HTF DVD Review: Walt Disney Treasures - Zorro: The Complete First Season and the Complete Second Sea

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Matt Hough, Nov 5, 2009.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Walt Disney Treasures – Zorro: The Complete First Season and The Complete Second Season

    Directed by Robert Stevenson et al

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 1957-1959
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Running Time: 1121/1113 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
    Subtitles: SDH

    MSRP: $ 59.99 each

    Release Date: November 3, 2009

    Review Date: November 5, 2009


    The Series
    4/5

    Other generations of viewers have had their own incarnations of Zorro, the masked “Robin Hood” of old Los Angeles: Douglas Fairbanks brought him to the movies with a silent screen manifestation and after some very popular serials, Tyrone Power introduced moviegoers to his matinee idol version of the hero in the early 1940s. More recently, Antonio Bandaras has put his stamp on the character, but for members of the Baby Boomer generation, Zorro will always and forever be Guy Williams, the star of a tremendously popular network television series produced by Walt Disney which ran from 1957-1959. His Zorro was suave and fearless and a great athlete but lacking in the braggadocio that other actors had given him, and the series made the unknown Williams a television star overnight. The two years of the series’ run have now become the newest releases in the Walt Disney Treasury of collectible tins, and it’s an undoubted pleasure to welcome this version of Zorro back into our midst.

    The year is 1820 and California is still not a part of the United States. In the pueblo of Los Angeles, bandits and corrupt government officials are making the residents’ lives miserable. Wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro de la Vega (George J. Lewis) asks his son Diego (Guy Williams) to return from Spain where he’s currently enrolled in college to come back home and assist his father in helping put an end to corruption in the territory. Diego reasons that he’ll be more help to his father (and keep him potentially out of trouble) if he adopts the persona of a masked avenger who’ll deal in his own way with the dishonest and disloyal. Only his speech-impaired manservant Bernardo (Gene Sheldon) will know his secret. The current commandant Captain Monastario (Britt Lomond) is as vile as his predecessors though the fort’s Sergeant Garcia (Henry Calvin) is honest and well-meaning but a bungler and completely unable to see the dishonesty right before his eyes.

    The seventy-eight episodes of Zorro which make up these two collectible tins reveal some surprises for those like me who haven’t seen the show in decades. The programs were serialized with the first thirteen episodes of season one given over to Zorro’s attempts to defeat Captain Monastario. Once he’s dispatched, a new organization headed by an unknown adversary known only as “The Eagle” takes over for the remainder of the season with various commandants coming into and out of the show, some more honest than others but always a threat in the capturing of Zorro. Only when Sgt. Garcia takes over as acting head of the soldiers does Zorro experience a little relief on that front though he’s in constant conflict with “The Eagle” and his henchmen until the season finale.

    Season two of the series finds shorter story arcs than in season one, and there is more reliance on comedy with sequences featuring Garcia and his second-in-command Corporal Reyes (Don Diamond). The first third of the season’s episodes are set in Monterey instead of Los Angeles, and Zorro uses a different horse there. There is some light romance for Diego, and there are more guest stars in evidence: Cesar Romero, Annette Funicello, Patricia Medina, Lee Van Cleef, and Jonathan Harris, to name but a few. A few episodes into the season, the opening changes with a preview sequence from the episode to come added and the elimination of the Zorro theme song (replaced by a solo mention of the title of the show starring Guy Williams as he cuts the air with his foil in the letter “Z.”) The vocalized theme song is later added over the closing credits instead.

    Sgt. Garcia serves as comic relief for the series for with all of the derring-do and swordplay on display (in every episode), he offers a light respite from the fighting. Henry Calvin, who had done Broadway musicals prior to appearing on this series, shows off his trained and quite impressive baritone voice several times during these episodes. In fact, being a Disney family series, there is a fair amount of singing (Guy Williams’ singing voice is dubbed on occasion by Bill Lee) and dancing on occasion, too. The twenty-five minute episodes are beautifully produced with great sets and costumes, well paced by its handful of in-house Disney directors, and wonderfully acted. And keeping in the spirit of movie serials and the serialized approach to the show’s storytelling, each episode concludes with serial-like previews showing tension-filled exploits one could look forward to in the next episode of the show. And now, thanks to this set, one doesn’t even have to wait a full week to experience them.

