In the 1820’s, Mexico won a revolution and established itself as an independent republic. The republic, being new, is still fragile and needs a steady supply of gold to keep it running. The province of San Mendolito has the richest supply of gold. Benito Juarez (Carleton Young) is the newly elected president of the republic. He needs the help of the council in San Mendolito to provide the gold the fledgling republic desperately needs.
An evil villain adopts the disguise of a Yaqui Indian god called Don Del Oro. He intends on stealing the gold shipments to Mexico City to weaken the government. Pretending to be Don Del Oro he incites the Yaqui Indian tribe to attack the gold shipments and kill the Mexican soldiers. Once the republic is floundering he will take over the territory and rule it as Emperor.
The council is full of conspirators. Four of them, Governor Felipe (Leander De Cordova), Manuel Gonzalez (Edmund Cobb), Chief Justice Pablo (C. Montague Shaw) and Commandante Manuel (John Merton) are traitors to the republic. One of them is the evil Don Del Oro.
Council member Don Francisco (Guy D’Ennery) has established a fighting legion of men to help fight Don Del Oro. When Francisco is murdered his nephew Don Diego Vega (Reed Hadley) is sent for to take his uncle’s place on the council. While everyone believes Diego is a fop he is secretly Zorro. As Zorro, and with the help of Don Francisco’s right hand man, Ramon (William Corson), he takes Francisco’s place as head of the fighting legion. Now known as Zorro and the Fighting Legion they help Zorro combat Don Del Oro and his minions as well as the crooked council members.
“Zorro’s Fighting Legion” was released in 1939 and was directed by William Witney and John English. It is a 12 chapter serial produced by Republic Pictures and is the second in a series of five serials based on the Zorro character. The other serials are: Zorro Rides Again (1937), Zorro's Black Whip (1944), Son of Zorro (1947) and Ghost of Zorro (1949).
There’s not much in the way of good sword play here but there’s a lot of other stuff that’s good. One of the things that made this serial interesting was some of the clever ways Zorro outwitted Del Oro’s men. For example using carrier pigeons to notify the legion where certain troop movements were. Not to mention some of the great cliff hangers and stunt work throughout the serial.
Yakima Cannutt is one of the most prolific stunt men ever. In 1939 Yakima did a stunt for the movie “Stagecoach” where he jumps from a galloping horse to another galloping horse that is pulling a stagecoach. He then falls between the horses and out the back of the coach. He repeated the stunt in chapter 7 of the “Zorro’s Fighting Legion” serial that same year. In the Zorro serial the stunt almost didn’t work. During the stunt you can see Yakima flip completely over before continuing down the between the galloping horses to underneath the stagecoach. During the stunt one of the horses caught his leg causing him to do a backward somersault. The entire thing was caught on film and is in the serial.
In 1981 stunt man Terry Leonard tried to do the same stunt for the film “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” 1981. It didn’t work and Terry ended up badly injured. To Terry’s delight he was allowed to do the stunt in his next film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” 1981. This time he did it as Indiana Jones and with a truck instead of a stagecoach. Terry was thrilled to be able to do the stunt as homage to Yakima. His only requirement was that his friend and fellow stunt man Glenn Randall Jr. be the one to drive the truck.
Don Del Oro means the Golden Lord. Zorro's horse is named El Rey, or the King.
CHAPTER TITLES: 1. The Golden God; 2. The Flaming "Z"; 3. Descending Doom; 4. The Bridge of Peril; 5. The Decoy; 6. Zorro to the Rescue; 7. The Fugitive; 8. Flowing Death; 9. The Golden Arrow; 10. Mystery Wagon; 11. Face to Face; 12. Unmasked.
2 Amazing Yakima Canutt stunts