The Mark of Zorro Blu-ray Review

A classic adventure tale beautifully presented 4 Stars

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 Mark of Zorro (1940)
Released: 08 Nov 1940
Rated: APPROVED
Runtime: 94 min
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance
Cast: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard
Writer(s): John Taintor Foote (screenplay), Garrett Fort (adaptation), Bess Meredyth (adaptation), Johnston McCulley (story "The Curse of Capistrano")
Plot: A young aristocrat must masquerade as a fop in order to maintain his secret identity of Zorro as he restores justice to early California.
IMDB rating: 7.6
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: HBO
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: None
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 08/02/2016
MSRP: $29.95

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.

Video: 4.5/5

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.

Audio: 4.5/5

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.

Overall: 4/5

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.

Published by

Matt Hough

administrator

18 Comments

  1. Don't get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy this marvellous film but there are a couple of aspects that have always disappointed me about it.The first issue may stem from the "child" in me but in this so-called Zorro film we tend to see far more of Don Diego than we do of Zorro.The problem being one can hardly expect a top flight romantic screen presence like Tyrone Power to hide his handsome facial features behind a mask for any lengthy duration but that's precisely the problematic rub here.Zorro is a "masked" avenger-crusader-hero.  It's like having a Batman movie where the costumed Batman only makes a cameo.They tend to do this with Iron Man too.  We're always annoyingly shown the intercut face of Robert Downey, Jr. much more than full views of the actual "Golden Avenger" himself in his awesome  invincible, metallic, helmeted regalia. For myself in THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) there is nothing more exciting than when the masked Zorro makes his first appearance on his black stallion.My second disappointment is to witness the great Basil Rathbone once again relegated to yet another villainous role.By this time Mr. Rathbone had already made two exceptional Sherlock Holmes films which innovatively broke this negative typed mold and the gentleman made for a most convincing hero indeed.  In his own initial enthusiasm Basil Rathbone was (justifiably) elated to have the opportunity to portray one of the great heroes of all time.In truth, Basil Rathbone was widely considered to be the nicest, kindest and friendliest of screen actors in Hollywood at the time.  Anything but the despicably ruthless, callous villains that he all-too-frequently found himself to be lamentably cast.My last observation is the by comparison to the lavishly mounted and handsomely colour produced THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) the black-and-white filmed THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) looks somewhat modestly less grand by comparison and could have benefited tremendously having made the extra effort as a colour vehicle.  A missed opportunity here. Jeff T.

  2. matt-hough

    The Mark of Zorro Blu-ray Review

    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.

    [review]

    Click here to read the original article.

    Excellent    review……………and   one   of   my   top   movies   of   all   time…………..have   waited   so   long   for   it's    eventual   release……………..BUT……….no   English   Sub-titles   ………..means   NO     BUY…….Thank    you    Kino   Lorber       for   your   usual     crappy     service…….

  3. Thanks, Matt!

    I agree with the above poster that the lack of SDH on what appears to be a growing number of Fox films released by KL is very disappointing and I'm also not buying these.  I've asked Mr Lime respectfully a couple times in the Kino thread to weigh in on this but he's ignored me.  These  films have easily obtainable SDH streams from the Fox DVD releases that should be ported over, but aren't. 

    Given that Fox's other partner, TT, always includes SDH where available suggests that the problem isn't with Fox.

  4. Don't get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy this marvellous film but there are a couple of aspects that have always disappointed me about it.

    The first issue may stem from the "child" in me but in this so-called Zorro film we tend to see far more of Don Diego than we do of Zorro.

    The problem being one can hardly expect a top flight romantic screen presence like Tyrone Power to hide his handsome facial features behind a mask for any lengthy duration but that's precisely the problematic rub here.

    Zorro is a "masked" avenger-crusader-hero.  It's like having a Batman movie where the caped and cowled Batman only makes a cameo.  Who really wants to see Bruce Wayne more than Batman?!

    They tend to do this with Iron Man too.  We're always annoyingly shown repeated inserts of Robert Downey, Jr.'s face seen inside the Iron Man helmet much more than full views of the actual "Golden Avenger" himself in his awesome  invincible, metallic, helmeted regalia.

    For myself in THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) there is nothing more exciting than when the fully costumed Zorro (finally) makes his first appearance on his magnificent black stallion.

