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The Garfield Connection
bkoganbing11 March 2006
I imagine that Night Riders was probably done immediately after Stagecoach was finished shooting, but was not out yet. No one knew that it would be the film that would make John Wayne a huge star, so he was back doing the Three Mesquiteers western series for Republic Pictures. It is the film listed immediately after Stagecoach on IMDb and in the Films of John Wayne book.

In this entry Wayne, Ray Corrigan, Max Terhune and a whole bunch of other honest folk are being tossed off their ranches by a man showing up with titles from an old Spanish land grant. The only problem here is that you're dealing with the Three Mesquiteers who ain't gonna take this lying down.

The three of them, Duke included, decide to go Zorro on the bad guys. They dress up as three stylish bandits with caped hoods and call themselves, Los Capequeros. They rob the rent collectors from the "Don" and give it back to the ranchers. Even sheriff Kermit Maynard is sympathetic to them.

What makes Night Riders interesting is the fact that the Three Mesquiteers go calling on President James A. Garfield who is making a goodwill trip out west. They are looking to elude the rent collectors and break in on President Garfield while he's reading in bed. Don't say much for Presidential security, but they put up their guns and Garfield doesn't give them away. And he offers to help if they can get the evidence after the Mesquiteers tell their tale.

Of course Garfield never went west in the brief three months he had as President in 1881 before an assassin shot him in Washington's Union station. Oddly enough his successor Chester A. Arthur did make a trip west, a well publicized good will trip that was worked into the plot of the Robert Taylor western, Cattle King which I also reviewed. Garfield's shooting was worked in, albeit in a minor way, in the climax of Night Riders.

The Garfield connection does make Night Riders somewhat interesting to watch. And the Three Mesquiteer films were a bit above average of the ordinary B picture westerns of the time.

I hope no one sees that title and assumes some cartoon cat guest starred with the Duke in one of his films.
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The Three Mesquiteers become Los Capaqueros!
stevehaynie12 April 2006
The Three Mesquiteers were able to jump through time from one film to another. In The Night Riders, newspaper headlines are used in transitions between scenes, and those newspapers show dates in 1881. So, there are no automobiles or radios in this one, just horses and telegraphs.

There is a nice plot that sets up the action for The Night Riders. A corrupt former engraver for the U.S. Mint and a crooked riverboat gambler team up to pull off a land swindle using a forged Spanish land grant. The forger, Hazleton, orchestrates everything by having Talbot, the gambler and former actor, pose as Don Luis Serrano. Immediately they start taxing and evicting the settlers on 13,000,000 acres of land.

The Don's henchmen and an apprehensive sheriff run the Mesquiteers off of their ranch, and the Mesquiteers see others dealt the same fate. Stony makes a perfect John Wayne speech about what America means, and writes to President Garfield for help. The President is bound by the laws of the country and cannot help. Not content to let the Don take every settler's land, the Mesquiteers become Los Capaqueros, three masked riders that rob the tax collectors and give the money to ranchers facing eviction. As Los Capaqueros, the Mesquiteers accidentally meet with President Garfield, who is on a cross country tour. Garfield promises his help if the Mesquiteers can find evidence of something illegal. Eventually the Don raises an army to search for Los Capaqueros, and the Mesquiteers find a way to get themselves included so they can infiltrate the Don's compound. Stony is determined to prove that the Don is really Talbot. Everything ends with justice being served in Mesquiteers fashion.

I have not seen all of the Mesquiteers films, but I have never seen a "3 M Ranch." Perhaps it only existed for this one film as a plot device. In almost every other movie the Mesquiteers have been some kind of federal agents, but in The Night Riders they have absolutely no connection with law enforcement at all. I must assume that the script was written without the Three Mesquiteers in mind, and adapted to fit the team later.

