Thursday, August 13, 2015

President Garfield, Robin Hood and John Wayne.

John Wayne did tons of B-Westerns and serials during the 1930s, before finally hitting the big time with Stagecoach in 1939. One of regular gigs was playing Stony Brooke--one of the 3 Mesquitteers. Wayne played Stony in 8 of the 51 films in this popular series.

One of these films 1939's The Night Riders and it is one of my favorites. The villains this time out are a forger and a crooked gambler (who is also a former actor). The two team-up to respectively forge a document and assume the identity of a Spanish noble. This allows them to claim ownership of millions of acres. They then begin to tax the pants off the homesteaders and ranchers already living on that land.

This leads to the Three Mesquitteers losing their ranch. This in turn leads them to assume masked identities, becoming "Los Capaqueroes," masked vigilantes who rob from the villains' tax collectors and return the money to the homesteaders.

I really enjoy the story, especially the Zorro and Robin Hood influences that are so effectively used. There's also a number of fun twists and turns in the plot, such as when the boys take a job with the bad guys and are tasked to catch themselves.

Another plot twist involves a cameo by President James Garfield--not a president you see portrayed very often in films. (Without researching it at all, I'm going to guess that Lincoln followed by FDR are the most commonly seen Chief Execs we see in the movies.) Garfield's assassination, by the way, proves to be an important plot point.

It's also just plain fun to see John Wayne in what it essentially a superhero costume. Tom Tyler (who himself would be playing superheroes such as Captain Marvel and the Phantom) is an evil henchman, while future Frankenstein's monster Glenn Strange has a small role at the beginning.

The Night Riders is in the public domain, so here it is in its entirety:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...