    Here are the seventy-eight episodes contained in these two Disney Treasure tins with five discs in each set holding the episodes plus a bonus disc of special features.

    Season One

    1 – Presenting Senor Zorro
    2 – Zorro’s Secret Passage
    3 – Zorro Rides to the Mission
    4 – The Ghost of the Mission
    5 – Zorro’s Romance
    6 – Zorro Saves a Friend
    7 – Monastario Sets a Trap
    8 – Zorro’s Ride into Terror
    9 – A Fair Trial
    10 – Garcia’s Secret Mission
    11 – Double Trouble for Zorro
    12 – Zorro, Luckiest Swordsman Alive
    13 – The Fall of Monastario
    14 – Shadow of a Doubt
    15 – Garcia Stands Accused
    16 – Slaves of the Eagle
    17 – Sweet Face of Danger
    18 – Zorro Fights His Father
    19 – Death Stacks the Deck
    20 – Agent of the Eagle
    21 – Zorro Springs a Trap
    22 – The Unmasking of Zorro
    23 – The Secret of the Sierra
    24 – The New Commandante
    25 – The Fox and the Coyote
    26 – Adios, Senor Magistrate
    27 – The Eagle’s Brood
    28 – Zorro By Proxy
    29 – Quintana Makes a Choice
    30 – Zorro Lights a Fuse
    31 – The Man With the Whip
    32 – Cross of the Andes
    33 – The Deadly Bolas
    34 – The Well of Death
    35 – The Tightening Noose
    36 – The Sergeant Regrets
    37 – The Eagle Leaves the Nest
    38 – Bernardo Faces Death
    39 – The Eagle’s Flight

    Season Two

    1 – Welcome to Monterey
    2 – Zorro Rides Alone
    3 – Horse of Another Color
    4 – The Senorita Makes a Choice
    5 – Rendezvous at Sundown
    6 – The New Order
    7 – An Eye for an Eye
    8 – Zorro and the Flag of Truce
    9 – Ambush
    10 – The Practical Joker
    11 – The Flaming Arrow
    12 – Zorro Fights a Duel
    13 – Amnesty for Zorro
    14 – The Runaways
    15 – The Iron Box
    16 – The Gay Caballero
    17 – Tornado Is Missing
    18 – Zorro Versus Cupid
    19 – The Legend of Zorro
    20 – Spark of Revenge
    21 – The Missing Father
    22 – Please Believe Me
    23 – The Brooch
    24 - Zorroand the Mountain Man
    25 – The Hound of the Sierras
    26 – Manhunt
    27 – The Man from Spain
    28 – Treasure for the King
    29 – Exposing the Tyrant
    30 – Zorro Takes a Dare
    31 – An Affair of Honor
    32 – The Sergeant Sees Red
    33 – Invitation to Death
    34 – The Captain Regrets
    35 – Masquerade for Murder
    36 – Long Live the Governor
    37 – The Fortune Teller
    38 – Senor China Boy
    39 – Finders Keepers


    Video Quality
    4/5

    The programs are presented at their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The transfers are for the most part beautifully pleasing representations of the series with sharp, vibrant black and white images with excellent detail (so sharp that it’s often easy to spot Williams’ stunt double Buddy Van Horn in some shots particularly during season one) and well balanced contrast that offers very good black levels. There are some age-related specks of dust on occasion, a bit of moiré from time to time, a little occasional flicker, and a little minor print damage in selected episodes, but nothing really mars the image quality for very long. The episodes have been divided into 5 chapters each.


    Audio Quality
    3.5/5

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks when decoded by Dolby Prologic place the sound into the center channel. Though the audio quality is very much typical of its era, there is only some occasional light hiss and a little flutter now and then to spoil an otherwise clear and exact sound design. Dialog is always precise though in certain episodes where a great deal of outdoor dialogue has been looped, the ADR work lends a dry, flat quality to the sound that is a bit off-putting.