The Night Riders has a cast with many of the B western regulars. It was fun looking for all the familiar faces. Glenn Strange and Horace Murphy are uncredited, but they both have more significant parts than the credited Tom London. Kermit Maynard had been a leading man shortly before this film. Sadly, he was destined to play supporting parts from around the time this movie was made onward. It was interesting to see Tom Tyler as one of the bad guys, because within a couple of years he would play the part of Stony Brooke through the end of the Mesquiteers series.
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James Addison Reavis meets Charles Guiteau (sort - of)
theowinthrop9 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not really a fan of the old western - "B" film programmers like THE NIGHT RIDERS, but word of the reappearance of this film on television (from a friend who talked about it with me), raised my curiosity a little about it. Despite the appearance of John Wayne (who handles his "Three Meskeeter" role of "Stony" very well) and noting Ray "Crash" Corrigan's appearance in it as well, the film did not really thrill me.

I suppose for a late Depression audience it was exciting enough. And they were not too bothered by historical mistakes that only people like me think about. Wayne, by the way, has one moment which I really did like. Pretending to be one of the bad guys he bullies the heroine (whom he really likes), and so disillusions her son that the boy silently pursues Wayne and his evil associates for awhile. There is also a showboat Captain later on, supposedly giving another character some vital information, who starts reminiscing about his own brilliant performance in Macbeth - a nice brief piece of ham that was welcome.

The plot has a Spanish land grant upsetting the claims of hundreds of settlers in a southwestern territory. An aristocratic Mexican, Don Luis de Serrano (George Douglas) is making the claim, and apparently has the backing of the Government in enforcing them. He is backed by an adviser named Hazleton (Walter Wills), and they have even gotten a body of evil - doers as a private army. Those are the "Nightriders" of the plot.


Hazleton is a forger, and the scheme is a clever forgery of his. Don Luis is an actor named Talbot Pierce, who has a criminal record. This does not come out until the conclusion.

Now, although it is not quite the same thing, the plot of Hazleton and Pierce is a rip-off of the plot of James Addison Reavis who tried to use forged land grants (and brilliantly forged ones they were) to give his so-called aristocratic wife title to the territory of Arizona (the subject of THE BARON OF ARIZONA). Interesting variation.

The Meskeeters stumble on a sleepy eyed President James Garfield (Francis Sayles), tells him what is going on - and get his okay to support them when they produce the evidence against "Don Luis". When they get it, Wayne's girlfriend (Ruth Randall) sends a message to Washington, D.C. But as it arrives we hear Garfield getting shot! As was pointed out before by another poster, Garfield did not have enough time in his Presidency to make a trip out west like this. His Presidency lasted six months . In that period Garfield had enough time to do the following:

1) Set up his cabinet and diplomatic corps.

2) Send the name of Stanley Matthews to the Congress as choice for an empty seat on the U.S. Supreme Court - Matthews was confirmed.

3) Start a government prosecution of certain leading Republicans, including former Senator Thomas Dorsey, in the "Star Route Postal Frauds".

4) Support Secretary of State James G. Blaine in prosecuting U.S. business claims to a set of islands off Chile and Bolivia (at the time Bolivia had a seacoast) that were rich in nitrates.

5) Get into a messy conflict with New York State's senior Senator, Roscoe Conkling, regarding Federal control over the New York City Customs House and it's management. This was a continuation of a similar confrontation from the previous Hayes Administration.

Most of these acts took up his attention from March 4, 1881 to July 2, 1881. Given that he was starting his administration, and the pace of government work was slower (far slower) in 1881 than today, all five items I mentioned fully took up Garfield's attention. On a personal note, his wife Lucretia (or "Crete" as she was nicknamed) was seriously ill in May - June 1881, and Garfield was monitoring her recovery.

No time for long trips into the western regions here. A trip to Elberon, N.J. in September 1881 was a last ditch attempt by his doctors to save him by using the ozone of sea air at that New Jersey resort.

Why did the script writers throw in that bit about Garfield? Well, historically the death of Garfield was during the days of the old west. It was rarely used as a movie subject (if you check this web site, putting "President James Garfield" down under "Characters", there are only five films). The closest film to dealing with Guiteau is a 1968 film. A spaghetti western made in 1970 had Van Johnson as Garfield, changed the local and entire story of the assassination.

