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Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Oct 14, 2003.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    The Mark Of Zorro (1940) – Fox Studio Classic

    Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Year: 1940
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 94 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Fullscreen (OAR)
    Audio: English Mono & English Stereo
    Subtitles: English & Spanish
    Package Keepcase

    The Feature:
    Before we start, I’d like to thank fellow HTF reviewer Adam Reiter for allowing me to review this disc. He knows I am a big fan of the oldies and offered to send it to me for review.

    This past year has added a different dimension in what we look forward to in the Fox Studio Classics line. We have come to anticipate a wonderful old restored classic with an assortment of special features each month. The Mark Of Zorro is the newest installment in the Studio Classics line. If you are a fan of classic film, I recommend all of the titles from the Studio Classics line. I have all them except the Jack Briggs’ favorite, The Day The Earth Stood Still, which I intend to pick up.

    Recently, it was learned that the Fox Studio Classic, Laura was either cancelled or postponed and has been replaced with The Ox-Bow Incident to be released November 4th and My Darling Clementine on January 6th, 2004. I hope I speak for many by saying how disappointed I am with the recent news of the Laura cancellation. I only hope that Fox decides to eventually release this classic in a timely fashion.

    The Mark Of Zorro starts off in Spain circa 1820, as Don Diego de Vega (played by charismatic Tyrone Power) who’s the son of a California nobleman summoned back home to California. Since he left, his native homeland has been taken over by a corrupt dictator who is pilfering from the peons by outrageously taxing them (wait a minute, didn’t I just review something like this last week?)…

    When Don Diego de Vega arrives back in his native land, his disappointed father hoped for a stalwart but capable successor in restoring his previous rule. Devastated to learn that his seemingly inept son is nothing more than a “puppy”, what he doesn’t know is that his delicate son by day becomes a force to be reckoned with at night.

    Don Luis Quintero who is the Alcalde (played by J. Edward Bromberg) but really leading the group is Captain Esteban Pasquale (played by the composed Basil Rathbone). Vega’s performance as the delicate privileged son is the perfect cover when he falls for the Alcalde’s niece Lolita (played by Linda Darnell). Eventually, Fray Felipe (the gravelly voiced Eugene Pallette, who plays a similar role as Friar Tuck in The Adventures Of Robinhood) is eventually found with the stashed loot and it becomes rather obvious who the black masked marauder is.

    Although the film’s only Oscar nomination was for score by Fox's legendary Alfred Newman, The Mark Of Zorro was a major studio hit. There have been many comparisons drawn between The Adventures Of Robin Hood and The Mark Of Zorro, including the charismatic stars of both films. Regardless of your preference, the swordfight between Power and Rathbone is unquestionably the finest ever captured on film. While there are many versions of the legend of Zorro, The Mark Of Zorro is the definitive classic.

    Unfortunately, the news isn’t as favorable as the other Fox Studio Classics that have been previously released. While I have far too many shabby versions of Public Domain titles in my collection to call this a “bad” transfer… it’s nowhere near “bad”, but it’s certainly not without its flaws. I can only assume the original elements were in rough shape.

    First, the good news. The level of shadow detail, contrast and black levels are most impressive. There were many scenes that looked very dimensional and very film like. The image detail was, for the most part, also impressive. Also, there were no signs of any compression or haloing issues. Grain was present but rather minimal.

    Now for the bad news. The entire film is inundated with dirt and most notably, scratches. There were many scenes plagued by serious scratches (good examples are at the 15:40 and 47:10 mark) and serious film dirt. Also present were many light pops and speckles. I also noticed a fair amount of light instability (dark to bright flicker) which was rather constant.

    As I mentioned above, this isn’t a terrible video transfer but it certainly isn’t on par with the other Fox Studio Classics that have been previously released thus far.

    Fox has offered both Mono and Stereo soundtracks for this disc. I gave both formats a listen and preferred the Mono track in that it seemed to be tighter and less forward (bright). The Stereo track seemed rather hollow and almost too separated.

    Dialogue was always clear and the beautiful score came across superbly adding to the great atmosphere of the film. There was a rather significant amount of hiss present as well as some static (almost crackle like) which became rather bothersome at the 52:25 mark.

    Other than the infrequent hiss and static occasionally present, the soundtrack is satisfactory.

    Special Features:
    There are a few special features included on the disc. The first is a Commentary By Film Critic Richard Schickel which runs the entire length of the film. Richard’s monotone voice tends to be slightly on the dry side, but this is informative.

    Next is an A&E Biography – Tyrone Power: The Last Idol. These A&E inclusions are brilliant and as always, very informative. This is no exception. The feature offers up many tidbits about the legendary actor whose life was cut short at a very early age. Duration: 44:59.

    Finally there are nine Theatrical Trailers for various Fox Studio Classics.

    Final Thoughts:
    The Mark Of Zorro is a delightful feel good movie that is well acted, perfectly directed and cast to perfection. It has a certain mystique about it that only Tyrone Power could have brought to this definitive version of the Zorro legend.

    Even though The Mark Of Zorro has its shares of A/V flaws they’re not significant enough for me to discourage a recommendation. Remember, the film is 64 years old. Fans of classic film should have this in their collection. Recommended…!

    Released: October 7th, 2003
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

    Apr 14, 2003
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    Bolton, Lancashire
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    The restorations on most other films in this excellent range have been so good, it does come as something of a shock to see one that is less than perfect; but just to double underline what Herb has said, the good things about the transfer easily outweigh the bad and the joy of seeing one of the best duels in cinema history committed to DVD.

    So many films, so little time...
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Again, I can't disagree with anything you said. The video presentation wasn't one of best of the studio classics, but I enjoyed it anyway. I really liked the A&E Biography segment on Power especially that one outtake of him marking that stagecoach with the Z plus another letter to make light of Zanuck.

  4. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

    Jun 17, 2000
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    I'm having a hard time finding this one locally; I may have to order it online.

    And I agree with Herb about the cancellation of LAURA. I hope it's rescheduled soon.
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Jun 3, 1999
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    Herb, thanks for the thorough review of this classic that has finally made its way to DVD. Sorry to read about the less-than-stellar transfer, but I can't wait to screen this.
  6. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    thanks for the review and already waiting to see this arrive at my doorstep


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