    Special Features
    3.5/5 each

    Each of the tins contains a collectible pin (different designs in the two cases), a lithograph, and a certificate of authenticity.

    Leonard Maltin introduces each set on disc one in the tins. He gives background on the character, mentions some of the storylines and guest stars, and speaks briefly about the special features contained on disc six in each box.

    Volume One

    “El Bandito” is the first part of a 51 ¼-minute Zorro installment on Walt Disney Presents in 1960. Originally scripted to be part of the third season of Zorro which was discontinued due to a dispute with Disney over the series going to color, this episode features guest stars Gilbert Roland and Rita Moreno. The picture quality on this and the second half of the story is a little darker and less distinct than the season one episodes.

    “El Cuchillo” concludes the story begun in “El Bandito.” It runs 49 minutes.

    “The Life and Legend of Zorro” features historians like Rudy Belhmer and John Burlingame discussing the background for the previous Zorro films before delving more deeply with the television series. Some good information is imparted in this featurette, but it seems too brief at 12 ½ minutes.

    Walt Disney introduced the national television audience to his upcoming Zorro series on his own program Walt Disney Presents on September 11, 1957. (Zorro premiered a month later.) Speaking to the Mouseketeers, he shows the main title sequence with the catchy theme song which would prove to be a #1 hit, and then gives a brief introduction of Guy Williams as Zorro. This excerpt from his show lasts 3 ¼ minutes.

    Volume Two

    “The Postponed Wedding” is another installment of Zorro on Walt Disney Presents presented some two months after the last hour episode aired. The 49-minute program guest stars Annette Funicello playing a completely different character from the one she essayed during the series’ second season. Concerning a mercenary courtier whom Zorro tries to unmask, the program’s picture quality is every bit as good as the season two episodes. Annette also sings two songs during the program, one as a duet with Henry Calvin.

    “Auld Acquaintance” was the last Zorro special episode telecast in April 1961. It guest stars Ricardo Montalban and Ross Martin as bandits intent on stealing the army’s six months of back pay and runs for 49 ¼ minutes.

    “Behind the Mask” is a loving tribute to star Guy Williams with cast and crew of the series praising his skill and character and his son speaking warmly about his father. It’s a wonderful 8-minute featurette, but one wishes it had been much longer.

    “A Trip to the Archives” finds Leonard Maltin and Guy Williams, Jr. examining the Zorro costume as well as one of Don Diego’s suits and other costumes from the series as well as a table full of merchandise based on the series. This lasts 11 minutes.



    In Conclusion
    4/5 (not an average)

    The two volumes representing the entire Guy Williams/Disney legacy of Zorro are beautiful packages with the episodes looking better than they have any right to look and housing some welcome bonus features. It comes highly recommended especially for fans of the character, the star, or the series.


    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
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  2. Richard Gallagher

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    Thanks for the review, Matt. I have fond memories of this series and am looking forward to seeing it again. Kudos to Disney for doing it justice.
     
  3. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor
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    Thanks for the great review, Matt! I can't wait to start watching these again.
     
  4. Joe Kelly

    Joe Kelly Stunt Coordinator

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    I pre-ordered the Zorro sets from Amazon weeks ago. They shipped on 11/2 but still haven't received them yet. Has anyone else received their sets from Amazon or know if there's been a delay?
     
  5. smithb

    smithb Screenwriter

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    I was fortunate. I ordered mine on 11/4 and received them on 11/6, so they do have them. In my case, the distribution center where mine came from is only about a 45 minute drive from my house. As a result, I usually get things pretty quick when they are sent from there. I even opted for free shipping.
     
  6. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Mine arrived Thursday, using the free shipping. But, as with Brad, my distribution center was in the same region so that cut down on the time. Have you tracked the package to see its journey so far?
     
  7. ChrisALM

    ChrisALM Supporting Actor

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    I received my sets on Friday. I ordered them last summer right after they went up for pre order. I received an email last Monday notifying me that they had shipped. I used the free super saver shipping.
     
  8. Joe Kelly

    Joe Kelly Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks to all for the feedback. Yes, free shipping like always, and have always received items within a couple days. I checked tracking on USPS website, looks like items have been sitting in NC since Tues 11/3 AM (I'm in NJ). Will call Amazon Customer Service tomorrow and tell them to send new DVDs or give me a refund.
     
