Zorro's Black Whip (1944)
Zorro’s Black Whip is a 1944 Republic Pictures 12 chapter film serial starring Linda Stirling. The film was made after the 1940 20th Century-Fox remake of The Mark of Zorro in order to capitalize on it. Republic was not able to use the character of Zorro himself, however, and despite the title, the hero(ine) is called The Black Whip throughout. The serial is set in pre-statehood Idaho, and involves a fight to prevent and ensure statehood by the villains and heroes respectively. Parts of the serial were reused as stock footage to pad out later serials such as Don Daredevil Rides Again (1951) and Man with the Steel Whip (1954) – despite the fact that both of those serials had male leads. Original release date: December 16, 1944.
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace Grissel. Produced by Ronald Davidson.
In Zorro’s Black Whip the word Zorro never occurs, but a female who behaves like Don Diego in Idaho fights a cabal of corrupt politicians as ‘The Black Whip’ after her brother (the original Black Whip) is killed.Hammond, owner of the town’s stagecoach line and a leading citizen on the council, is secretly opposed to Idaho becoming a state—because government protection would destroy the system and organization he has constructed—and conducts raids against citizens and settlers alike to prevent order, while keeping his own identity as the organization’s leader secret. The town marshal is meanwhile powerless to act outside his jurisdiction beyond the town boundary. Randolph Meredith, owner of the town’s newspaper, as the Black Whip, opposes this scheme to defeat statehood, but one day he is killed after preventing yet another coup. Meredith’s sister Barbara, expert with a bullwhip and pistol, dons Randolph’s black costume and mask and becomes ‘The Black Whip’ in her brother’s place, dealing a blow to Hammond and his gang each time they perform some heinous act in their efforts to keep the town, and their power over it, unchanged.
Aided by recently arrived undercover US government agent Vic Gordon, Barbara (Linda Stirling) as The Black Whip is quite obviously female but, even after a bout of wrestling, the villains do not realise they aren’t fighting a man. Hammond orders her taken, but the day is saved when Vic Gordon discovers Barbara’s secret and removes her from suspicion by appearing in her costume and overcoming her captors. From this point on, despite relinquishing the costume at her insistence that she must continue as the Black Whip, he tends to assume the hero role while Barbara becomes slightly more of a traditional damsel in distress, even while she still holds her own in successive violent confrontations with Hammond’s henchmen, and more than once saves Vic’s life.
After the town has finally voted on whether or not to accept statehood, most of Hammond’s gang are gunned down while attempting to steal the ballot boxes. Hammond escapes, and secretly trails and confronts Barbara in her cave when she removes her mask. He takes aim, but is struck down by the Black Whip’s stallion. The reign of terror has ended. Vic remains with Barbara and the marshall to help maintain peace in the territory.
Linda Stirling as Barbara Meredith, The Black Whip and newspaper proprietrix
George J. Lewis as Vic Gordon, a US government agent allied with the Black Whip. In a related role, Lewis later portrayed Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro’s father, Don Alejandro de la Vega in the Walt Disney television series Zorro.
Lucien Littlefield as ‘Tenpoint’ Jackson, the comic relief newspaper typesetter working with Barbara Meredith
Francis McDonald as Dan Hammond, villainous owner of the town’s Stagecoach company
Hal Taliaferro as Baxter, one of Hammond’s henchmen
John Merton as Ed Harris, one of Hammond’s henchmen
Stanley Price as Hedges, Hammond’s Clerk-Henchman