For a little bit of good, old-fashioned fun with a classic hero, we now have the 1940 film The Mark Of Zorro, starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell and Basil Rathbone!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Snow Place Like Home (1948)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 3 from Warner Archive Collection)
Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
(Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
Popeye and Olive are caught in a tornado that takes them WAY up north from Miami, where they run into the now lovestruck Pierre. Another formulaic cartoon of Popeye vs. Bluto (well, Pierre in this instance) as they fight over Olive. Some recycled gags here and there, but I enjoyed a few good laughs here just the same! The formula may be getting old, but the chemistry still manages to make up for it just the same!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Diego Vega (Tyrone Power) has been in Spain, training at a military academy and becoming a famous swordsman, when he is summoned home by his father, the alcalde. Upon arriving home, he sees the people suffering, and they look upon him with horror when he claims to be the son of the alcalde. He is relieved to find that it is not his father causing trouble, but instead Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg) is in charge as the new alcalde, with the aid of Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone) and his guards, who are overtaxing the people. Diego is clever, and quick to put on an act to convince them he is no threat to them at all (and keeps the act going even amongst family and friends, much to their dismay). Since his father and the other caballeros can’t do anything against the alcalde and his garrison of troops, Diego goes out as the bandit Zorro, stealing the gold back from the troops and handing it off to Friar Felipe (Eugene Pallette) to disperse to the peasants. Zorro tries to convince the alcalde to resign, leave and appoint Diego’s father, Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love), as the new alcalde. Of course, Capt. Esteban won’t let Don Luis resign, and instead suggests an arranged marriage between Don Luis’ niece, Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell), and Diego, in an attempt at peace. Diego’s parents are less than thrilled, but he had already developed feelings for her when he met her under the guise of Zorro, and wants to go along with it. In front of everyone else, he keeps his act going (which annoys Lolita), but in private, he reveals himself as Zorro, much to her happiness. However, Capt. Esteban discovers the loot Zorro had hidden with Friar Felipe and arrests him, forcing Diego to make one final push with Don Luis.
The Mark Of Zorro was based on the story The Curse Of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, which had been turned into a movie, also called The Mark Of Zorro, nearly twenty years earlier featuring Douglas Fairbanks as Zorro. While the 1940 version supposedly isn’t as faithful (honestly, I can’t say how much, as I’ve never read the story or seen the earlier film yet and am going off what I have heard elsewhere), it still helped maintain the legend of Zorro as a hero onscreen. Of course, the story would again be re-made as a made-for-TV movie in 1974 with Frank Langella taking over as Diego/Zorro.
Frankly, I had fun with this movie. I had first seen it nearly a decade ago, mainly renting the DVD from Netflix. I enjoyed it then, and while it has taken me a long time to be able to see it again, it was still just as fun! I can see so much more clearly now some of the various Robin Hood connections, since we have villains overtaxing the peasants and a hero who takes from rich government to give back to the poor. Of course, the connections are strongest with the 1938 movie The Adventures Of Robin Hood, since it brings in some of that film’s cast, like Eugene Pallette and Basil Rathbone in similar roles, as well as Montagu Love (although he changed from being an oppressor to being one of the oppressed). A very enjoyable movie, and the duel between Tyrone Power and champion fencer Basil Rathbone is a lot of fun! Admittedly, we don’t see a lot of real action for Zorro, as he is usually on the run, taking the money from the guards or threatening the alcalde, and the climactic duel is actually between Diego and Captain Esteban, but that works just fine for me! I know I have seen this film, the made-for-TV remake and the two Antonio Banderas films at this point, but this one so far ranks as my favorite Zorro film, and for that reason alone, it comes highly recommended from me!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and DVD from 20th Century Fox.
Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Jesse James (1939) – Tyrone Power
The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939) – Basil Rathbone – International Lady (1941)
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) – Eugene Pallette – The Lady Eve (1941)
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