I suppose that the very obscurity of Garfield's brief term prevents it from getting the exposure that the Lincoln, Kennedy, King, and even the Huey Long Case get in our films. Garfield was a competent man, but had no real opportunity to show what he could do. The sordid nature of his shooting (Guiteau wanted an ambassadorship and was never really in the running for it) reduces this murder.

The scriptwriters had some idea of the shooting - though we only hear the shots and don't see it. The telegraph operator tells the messenger boy that Garfield was going to Williams College that day (that is true - he was invited to give a speech there).

It's obvious that the scriptwriters were stealing a bit from the Robert Taylor - Barbara Stanwyck film, THIS IS MY AFFAIR, made a few years earlier. Taylor is a special government operative sent by McKinley to infiltrate a counterfeiting gang, who is sentenced to death just at the time McKinley (his only contact) is killed. But that had a better script and better production values. This "B" feature had very little (aside from the Duke) to compare with it.
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The Mark Of Los Capaqueros
Spondonman2 January 2014
Confession: I nearly always find early b-Westerns more or less enjoyable, there's usually a lot of pleasant easy familiarity and a lot of dated stuff that can or should be forgiven. Just switch off the analysin'. John Wayne made approximately one million of these swift potboilers before he made his name – the same year as Night Riders. Even good old Gene Autry didn't make as many.

Baddies forge old document proving the legality of their claim to thirteen million acres of land – they promise fairness to the tenants but deliver harshness, endless taxes and death instead. How very like all politicians always! Wayne and his two sidekicks object to this and begin a fightback as mysterious caped crusaders – Los Capaqueros replacing The Three Mesquiteers. It's the usual stuff, sub-Zorro fisticuffs and shootouts complete with self conscious melodrama: therefore all I'd hoped for, nothing more. Wayne's cohorts Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune kept on mining the b-picture vein throughout the '40's while Wayne began his climb to superstardom and the making of many movie classics. Highly enjoyable non-serious time-filler!
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Los Capaqueroes Strike
Mike-76416 July 2007
Talbot Pierce, a notorious card shark, is thrown from a riverboat and washes on shore at an inn which also houses a forger Hazelton. Hazelton has the idea of using a forged Spanish land grant that would say Don Luis de Serrano (Pierce) would own 13 million acres of land in Arizona. The courts decide it is authentic and Don Luis takes over the land and charges high taxes, cattle tolls, and rent for his land, and then evicts them after he taken everything they have including the 3M ranch. Stony, Tucson, and Lullaby decide to strike against Don Luis by riding as white robed vigilantes Los Capaqueroes, where they hold up Don Luis' tax collectors and give the money to the next person to be evicted from the valley. While this causes confusion, the Three Mesquiteers lack the evidence that will cause an investigation. They decide to take jobs from Don Luis as hunters for Los Capaqueroes, but Stony recognizes Don Luis as Pierce, but it is too late as our heroes are discovered to be the vigilantes and sentenced to be shot. Decent B western, but nothing really new and exciting considering there was never any chemistry between Wayne and Corrigan & Terhune and it shows here. I do like the Los Capaqueroes idea but the film lacks much action and the resolution to the film is sort of a downer. Remade w/ Don Barry as Arizona Raiders and again (loosely) w/ Vincent Price in the Baron of Arizona. Rating, based on B westerns, 6.
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Three Mesquiteers Play Robin Hood
frank412228 June 2019
Duke, Ray, and Max ride into action when their ranch, along with their neighbor's ranches are hoodwinked by card shark Talbot. A hand well played by George Douglas. Kermit Maynard is hog tied by the shifty Talbot. He even has beautiful Ruth Rogers befuddled by his shenanigans. Stony and the boys are caught in the crossfire between the fired up town folk and Talbot's army to hunt them down. Even though they had supporting roles it was good to see entertainment stalwarts Tom Tyler and Sammy McKim. Night Riders is fine offering from Republic with many classic western stars.
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"You know, there used to be a time when being an American meant something."
classicsoncall21 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Well, for an otherwise inconsequential B Western, this one had me doing a lot of research. Another reviewer made mention of the 3-M ranch in this picture, stating he hadn't run across it before in a Three Mesquiteers picture. I knew I had so I checked it out. For the record, this was the twenty second Mesquiteers flick, and I don't know if this one offered the first mention of the 3-M ranch, but the very next one, "Three Texas Steers", not only showed the ranch, but placed it in Mesquite County, Texas. Presumably, that also provided the name of this Western trio. So as a matter of continuity, the 3-M ranch had to physically move from Los Vientos in an unnamed state in this flick, to Mesquite County for "Three Texas Steers". But wait - there is no Mesquite County, Texas; the city of Mesquite, Texas is (mostly) in Dallas County!