    My second disappointment is to witness the great Basil Rathbone once again tiresomely relegated to yet another villainous role.

    By this time Mr. Rathbone had already made two exceptional Sherlock Holmes films for Fox Studios which innovatively broke this negative typed mold and the gentleman made for a most convincing hero indeed.  In his own initial enthusiasm Basil Rathbone was (justifiably) elated to refreshingly have the opportunity to portray one of the great heroes of all time.

    In truth, Basil Rathbone was widely considered to be the nicest, kindest and friendliest of screen actors in the "Golden Age" Hollywood.  A far cry from the despicably ruthless, callous villains that he all-too-frequently found himself to be lamentably cast.

    My last observation is that by comparison to the lavishly mounted and handsomely colour produced THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) the black-and-white filmed THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) looks somewhat modestly less grand and could have benefited tremendously having made the extra effort as a colour vehicle.  Doing a black-and-white adventure epic especially after the awesome wake of ROBIN HOOD is somewhat of a step backwards.  A missed opportunity here.

    Jeff T.

    😉

    Fox seems to have used Technicolor for one Power production per year.  It was used for larger productions — Jesse James, Blood and Sand, and The Black Pirate.

    Limited number of cameras, being shared among the studios, limited print production capacity.

  5. Fox seems to have used Technicolor for one Power production per year.  It was used for larger productions — Jesse James, Blood and Sand, and The Black Pirate.

    Limited number of cameras, being shared among the studios, limited print production capacity.

    Fox was also giving Betty Grable the Technicolor buildup during those years. After Tin-Pan Alley, most of her musicals were filmed in Technicolor.

  6. My last observation is that by comparison to the lavishly mounted and handsomely colour produced THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) the black-and-white filmed THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) looks somewhat modestly less grand and could have benefited tremendously having made the extra effort as a colour vehicle.  Doing a black-and-white adventure epic especially after the awesome wake of ROBIN HOOD is somewhat of a step backwards.  A missed opportunity here.

    Jeff T.

    😉

    while we "ooh" and "aah" over the glorious technicolor of The Adventures of Robin Hood, I doubt we would have had that opportunity had The Mark of Zorro been shot in the same process. The beautiful technicolor would have doubtless been lost after Fox's ill-advised attempt to back up their technicolor holdings to film stock which faded  while disposing of the technicolor originals. RAH's "A Few Words" article would have then covered how the restorers did what they could with what they had, and how the resulting color, while pleasing is nothing like what was seen in 1940. Frankly, I am grateful that this classic swashbuckler was shot in B/W.

  7. My last observation is that by comparison to the lavishly mounted and handsomely colour produced THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) the black-and-white filmed THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) looks somewhat modestly less grand and could have benefited tremendously having made the extra effort as a colour vehicle.  Doing a black-and-white adventure epic especially after the awesome wake of ROBIN HOOD is somewhat of a step backwards.  A missed opportunity here.

    😉

    Well, there are those of us who consider black and white to be preferable in most instances to color. It creates an entirely different mood, obviously, and for an epic adventure like THE BLACK SWAN color is an asset. MARK OF ZORRO is mainly interiors and small sets, and hasn't the scope that would benefit greatly from the added budget of color stock. I find the B&W in this film to be awesome (given a good transfer), and I'm glad they didn't decide to go all the way with Technicolor. Apply the adage "Pick your battles" when it comes to the decision of whether or not to go with color, a lesson that has been lost with 1.85:1 vs. 2.35 aspect ratio. If the film ain't gonna benefit from color (or 2.35:1), don't use it. Think first about atmosphere and composition. So, I disagree with your assessment, but, then, I'm a huge fan of great black and white cinematography

  8. Color Zorro fans should track down, THE BOLD CABALLERO-1936. It was the first Zorro sound movie, the first Zorro color movie, and the first color movie from Republic Studios, using the Natural/Magnacolor process, an early version of Trucolor.

    The Bold Caballero was actually released with a nice restored color print in 1998, by Republic Home Video, on VHS. (The color uploads on youtube, I believe are from a lesser print used for the Alpha DVD release.)

