Cast & Crew
While traveling by carriage to the gold-mining town of Mesa de Oro, California, Anita Morell, the daughter of a prosperous miner, meets Captain "Tex" Lake, a musician and the town's new marshal. When Tex tells Anita that he is determined to find and capture the mysterious rider known as The Black Shadow, Anita reminds Tex that the last mysterious rider, Joaquin Murietta, was a hero. Only moments later, the driver of the stagecoach carrying Anita and Tex is lassoed and pulled off his seat by a masked rider believed to be The Black Shadow. Holdup men then demand that Tex give them the gold cargo. Tex complies but later vows to redouble his efforts to capture The Black Shadow. Soon after arriving in Mesa de Oro, Anita learns that her father Jacob has been shot. Jacob dies moments after Anita arrives, and a note left behind bearing The Black Shadow's mark indicates that he died defending his gold. A short time later, banker Gil Kirby informs Anita that the deed to her father's property will remain in the bank's possession until the bank is paid the $2,000 it lent to Jacob. Late one night, Anita finds The Black Shadow in her home, and when he takes off his mask, she discovers that he is really Murietta. Murietta tells Anita that he has allowed rumors of his death to go unchallenged to ease his search for the men who robbed and killed his father. Murietta also tells Anita that the men who murdered both his father and hers are crooked miner Jeff Gorman and Kirby. After telling Anita that he has made appearances in town posing as an ace card player named Saunders, Murietta gives her enough money to buy her deed from Kirby. When Gorman and Kirby find a note from The Black Shadow threatening them with death, Kirby decides to leave town with his share of the stolen money. However, before Kirby can escape, Murietta, in his Black Shadow disguise, points his gun at him and reveals his true identity and demands that he turn over Anita's deed. While confessing to killing Murietta's father, Kirby implicates Gorman, and when Gorman arrives at the bank looking for Kirby, a shootout between Murietta and Gorman's men ensues. During the gunfight, Gorman accidentally kills Kirby. Murietta escapes to safety, and then delivers the deed to Anita. Tex finds the deed in Anita's possession and arrests her. Tex then forces Anita to take him to The Black Shadow, but the disguised Murietta finds them first and frees Anita so that she may go to Monterey to register the property in her name. Murietta removes his disguise, but Tex recognizes him only as Saunders until Murietta shows him Kirby's written confession. When word reaches Tex and Murietta that Gorman is planning to abduct Anita, Murietta sends Tex to rescue her. Tex arrives in time to save Anita from harm, and engages Gorman in a fistfight. Murietta then shows up, captures Gorman, forces him to wear The Black Shadow's disguise and kills him.
The character of "Joaquin Murietta" May have been based on the legendary California bandit/revolutionary Joaquin Murieta (ca. 1830-53 or ca. 1878). Very little factual information is known about Murieta, but he May have come from Mexico to the California gold fields. Legend purports that, after experiencing racism, Murieta gathered together a band and began a series of raids in the early 1850s. He and his compatriots regarded the raids as justifiable retaliation against the discrimination they had experienced. Although Murieta was reportedly executed in 1853, there were accounts of his raids in the 1870s, giving rise to many legends of his exploits. Among the other films about Murieta are the 1931 Columbia film The Avenger directed by Roy William Neill and starring Buck Jones; the 1936 M-G-M film Robin Hood of El Dorado directed by William Wellman and starring Warner Baxter (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0187 and F3.3805 respectively), and the 1950 film Bandit Queen. Modern sources add Edmund Cobb to the cast.