I guess that's why I get the biggest kick out of these oaters because they always manage to hit you with something unusual or goofy. As for historical accuracy, you'd think a movie could at least research the actual date of President James Garfield's assassination. That occurred on September 19th, 1881, but in this story it takes place on July 2nd, with a mention in the July 3rd edition of the Los Vientos Courier. See, what did I tell you about the goofy stuff.

All that aside, this was about your average B Western, and average Mesquiteers flick. John Wayne appeared in eight of the stories, which spanned an eight year run of fifty one movies from 1936 to 1943 with a revolving cast of players. Right in the middle of his run with the Mesquiteers, Wayne was loaned out from Republic Studios to United Artists to make a Western called "Stagecoach", and I think you know the rest of story as far as Wayne is concerned. That lucky break came after he'd already made fifty plus pictures. He finished out his Mesquiteers series with Republic, doing four more films, and then moved on to bigger budget movies and eventual stardom.

What might catch you off guard in this movie is when the young kid Tim Randall (Sammy McKim) takes a poke at The Duke for getting rough with sister Susan (Ruth Rogers). If you slow motion the scene, you'll see that Tim's fist went wide, but it was made to look good with a snappy sound effect. As Stoney Brooke, Wayne rides with partners Tucson Smith (Ray Corrigan) and Lullaby Joslin (Max Terhune), taking on the guise of 'Los Capaqueros', presumably 'the caped ones' or 'the masked ones', but it looks like another one of those words simply made up for the story. Seeking justice for landowners who were evicted by virtue of a phony land grant, The Mesquiteers take it to villains Hazleton (Walter Wills) and gambler Talbot (George Douglas), posing as a Spanish nobleman. For a while there, the good guys rode similarly marked pinto horses while masquerading as the Capaqueros, but their last time out as the masked avengers they were on their own horses, which had a hand in giving them away.