  9. It's a great film, & has been shown in HD on TV a few times (Film Four UK), I'll certainly buy it if it gets a UK release (the French release was a wee bit to expensive), but to be honest, it's not the 1940 b/w swashbuckler I've been hoping for (I think we all know what that is:)). The Zorro film that really hit it with me was the serial Zorro's Fighting Legion, I can still remember seeing it in the late fifties, I've got it on DVD somewhere, I'm going to have to dig it out. And I understand that Basil Rathbone was an expert at fencing (Olympic standard I understand), & he said that he could have easily seen off Errol Flynn & Tyrone Power.

  10. It's a great film, & has been shown in HD on TV a few times (Film Four UK), I'll certainly buy it if it gets a UK release (the French release was a wee bit to expensive), but to be honest, it's not the 1940 b/w swashbuckler I've been hoping for (I think we all know what that is:)). The Zorro film that really hit it with me was the serial Zorro's Fighting Legion, I can still remember seeing it in the late fifties, I've got it on DVD somewhere, I'm going to have to dig it out. And I understand that Basil Rathbone was an expert at fencing (Olympic standard I understand), & he said that he could have easily seen off Errol Flynn & Tyrone Power.

    In his 1995 book, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE SWORD, Nick Evangelista rates the MARK OF ZORRO duel as "the finest example of movie swordplay Hollywood has ever produced." But although Rathbone called Power "the most agile man with a sword I've ever faced before a camera," former Olympic fencer Richard Cohen, in his 2002 book BY THE SWORD, says Power was often doubled in ZORRO's fencing scenes by Albert Cavens, the son of Belgian swordmaster Fred Cavens, and he's credited as such in other reference books (and on IMDB), though not in the film itself. Rathbone was 48 at the time the ZORRO duel was filmed, and, according to Cohen, the elder Cavens said of him "I doubt that he would do well in competition, but for picture purposes he is better than the best fencer in the world."  Rathbone considered Power an expert swordsman and said, "Tyrone Power could duel Errol Flynn into a cocked hat."

  11. I have absolutely nothing against black-and-white but the innovation of colour in film really opened up vast new dimensions of possibilities to be explored.  Just like sound did.

    The dusty existential minimalism of the impoverish peon village certainly lends itself appropriately to black-and-white photography.

    However this is a costume adventure which seemingly would demand colour.  They could have adapted this film just fine to colour if they really wanted to.

    I've never understood why another film produced around the same time THE SEA HAWK (1941) wasn't also lensed in colour.  Maybe the current mounting war put limitations on things.  I never understood why Basil Rathbone wasn't in this film to again challenge his regular screen adversary Errol Flynn.

    Just to cite an example of contrast consider the SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) which looks impressively awesome with its lush black-and-white multi-textured photography.  However it was originally conceived as a colour production with all the sets and costumes designed with this specifically in mind.  The point being it looks so good in black-and-white that it's difficult to envision it in colour but likely could have been done and done very well indeed.  So never say never!

    My first exposure to Zorro was the Guy Williams tv series.  In this it was Zorro who was mainly involved in all of the action aspects of the stories and not Don Diego.  This more-or-less shaped my conception of the character and his dominating importance.

    The main thrust of THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) is Don Diego vindicating himself to everyone that he is not the ineffectual foppish dolt that he pretends to be.  Zorro in the film is just a passing phase of his crusade targeted against the current governing regime's tyranny which Diego ultimately defeats.

    Basil Rathbone in a 1967 interview published in CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN magazine confirmed that he was indeed a master swordsman of professional caliber.   He always had a concern in seriously injuring his less-than-skilled opponents.  There was also the danger, due to their ineptitude (or inexperience), that they in turn could seriously injure him.  So Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power are more on the offensive while Basil tended to be more on the defensive.  But as mentioned these actors also had stand-in replacements who were similarly, like Mr. Rathbone, skilled fencers.

    One has to really admire and sympathize with Basil Rathbone because in film he always lost in the contrived duel with his screen opponents when he could actually make short work of them.  Furthermore he  was relegated to villainous roles more than he cared to be when he in truth nothing of the kind.

    A real fine trooper if ever there was one.

    Lastly, yes I really like the 12-chapter Republic Pictures ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION (1940) very much and have it on DVD to enjoy whenever I want to.

    Jeff T.

    🙂

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