- X 2019
Zorro's Black Whip
directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet, Wallace Grissell
starring George J. Lewis, Linda Stirling, Francis McDonald, Lucien Littlefield, Hal Taliaferro (= Wally Wales), John Merton, John Hamilton, Tom Chatterton, Tom London, Jack Kirk, Jay Kirby, Si Jenks, Stanly Price, Tom Steele, Duke Green, Dale Van Sickel, Roy Brent, Nolan Leary, Fred Graham, Carey Loftin, Jack O'Shea, Cliff Parkinson, Forrest Taylor, Robert J.Wilke, Bill Yrigoyen
written by Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Grant Nelson, Joseph F.Poland, special effects by Theodore Lydecker, Howard Lydecker, musical director: Richard Cherwin
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Idaho 1889: The region wants to be given statehood, which would mean it
would fall under US-jurisdiction, but there are still forces who try to
use the region's somewhat vague legal state to their advantage - and
statehood would mean the end of their operations and criminal prosecution.
Newspaper man Randolph Meredith (Jay Kirby) is one of the men literally
cruzading for statehood, but not only by publishing articles in his
newspaper but also by fighting outlaws in a Zorro-like
disguise, as the Black Whip. Thing is, Meredith is shot dead before
even chapter one of this serial is over, so it's up to his sister Barbara
(Linda Stirling) to put on his costume and fight injustice in his stead.
Before long she finds an ally in gouvernment agent Vic Gordon (George
J.Lewis) - he is described as an undercover agent, even though he never
does any undercover work -, however, she doesn't disclose her secret identity even to him,
and ultimately only Tenpoint (Lucien Littlefield), the printer of her
newspaper, knows that she really is the Black Whip.
The biggest opponent to the Idaho-statehood is Hammond (Francis
McDonald), your typical honourable citizen on the outside but really the
leader of an outlaw gang who want to loot Idaho for all it's got. From
here on it's shoot-outs and chases aplenty, with Vic and Barbara - in
costume and out - escaping many a close call. Eventually Hammond even
figures that Barbara has to be the Black Whip, but by that point, Vic has
independently found out her secret, donned her costume and freed her in
disguise, thus diverting suspicion from her. Utimately, Vic and Barbara
find out that Hammond is really the leader of the outlaws and drive him
out of town - but he's not one to be easily defeated, and on election day
for Idaho's statehood he plans to steal the ballotts to get his hands on
Idaho after all. However his men are in the end outnumbered by the Black
Whip, Vic and a bunch of gouvernment agents, and he alone escapes. Upon
his escape though, he discovers the hide-out of the Black Whip, sees
Barbara unmasking and has her at gunpoint - when her horse goes wild and
stomps him to death.
Some of Republic's serials, especially the early ones (e.g. Darkest
Africa, Undersea Kingdom,
The Adventures of
Captain Marvel), were great, and be it for their cinematic merits
or (more often) their camp value. Zorro's Black Whip on the other
hand is only just mediocre: Its storyline is strangely uninvolving and
lacks dramatic build-up, the episodes themselves are pretty much
interchangeable and don't seem to have any effect on the story as a whole,
the action is just average, the direction is functional and the bheroic
duo of Linda Darnell and (especially) George J.Lewis is nothing short of
totally bland. This does of course not mean that the serial is all bad,
it's very slickly made (a bit too slickly for my taste), is decently
budgeted, and some of the cliffhangers are even exciting. Just don't
expect too much.
By the way, the credits boldly state that this serial is somehow based
on Johnston McCulley's Zorro
character, but besides the fact that it also features a masked
crimefighter who rides a horse, there are no similarities, neither in
location (California vs Idaho) nor in weapon of choice (rapier vs whip),
and not even in gender (male vs female, obviously).