But not to fear, The Mesquiteers, with the help of Sheriff Kermit Maynard, survive a firing squad shooting blanks in order to confront the baddies before a citizen mob gets to exert their own brand of justice. You know, I had to stop and think about the thirteen million acres covered by the bogus land grant. It sounds quite huge, and it is, but for the sake of comparison, the state of West Virginia is only slightly larger. All told, there are nine states with less than thirteen million acres, and if this story was set in Texas, there would have still been plenty of room for a few more snake oil salesmen.
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Very good installment of the 3 mesquiteers western series
weezeralfalfa21 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
One of 51 westerns by Republic. in the late '30s and early '40s under the banner of the 3 mesquiteers: a combination of mesquite and musketeers. The identity of the 3 actors varied. John Wayne was in only 8, including this one. With a run time of only 55 min., it packs in a lot of scheming and action. It's an early example of the directing of B westerns by George Sherman. He would eventually move to Columbia, and then to Universal, always almost exclusively directing B westerns. Here, Wayne, as Stony, Ray Corrigan, as Tucson, and Max Trehune as Lullaby are the 3Ms. The latter occasionally got out his dummy, Elmer, to practice his ventriloquism........ The plot involves the forging of a fraudulent land grant issued by the Spanish crown in the 18th century, and the fraudulent claim of being a direct descendent of the grantee, by an ex-con and gambler: Talbot(George Douglas), who acts as the puppet for the forger: Hazelton(Walter Wills acts as the Baron's beautiful wife.). Soledad(Doreen McKay). This grant is said to involve 13 million acres somewhere in the West. This may sound preposterous, but it's clear that this story is based upon the historical Peralta land grant fraud, in which James Addison Reaves devised a fraudulent land claim issued by the Spanish crown This involved 12 million acres(close to the stated 13 million acres in this film) in central Arizona and New Mexico.. This story is told more accurately in the 1950 "Baron of Arizona".......Here, Talbot as 'Baron' de Serrano, soon begins evicting settlers for inability to pay his exorbitant rent or fees for use of certain internal improvements. The #Ms are booted out of the ranch house. They send a letter of complaint to President Garfield, who replies that he can do nothing unless it can be proven that the Baron has done something illegal. Thus, the 3Ms decide to become secret vigilantes, wearing white capes and hoods .(Unfortunately, they look disturbingly like the getups typically worn by the KKK: another vigilante group). They were soon referred to as Los Capequeros. They rode around looking for the Baron's rent and fee collectors, to rob and give the money to those immediately threatened with eviction. Thus, they were like a mix of Zorro and Robin Hood. During a period, they even masqueraded as henchmen for the Baron's posse looking for them. Eventually, they are found out, and sentenced to death by a firing squad organized by the sheriff. Fortunately, the sheriff in on their side, and the Baron doesn't stay to watch the proceedings. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! The sheriff puts blanks in the rifles and fakes their deaths. Assuming them dead, a large mob of townies heads for the Baron's hacienda, ready to string him up. The 3Ms ride out to the hacienda, and go around back to avoid the mob seeing them. They climb up from their horses and enter via a window. They stick up the frightened Baron, Soledad, and Hazleton. Hazleton confesses that he was the mastermind and maker of the fraud. Wayne tells them they won't reveal to the mob that they are alive until Hazleton and Talbot sign a paper confessing they are frauds.....Perhaps the film should have been titled "Day Riders", as they did most of their riding by day, when the rent collectors were active, and so as to distinguish them from certain other more violent vigilante groups sometimes referred to as the Night Riders. ...See it at YouTube.
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Has little impact!
JohnHowardReid13 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 12 April 1939 by Republic Pictures Corp. No recorded New York opening. U.S. release: 12 April 1939. U.K. release through British Lion. No Australian theatrical release. 6 reels. 58 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Spanish land grant claimant successfully evicts the Mesquiteers from their 3M Ranch. They decide to prove the new land baron is a phony. In the meantime, disguised in flowing white capes, they rob the baron of his rent money and return it to the farmers awaiting eviction.

NOTES: Number 22 of the 52-picture series.

COMMENT: Shades of Sam Fuller's later Baron of Arizona, this entry ties a couple of interesting variants on the usual stock "B"-western land-grabbing theme. We enjoyed the heroes' caped crusaders (combining Robin Hood and Zorro). This movie was actually made right after Wayne's stint in Stagecoach. He plays the leader of the trio with his customary easy assurance. The plot device of linking the trio's fate with President Garfield's assassination is clever enough and we like Kermit Maynard's obliging sheriff.

Aside from what I've written above, however, The Night Riders has not a great deal to recommend it. Republic were obviously trying hard to produce a large-scale western on an extremely cramped budget. Stock shots; montages of newspaper headlines, posters, etc; closet-sized sets; meager crowds of extras; second-rate players abound. Worst of all, the direction lacks sweep. Even the few action scenes are put across in such a perfunctory fashion, they have little impact. And script opportunities to build up tension are often dissipated.

OTHER VIEWS: Wayne's easy charm stands him in good stead in this "Three Mesquiteers" entry. The script allows him some forceful moments as he and his buddies join the villain's army to hunt down - themselves! The writing, alas, is often more inventively plotted and sharper dialogued than what we actually see and hear on the screen, thanks to Sherman's lackluster direction and economy-conscious production values.
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The Don is a phony!
MartinHafer9 March 2019
The cast of the Republic Three Mesquiteers series was never consistent, with the various three leading men everchanging. For a while, the lead was played by John Wayne, but considering that his career was taking a fast turn for the better, it's not surprising he soon left the series. "The Night Riders" is one of these Mesquiteer films featuring Wayne.

