Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Overlooked Films: THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN (1939)

Last week, yapping about the first Lone Ranger serial, I told you it was a lost film, because when Republic lost the rights to the character they were forced to destroy all it’s prints. Well, insane as that was, the same thing happened to this second serial, released in 1939.

I haven’t seen any of this one, but by all accounts it was substantially inferior to the first. The first serial had been a great success with an unknown (Lee Purcell) in the lead, so Republic figured they’d score even bigger with an established cowboy star. The job went to Robert Livingston, already the veteran of 15 Three Mesquiteer films. Unfortunately, they thought he was too big a star to hide behind a mask, so he spent much of his screen time as the Ranger’s alter ego, a guy named Bill Williams. As Williams, he was even given some of the cliffhanger scenes that should have gone to the Ranger.

On these posters, you'll notice the Ranger wears the now-familiar opera mask. In the film, though, he wore the long, netted version shown on the lobby cards, as he did in the first serial.

The plot, apparently, was pretty standard homesteaders vs. cattlemen fare, with Bill Andrews/TLR coming down on the side of the nesters. His chief opposition is a gang of bullies called the Black Raiders. Chief Thunder-Cloud returned as Tonto, which was a plus, and the Ranger was given a second sidekick, Juan Valdez, played by future Cisco Kid Duncan Renaldo.

George Trendle, who controlled the character rights, had been unhappy with the Ranger’s unmasking at the end of the first serial. He was far less pleased to see his hero running around unmasked through most of this one. He did like Livingston, though, and tried to make a deal with Universal to make a third serial, with Livingston in the role. Republic balked, refusing to loan Livingston out, and the project was scrapped. Too bad.

A restored and reconstructed version of The Lone Ranger Rides Again is available from Serial Squadron. Though the original content is apparently more complete than their restoration of the first serial, visual quality is not quite as good, because they had to use a “paste-over” technique to remove Spanish subtitles. Still, if I was feeling flush (which I’m not) and had $24.95 (which I don’t) I’d probably order a copy. Click HERE and scroll down to find it..

For more amazing Overlooked Films, tune in each week at this time to Sweet Freedom.


Randy Johnson said...

The serial seems to be loaded by chapter on Youtube. Haven't watched it yet(it's in my queue of many films on Youtube.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks for the tip, Randy!

Anonymous said...

Now, as then, there seems to be a resistance to having a big star concealed behind a mask, so stars in super hero movies spend a lot of screen time out of costume: Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd, Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3. I also heard that Adam West asked his producer for more scenes in his civilian identity.

Cap'n Bob said...

Juan Valdez later moved to South America and became a coffee grower.

Anonymous said...

If Trendle had made a deal with Universal, then they would have had the rights to the Lone Ranger and Green Hornet at the same time. Then their Hornet serials could have mentioned that the Ranger was the Hornet's grand uncle.