Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The Mark of Zorro - Special Edition

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Tyrone Power as Don Diego Vega/Zorro
Linda Darnell as Lolita Quintero
Basil Rathbone as Captain Esteban Pasquale
Gale Sondergaard as Inez Quintero
Eugene Pallette as Fray Felipe
J. Edward Bromberg as Don Luis Quintero
Montagu Love as Don Alejandro Vega
Janet Beecher as Señora Isabella Vega
George Regas as Sergeant Gonzales
Chris-Pin Martin as The Turnkey
Robert Lowery as Rodrigo
Belle Mitchell as Maria de Lopez
John Bleifer as Pedro

Special Features:
All-New Colorized Feature

Restored Black and White Feature

Commentary by Film Critic Richard Schickel

"Tyrone Power: The Last Idol" as seen on Biography on the A&E Network

Classic Trailers

Other Info:
Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Dolby Stereo Sound
Spanish Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 93 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in 1940. The following is from the DVD cover:

"Tyrone Power stars as 19th Century nobleman Don Diego de Vega, whose father, the mayor of Los Angeles, is removed from office by the sinister Captain Pasquale (Basil Rathbone), now corrupt "alcalde".

By day, the crooked politicians rob the citizenry at every turn, and at night, Don Diego, wearing a mask, defies their laws and avenges the innocents. As he leaves his trademark - the letter "Z" - wherever he goes, he also leaves an impression on the mayor's niece (Linda Darnell), who can't help but love the hero in disguise."

The Movie:
I really enjoyed the 1998 film "The Mask of Zorro" starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones, so I was eager to see how Zorro was portrayed in this earlier incarnation starring Tyrone Power. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the 1940 classic. (I was even more surprised that my 4-year-old son sat down and watched most of the movie with interest.) I hadn't realized that "The Mask of Zorro" borrowed as much from its predecessor as it did. They managed to pull most of the best parts from the vintage film.

One of the most notable things about the movie in my mind was the stunts. Some of them are spectacular even by today's standards. For example, there's a scene where Zorro is being pursued by the army. Cornered on a bridge, he and the horse actually jump off of it into the river. It's a great shot and one you probably wouldn't see today without CG. Late in the film is a great swordfight between Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone. It's as fast paced and as intense as any you've seen recently. If you're a fan of action, you'll enjoy this.

The movie is also quite funny. Tyrone Power as Don Diego Vega acts like a high society dandy in order to deflect suspicion that he might be the vigilante Zorro. He takes it to comic extremes, so it's amusing when he finally reveals that he's more heroic than he previously let on. The romance in the film is also entertaining. Again, Don Diego fools Linda Darnell as Lolita Quintero that he's a snob until later, when he sneaks into her room, he shows his true colors. It provided solid footing for the romance in the 1998 Zorro film.

For all the coolness, the film is still dated in many ways. A bunch of white actors try and pass for Spanish settlers in California. Some of the acting is rather stiff as well. But all of that is of minor concern and it's really expected from movies of this era. This DVD also offers both black and white and colorized versions of the movie. I watched the colorized version and it looked pretty good. The colors were not overdone and the effect was generally convincing. But if you prefer the original version, it's here for purists.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Commentary by Film Critic Richard Schickel – This commentary was a little dry for my tastes. Schickel offers up a lot of trivia about the actors and the movie, but he's not a very dynamic speaker. He also misses a few prime opportunities to make comments at key scenes in the film. Upon my second viewing I saw a lot more camera tricks used during the spectacular jump from the bridge. Schickel is quiet during this.

"Tyrone Power: The Last Idol" as seen on Biography on the A&E Network – This is an hour long biography on Tyrone Power. They cover everything from his birth to his untimely death. The show follows his acting career, his high profile romances, and his time in WWII. It's a really thorough and interesting biography.

Classic Trailers – Some trailers from a number of classic films are included here. One features an incredibly awkward Newsweek reporter interviewing Betty Davis about her latest film. Another features reviews of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". Overall they're a novelty worth checking out.

The Bottom Line:
I'd recommend "The Mark of Zorro" to anyone who has seen the more recent Zorro movies and enjoyed them. It's fun to see earlier adventures of the character and there's plenty of action, humor, and romance to keep modern audiences entertained.

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