In this installment, a baddie poses as Don Luis de Serrano, a Spanish nobleman. He creates a phony land grand deed with the help of another local jerk and now goes to court and seeks control of 13,000,000 acres. Then, he taxes everyone to death and is a general nuisance. So, it's up to the Mesquiteers to take the law into their own hands to stop Don Luis. And, perhaps, along with the help of the ill-fated President Garfield as well!

This film marks a first. Lullaby's really annoying and strange use of ventriloquism in the old west is strange and way out of place. But in a first, it actually comes in handy in a scene early in the film. Heck, it might be the first time Lullaby did ANYTHING much to help!

Overall, a father formulaic but enjoyable installment in the series. It's also unusual because the message seems to be 'if the law doesn't work, take it into your own hands or resort to mob rule and vigilanteism'! Strange but worth your time is you like B-westerns.
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"You know, there used to be a time when being an American meant something..."
utgard1425 August 2017
Another Three Mesquiteers oater starring John Wayne. This is one of the more memorable entries in this generally unremarkable series. What makes this one noteworthy is the Mesquiteers (Wayne, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Max Terhune) donning hoods and capes that look disturbingly similar to the Ku Klux Klan and leading night raids against a con artist (George Douglas) who has used a phony land deed to set himself up as a dictator over local ranchers. As with the rest of these low budget Republic westerns, this is barely interesting as a time-passer. Having John Wayne in it makes it mildly more interesting. The faux-KKK angle makes this a curio worthy of discussion, but certainly doesn't improve the entertainment value any. This was Duke's first film released after his breakthrough role in Stagecoach. Sadly it would be a couple more years before he was able to leave these simplistic action-heavy quickie westerns behind.
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Identity Theft
jldmp15 August 2006
The value of this today can be found in two things: the action -- that is, the obligatory saloon brawl, shootouts and horseback chases are all competent, and are filmed competently.

The writing: the writer places himself in this -- as 'the Forger'-- and through his 'writings' he pulls the villain's strings. The storytelling centers on the notion of changing identities -- Douglas playing an ex-con, who becomes a card shark, who assumes the mantle of 'the Don'.

And the heroes play the 'three Mesquiteers', who assume the identities of the 'Capequeros', who assume the identities of henchmen, who assume the 'identities' of corpses. It all resolves when the 'true identities' are revealed, and the villain is forced to extricate himself out of his false exterior through 'writing'.

On the whole, this is not a very good Western...the screenplay, acting and dialogue are horrible. Sherman has to get poor marks too, for giving all of this a pass. Ironically, it would take a Kurosawa to utilize Western themes and turn them into great storytelling, a la "Seven Samurai".

When you watch this, you can see where ideas came from for such spoofs as "Blazing Saddles" and "Three Amigos!".
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In a story torn from Today's headlines . . .
oscaralbert31 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
. . . a Fraudster meets his just desserts in THE NIGHT RIDERS. Jack Cade, a.k.a. Pierce Talbot, a.k.a. Don Luis De Serrano, is obsessed with Wealth and Birther forged certificate hoaxes. John Wayne joins the Ku Klux Klan--white sheet and all--to battle sheriffs, judges, and corporate security guards as a Socialist Robin Hood. Anyone who's followed American celebrities--who're constantly going bankrupt--knows that when someone is THOUGHT to be worth billions, bankers back up dump trucks full of cash "loans" to their mansions, since Rich People only "lend" to folks who seemingly do not need more dough. This is called "The Art of the Deal." Our presumptive next U.S. President entered politics by claiming that our current leader is a FAKE. Like those people Famous for being Famous, The Trumpster is only Famous for being Rich. But IS he, really? I guy I know knows a guy who says The Don is not only broke--he OWES 12 billion bucks! (Why not elect Bernie Madoff President?) It appears that Trump is a bigger threat to Fort Knox than Goldfinger! It's time for THE NIGHT RIDERS to ride again!
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