The Night Riders (1939)

Film and Plot Synopsis

While on a riverboat journey, “The Three Mesquiteers” witness a cheating gambler named Pierce Talbot get stabbed and tossed overboard. Talbot survives and teams up with Hazleton, a counterfeiter, who shows him a forged land grant. Talbot assumes the identity of Don Luis de Serrano and exploits the real landowners by imposing heavy taxes and seizing their property.

‘The Night Riders’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
The Night Riders (1939) The film opens with The Three Mesquiteers, Stony Brooke (John Wayne), Tucson Smith (Ray Corrigan), and Lullaby Joslin (Max Terhune), aboard a riverboat, returning to their Texas based cattle ranch, The 3 M. The trio witness a scuffle that breaks out aboard the riverboat, when Pierce Talbot (George Douglas) is caught cheating during a poker game.

Talbot gets stabbed in the arm by his accuser and is knocked overboard. Talot successfully swims ashore and finds help in the home of Hazleton (Walter Willis). Hazleton is a former money printer, who was dismissed from the mint he worked for producing counterfeit money. Hazleton sees Talbot as a fellow scoundrel and enlists the gambler to assume the identity of “Don Luis de Serrano,” a local land baron. Hazelton uses a forged land grant that will allow “Don Luis de Searrano” to take ownership of 3,000,000 acres of Texas land, already inhabited by various homesteaders.

After a judge validates the forged documents, “Don Luis” begins charging the local ranchers a $1/acre tax, as part of his get rich quick scheme. When ranchers are not able to pay the rent, the Don’s soldiers would begin strong-arming the tenants by taking their livestock or homes. The Don’s soldiers eventually make their way to the 3 M Ranch and try to violently remove the Mesquiteers from their home. The three amigos fight back until the sheriff arrives, breaks up the fighting, and, ultimately, forces the trio off of the ranch. The Mesquiteers join the other displaced ranchers and write to President James A. Garfield for help. When the President of the United States turns down their cause, the Mesquiteers don white masks and capes, galloping throughout the countryside, robbing the Don’s tax collectors. Just like modern day Robin Hoods, the masked trio, now dubbed Los Capaqueros, return the stolen tax money to the ranchers, so they will have funds to pay The Don and keep their property. Naturally, this infuriates The Don, so immediately issues a $10,000 reward to anyone who captures Los Capaqueros.

“Don Luis de Searrano” is not pleased with the Los Capaqueros “stealing” his money, so he begins building a formal army, paying the soldiers $100/month. The Musquiteers try to join the army, so they can get inside information. During a meeting with “Don Luis,” Stoney is able to figure out the Don is actually Pierce Talbot, based on how he held playing cards during their time on the riverboat. With this knowledge in mind, Los Capaqueros make it their mission to prove the Don is a fraud and his land ownership should be delegitimized.

Los Capaqueros proceed to get into a saloon brawl with tax collectors, but narrowly escape with their lives. The trio are able to change out of their capes and masks as they are being chased by their fellow army soldiers through the plains. Back at the Don’s compound, the trio are able to get back to their room safely, but Hazelton catches on to their ruse when he realizes their horses are warm and covered in sweat. Hazelton and the Don eventually find the capes and masks worn by Los Capaqueros in their rooms and confront The Three Mesquiteers. The sheriff arrests the trio and they are sentenced to be executed by a firing squad. While behind bars, the Mesquiteers have their friend Susan Randall send a message to the riverboat captain, who has information about Pierce Talbot. The captain shares the fact that Talbot used to be an actor who was put in prison for larceny. He had traveled about as a gambler ever since. Susan forwards this information to President Garfield, but is assassinated before he can do anything to save the Muquiteers.

Execution day arrives and Stony, Tucson, and Lulaby are lined up by the sheriff. The firing squad lines up across from the trio and the three amigos are killed. In retaliation, all of the ranchers pose up and attack Don Louis’ compound. During the battle, the sheriff reveals that he has double crossed the Don and helped save the lives of the Musquiteers by having the firing squad use blank bullets. The freed amigos assist the ranchers in capturing Talbot and Hazelton, then force them to confess to their crimes, in exchange for their lives.

Once bad guys are brought to justice, all of the land owners reclaim their rights and live happily ever after.

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Our Rating

Republic Pictures released The Night Riders on April 12, 1939. George Sherman directed the film starring John Wayne, Ray Corrigan, and Max Terhune.

User Rating: 1.64 ( 4 votes)
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