  9. Corey3rd

    Corey3rd Screenwriter

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    shouldn't you be complaining to the Post Office. It's not Amazon that has held them up.
     
  10. smithb

    smithb Screenwriter

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    Maybe and maybe not. I have a similar situation right now with a different order from Amazon. The tracking status on Amazon just says the following:

    October 30, 200906:33:00 PM---Arrival ScanOctober 30, 200908:51:28 AMNew Castle DE USShipment has left seller facility and is in transit
    However, when searching on the USPS site, it says the tracking number is unknown. So the issues seems to be rights at the hand-off stage between Amazon and USPS. I already received a reply to my status update request from Amazon telling me to wait until 11/9/2009 before requesting a resend. I am still waiting to hear back from USPS.
     
  11. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Amazon is responsible for the shipping. It is appropriate to go through them. That is one of the responsibilities they assume when you pay them for shipping. THEY in turn would seek satisfaction from the USPS.
     
  12. Steven Wesley

    Steven Wesley Second Unit

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    It's interesting that Zorro was shot in B/W, while just a few years earlier, Disney shot Davy Crockett in color for the anthology series, even though it was originally broadcast in B/W. You have to wonder why Zorro wasn't shot that way as well... other than for obvious cost savings.
     
  13. Joe Kelly

    Joe Kelly Stunt Coordinator

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    Zorro DVDs arrived in mail yesterday, these look like awesome sets, can't wait to watch this weekend.
     
  14. Neil Brock

    Neil Brock Cinematographer

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    You better order these quickly. Deep Discount and DVD Planet are already showing it as sold out/discontinued.
     
  15. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    I haven't done a ton of research into the series yet, but wasn't the problem with the third season a dispute over color vs. black and white?
     
  16. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I say as much in my review. See the discussion of the first one hour episode during season one's bonus features. Disney wanted to do it in color and ABC wasn't interested in programming in color at the time (1959). As soon as Disney's contract with ABC ran out, he moved his show to NBC where it was called, significantly, The Wonderful World of Color.
     
  17. Bob Gu

    Bob Gu Supporting Actor

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    From what I have read, there was more to it than going to color.

    Zorro was scheduled for a third season, but Walt Disney wanted to raise Zorro's budget with more money from ABC. ABC wanted their end to stay the same or for Disney to take less than before. Although Zorro was winning it's time-slot, the audience skewed towards kids and the sponser wanted a show with an older audience. This might have been a network negotiating tactic, since they probably still wanted Zorro on the air.

    Some say Walt Disney cancelled Zorro at this point to spite ABC or bring the network back for more negotiating.

    In any case Zorro and The Mickey Mouse Club were cancelled, and when Disney tried to take the shows to the other networks, he was blocked by ABC who thought they had some ownership in the shows because of ABC's financing of the Disneyland Park.

    Disney sued ABC and later at some point, Disney bought out ABC's interest in Disney and Disneyland.

    When Disney had a firm offer from NBC, he gave ABC the opportunity to match it, but ABC declined and the Disney hour went to NBC in color.

    Too much time had elapsed and Disney thought, (wrongly), that there was no more viewer interest in Zorro. Guy Williams was still under contract to Disney, so Zorro coming back was always possible, if things had worked out with ABC. By the time Walt Disney got to NBC he was not interested in Zorro or western series.
     
  18. Sumnernor

    Sumnernor Supporting Actor

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    Today I got my 2 Zorros in one week from the US to Munich (via New Zealand!) That is a very quick time especially since it went via german customs. Another Amazon package was sent the same day and also arrived today but with no duty. Generally Amazon sends things to me via Aucjland, NZ
     
  19. Steven Wesley

    Steven Wesley Second Unit

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    It's interesting that Zorro was not originally shot in color, given how earlier "adventure" stuff from Disney like Davy Crockett was, namely with the idea of repurposing it later in film.
     
  20. Corey3rd

    Corey3rd Screenwriter

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    The costs and requirements of shooting color at that point would have made it extremely expensive and extend the shoot days.
     

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