Arriving now on Blu-ray, the sparkling studio production and top flight cast of actors in The Mark of Zorro continue to weave a spell of old California with its peons and peasants at the mercy of a dastardly Spanish governor and his lethal henchmen.
The Production: 4/5
At the height of his star power and screen magnetism, Tyrone Power was cast in a remake of one of Douglas Fairbanks’ old swashbucklers The Mark of Zorro, and with its success Fox knew their long-time matinee idol was now capable of the same kinds of action adventure films that were the meat and potatoes of Warner Bros.’s Errol Flynn and other cinematic action heroes. Arriving now on Blu-ray, the sparkling studio production and top flight cast of actors in The Mark of Zorro continue to weave a spell of old California with its peons and peasants at the mercy of a dastardly Spanish governor and his lethal henchmen.
Recalled from his successful military training in Madrid to his homestead in Spanish-ruled California, Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power) is distressed to learn that his father Alejandro (Montagu Love) has been replaced as territory governor by the weak and corrupt Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg), a figurehead carrying out the tyrannical orders of the head of the guard Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone). The territory’s people are being taxed beyond measure and are at the mercy of a powerful military junta with no leader to head their uprising. Diego quickly ascertains the situation and determines to undermine authority in the fraudulent leaders by posing as an effete nobleman by day and the masked avenger Zorro by night, stirring within the people a gradual revolutionary spirit while keeping his father, his beloved father confessor Father Felipe (Eugene Pallette), and the fetching niece of Quintero, the beautiful Lolita (Linda Darnell), in the dark as to his identity.
Based on Johnston McCulley’s novel The Curse of Capistrano, the screenplay by John Taintor Foote (adapted by Garrett Fort and Bess Meredyth) takes its time to set up the situation in the film’s first half hour but then allows for plenty of action and derring-do over the course of the next sixty-odd minutes. Director Rouben Mamoulian wonderfully captures the sleepy spirit of old California before Zorro appears to jolt the citizenry back to life, and Power’s early training in fencing comes in very handy as he adroitly jousts with numerous enemies on route to the showdown with Basil Rathbone’s fiery Esteban Pasquale in a duel for the ages and perhaps the best staged of all of the many swordfights Rathbone was engaged in during his lengthy Hollywood career. The script doesn’t scrimp on the romance for leading man Power either as there’s a “meet-cute” for him and Linda Darnell’s Lolita as Zorro masquerades as a priest to draw out the feelings of the conflicted Miss Quintero. If the climactic melee between the peasants and the soldiers is rather sloppily staged and shot by Mamoulian, there are plenty of other moments where the director frames the action to its best advantage with the symbolic “Z” carved on walls and in fabric to let everyone know who’s now in charge of the town.
Tyrone Power has a field day playing both the foppish Diego (who fans himself with a lace hankie and enjoys doing magic tricks to the consternation of his father) and the man of action title character, and he looks simply smashing in the elaborate form-fitting outfits designed for him by Travis Banton. He even gets to indulge in a bit of flamenco dancing with his cinematic sweetheart Linda Darnell who is gorgeous but shows her limited acting skills in this early stage of her career. Much more insinuating is Gale Sondergaard as Lolita’s aunt who despite her marriage to the weak Quintero sets her cap for Diego early-on and does all she can to insure he and she will at some point be united in Madrid. As always, Basil Rathbone commands the screen whenever he’s part of a scene, and his braggadocio is backed up with his supreme skill with a foil. Eugene Pallette, J. Edward Bromberg, and Montagu Love all lend solid support to the telling of the story.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Despite a few stray dust specks and one prominent hair at the top of a brief sequence, this is a gorgeous transfer with lots of detail and an impressive grayscale that boasts solid black levels and very good shadow detail. Contrast has been nicely applied for consistency throughout. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix has been freed of all age-related problems like hiss and crackle and combines the expertly recorded dialogue, Alfred Newman’s buoyant Oscar-nominated score, and the atmospheric sound effects with professional ease.
Special Features: 3/5
Audio Commentary: author-critic Richard Schickel provides one of his typically sleepy, less than eye-opening commentaries of the film failing to identify featured players or provide insight into the production of the film or the careers of its famous cast.
Tyrone Power: The Last Idol (45:03, SD): an episode in the award-winning series Biography, this focuses on the life and career of the star with sound bites provided by friends and family including Roddy McDowall, Evie Wynn Johnson, Alice Faye, Terry Moore, Piper Laurie, and two of his wives: Annabella and Linda Christian.
The Mask of Zorro Promo (1:45, SD): a brief clip from the robbery scene in the film featuring Power, Bromberg, and Sondergaard.
Promo Trailers: Rawhide, Witness for the Prosecution which both feature Tyrone Power and are Kino Lorber Blu-ray releases.
One of the great Hollywood swashbucklers that didn’t star Errol Flynn, The Mark of Zorro comes to Blu-ray in a beautiful and inviting transfer that does the classic film justice. Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Basil Rathbone lead a sensational cast in the telling of this famous tale of old California.
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