After a prologue about the fate (& exploitation) of the Indians
from 1717 onwards, featuring Davy Crockett (Bud Geary), Daniel Boone (Jay
Wilsey) & Buffalo Bill (Tex Cooper), all presented a friends of the
Indians, & involving the murder of a Texas Ranger (Pat O'Malley) who
dedicated his life to aiding the Indians, the silm switches to the present
time (1935 that is).
Texas Ranger Tom Morgan (Tom Mix), son of the murdered Texas Ranger,
also fights for the rights of the Indians, & these rights seem to be
in peril once again, as evil landgrabber/oil producer/armsdealer Zaroff
'(Charles Middleton) has found the extremely rare explosive X-94 in large
quantities ready to bw mined on the land of the Ravenhead tribe, & has
already promised a foreign nation on the bring of war willing to buy it
... the only problem now is to get the Ravenheads off the reservation
without causing suspicion.
His first idea is to shoot the Ravenheads' chief (Robert Frazer), &
with the help of Longboat (Bob Kortman), an ambitious Indian he has
employed for his evil cause, blame it on the old legend of the Firebird.
& to give some weight to this old legend Zaroff had his private
scientist Metzger (Niles Welch) bild him a bizarre plane which can be
started from inside a mountain's cave & which is to put enough horror
into the indians' brains to leave the reservation ... but Tom Morgan
smells foul play, & before long he has found out what he has
always suspected, that the firebird is a mere plane built only to drive
the natives away.
Eventually, Tom even succeeds to crash the Firebird (even if a bit
involuntarily), but somehow Zaroff's men succeed in destroying the thing
before he can bring it to the Ravenheads & prove it is not a
supernatural being. & furthermore, Zaroff has made sure that not he is
the main suspect of everything but local trader Janns (Edward Hearn), who,
while not exactly innocent, has nothing to do with the goings-on but just
happens to have land he would like to sell the Ravenheads for their new
reservation. To make sure that all trails continue to lead to Janns,
Zaroff even has Janns' assistant Stelter (Ernie Adams) on his payroll ...
& Tom Morgan sure enough falls for it & tries to connect everything
that happens with Janns.
However, eventually Stelter becomes a risk so Zaroff's men kill him
& make it look like Morgan killed him in shoot-out, which would
shed even more suspicion nto Janns.
Meanwhile though, Janns has looked through Zaroff's dirty game of
trying to frame him ... & does the second best thing, when he throws
in with Zaroff, to profit from X-94.
In the meantime, Morgan & Indian girl Ruth (Joan Gale) see through
Longboat's treachery when he tries to blame the killing of a man on Morgan
who turns out to be not dead at all. Eventually, Morgan & Longboat ae
engaged in mortal combat that is only resolved when Janns, in a stroke of
genius, shoots Longboat, to rid himself of any suspicion the ranger had
against him ...
But to no avail, soon Janns is in the center of suspicion again (&
this time justified), & Zaroff & his men decide to get him out of
town hidden in one of Zaroff's oiltrucks ... but the escape goes wrong,
Janns dies in an accident, & Morgan finally finds a clue leading to
Zafoff ... but he can't find a motive, until he finds X-94 on one of
Zaroff's men, Ruth finds (& steals) a carload of X-94 in one of
Zaroff's secret mines, & somehow a phone in the mine can be directly
connected to a secret phone in Zaforr's office (not only in the literal
sense of the word).
After much action it all ends in Morgan chasing Zaroff trying to get
away in his car ... but driving it over some cliffs to his death ... &
as a thank you for this, Morgan kis called to Washington to handle Indian
affairs, & he takes Ruth with him as his secretary.
One of the few serials that seriusly deals with the fate of the &
wrongdoings towards the Native Americans, even if in a pulpy, soemtimes
sci-fi kind of way. The serial itself is typical Mascot-fare, not
always strong on complexity & narrative logic, but moving from one
action scene to the next almost seamlessly, with the obvious intention to
never bore - & it succeeds, too.
By the way, silent cowboy star Tom Mix's first serial ... & last