprise of any of the episodes. The final unmasking of Don Del Oro is reasonably exciting. Zorro also unmasks, would you believe? And for the heroine yet! For someone who receives billing right after Hadley, Miss Darcy has certainly had an easy time. She figures briefly in but four or five of the twelve episodes. Very briefly. She seems a very nice girl too. Never mind. The serial is wound up to all our satisfactions by the re-appearance of Carleton Young's Juarez and a few rousing bars of "We Ride". One or two odd lapses in continuity (the mission that is blown up at the end of an early ep is magically restored much later on) plus a few of the usual cliffhanging "cheat" shots would not have worried the serial's original Saturday matinee fans. Nor would the generally no more than passable acting; nor some unintentionally risible examples of corny, cliched, amateurish, explaining-the-obvious dialogue. Full of energy and gusto, Zorro's Fighting Legion deserves its number one choice among many critics as the best serial ever made. It's not my favorite (that's Jungle Girl), but it certainly rates in my Top Ten.
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In defense of Mexico
revere-715 September 2009
There have been a lot of Zorro films made over the decades, but it's a shame that one of the best is probably one of the least seen.

Zorro's Fighting Legion is a bit different from other Zorro films. First off, it's a Republic serial in 12 chapters. And this time, Zorro is not played by a top studio star like Douglas Fairbanks, Tyrone Power or Antonio Banderas but instead by workman-like actor Reed Hadley. While Hadley does not cast as strong a presence over the proceedings as those other, he does an adequate job, helped by the fact that he is not the sole hero here; as the title implies, he has a fighting legion to call upon.

Another big difference is that the setting isn't California. The story here take place in central Mexico in 1824 where a man posing as a living god incites the indigenous Indian population and a band of outlaws to aid him in his plan to overthrow the newly established Mexican Republic. Something, Zorro, and a handful of followers plan to do anything they can to stop.

Don't get me wrong, there is at least one incredibly cheesy moment per episode, from corny "twang" bow sound effects to ludicrous acting. But overall, this represents one of the best Republic serials of all time, and probably the best Zorro one.

The plot is stronger than most serials and never becomes incomprehensible or meandering., and there's lots of great action - fans of the Indiana Jones movies will notice MANY bits borrowed from this serial.
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What Diego can't do, Zorro can!
lastliberal28 March 2009
Serials were short subjects originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film that were related to pulp magazine serialized fiction. Known as "chapter plays," they were extended motion pictures broken into a number of segments called "chapters" or "episodes." Each chapter would be screened at the same theater for one week. The serial would end with a cliffhanger, as the hero and heroine would find themselves in the latest perilous situation from which there could be no escape.

The audience would have to return the next week to find out how the hero and heroine would escape and battle the villain once again. Serials were especially popular with children, and for many children in the first half of the 20th century, a typical Saturday at the movies included a chapter of at least one serial, along with animated cartoons, newsreels, and two feature films.

The golden age for serials was 1936-1945. This was one of the best of the era.

Zorro has been seen in many films, but Reed Hadley ("Racket Squad", The Undying Brain) was excellent in the role.

The action is constant, and we are led chapter by chapter to the ultimate end where we find out the identity of the evildoer.

Zorro triumphs, as he always does.
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