on January 28, 2004
This is arguably the best film version of Johnston McCulley's costumed swordfighter of old California, beating out both the 1920s Douglas Fairbanks film and the recent Banderas/Hopkins blockbuster (although both are good films in their own rights).
What this film has is Golden Age Hollywood style in spades: glamourous photography, music, and star power. It has less action than you might expect, and Tyrone Power actually spends very little time in the Zorro costume -- he's in his 'civilian' duds for the whole finale. But the film is such good-natured fun and director Mamoulian has such a solid handle on the material that it hardly matters. The romance and comedy are also well executed and finely balanced with the physical action.
Speaking of action, the big duel between Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone is a stunner, an amazing piece of combat choreography. As a bonus, Fox Home Video has mixed the film in stereo; very rare for a film of the period. The disc also has a 45 minute episode of "Biography" about Tyrone Power. It spends only a minute on THE MARK OF ZORRO, but it does show a priceless outtake of Power dressed in the Zorro costume making fun of studio boss Darryl Zanuck. Even if you don't watch the whole documentary, make sure you speed through it to catch this riotous old Hollywood prank.
on March 4, 2004
Beautiful faces, gorgeous b&w photography, an array of old Hollywood's best character actors, brawling and tumultous fight scenes, probably the best sword fight ever filmed, and a rousing musical score that must have sent people almost dancing out of theaters with big smiles on their faces in 1940 - and will still make you smile in your living room. And dialogue laced with wit and humor as well as drama. Now THIS is what a Hollywood action movie should be!
This is one of the all-time best. Got the blues? This ought to chase them right away. Really got the blues? Try a double-feature of this with Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood. And you can keep all the Wars and Treks in the stars. They are made by mere children as compared to these old pros.
Why doesn't Tyrone Power have a cult of his own today? He was handsome and versatile, and a good actor whose performances hold up better than many of his competitors'. Ty Power's the Man!
on October 14, 2002
Classic is the one word that I could truly use to properly describe Twentieth Century Fox's 1940 version of "The Mark Of Zorro". Forget all the previous versions and certainly the latest remake with Antonio Banderas, this is the supreme version in regard to storytelling, casting, sets, excitement and unforgettable sword play. It boasts Tyrone Power's finest performance by far in my opinion and it also contains one of the most exciting and dramatically staged sword fights in the history of film swashbucklers (with the possible exception of Errol Flynn's duel with Basil Rathbone in "The Adventures of Robin Hood").
"The Mark Of Zorro" directed by veteran director Rouben Mamoulian, is old fashioned movie making at its very best. It contains an exciting storyline with frequent dashes of daring action sequences, excellent sword play, a tender romance between Tyrone and the very beautiful Linda Darnelland a sweeping, energetic musical score which is just right for this production.
Tyrone Power scored a great personal triumph in this role of the effeminate Don Diego de Vega by day, and the dashing and daring Zorro by night. It is the role which really became his trademark performance much as "Gone With The Wind" is for Clark Gable. Forever after Zorro has been identified as possibly his greatest role and the character he was most identified with. By 1940 Tyrone Power had reached his Box Office peak with a string of huge Box Office successes like "In Old Chicago" "Marie Antoinette", "Suez", "Jesse James", "Rose of Washington Square" and "Johnny Apollo". Zorro was the role of a life time and came along also just as his extraordinary good looks had matured enough to make him totally convincing as the fop by day and dashing bringer of justice by night. It is a performance filled with a vital energy, dashing spirit and the right element of tongue in cheek bravado.
The production of "The Mark Of Zorro" was one of Twentieth Century Fox's biggest productions of the year. The attention to detail in sets and importantly in costumne is immaculate and really recreates that feeling of old California of the nineteenth century. The film benefits greatly from the superb supporting cast without which any film of this size would be lost. The beautiful Linda Darnell was only starting to come into prominence at this time and she makes a very effective love interest for Tyrone here in the role of Lolita. Her role might be really window dressing but she is most effective in her brief scenes. The wonderful Basil Rathbone, swordsman extraordinaire, is superb as always as the corrupt and cruel Captain Pasquale and he brings the right elements of menace and slippery sophistication to his role to turn in another stunning performance much like his performance of two years before in
"The Adventures Of Robin Hood" . Equally villianous and equally delightful in the cast line up are Gale Sondergaard, arch villianess of many films, and J. Edward Bromberg as the cowardly but corrupt governor Don Luis Quintero and his vain wife Inez . They are excellent in their scenes and Bromberg in particular has a field day with his very amusing role as the ruthless replacement governor who is bleeding the local peasants dry in taxation but is a coward afraid of his own shadow. His scenes are very amusing where he is reduced to a blubbering mass of fears during Zorro's nocturnal visits to his headquarters and proves to be no match for the daring Zorro who always manages to leave his signature "Z" in conspicious places.
I cannot recommend "The Mark Of Zorro" highly enough and if for nothing else it is worth seeing for the superb fencing sequence between Power and Rathbone which is a classic of its kind and one of the most memorable dueling sequences ever put on film. Some individuals believe it's a pity that the photography is in black and white but I personally feel it suits the story well and never have Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell looked more attractive than in this production. Enjoy "The Mark Of Zorro" as the high spirited entertainment that it is and as a tribute to the mastery that was Hollywood film making in its Golden Age. Films really don't come better than the 1940 version of "The Mark Of Zorro"
on October 28, 2005
The Mark of Zorro is one of my all time favorites, and it is a movie that needs nothing to improve it. Classic swashbuckling adventure set in old California. And the black-and-white version that is on this DVD is a treat to watch--pristine in every way. It was with some trepidation that I put on the new color version. What had they done to my dear Tyrone Power? Yet when I viewed the new color version, I felt that I was getting to experience the beauty of the motion picture in a whole new and different way. It brought out detail that I had not seen before. The colorization process is light years ahead of any I have seen previously, and for awhile I forgot this was ever in black-and-white to begin with. It really breathes new life into this classic. I admit I watched the whole movie again! What a treat to be able to enjoy this movie in a new way. Great idea, and great special edition. Highly recommend!
on October 25, 2005
I first caught The Mark of Zorro (both the Tyrone Power and Douglas Fairbanks versions) on TV a few years ago during the hype for the Mask of Zorro movie, and immediately fell in love with them. While I've been raised on modern Hollywood cinema, these were movies that still held great appeal for me. Specifically for the Tyrone Power version, we get a quick, witty adventure with fantastic swordfights and great chemistry between Power and Linda Darnell. The whole production charms in that golden age Hollywood way, without suffering from the cheesiness that people usually associate with older flicks. It's one of my favourite movies.
About the DVD: While I'm a film purist in that "widescreen is better than foolscreen" kinda way, I must admit I found some novelty value in the colourized version we get here. I'm not familiar with the process, so maybe that's why I'm impressed by what I see. The colours aren't as rich as they would be if the movie was filmed in colour, but they do give me a new perspective on what the costumes and set design could've looked like (not sure if Fox dug into the vaults to find the original colours, or just came up with their own). Plus, as long as studios continue to offer the original black and white versions as Fox has done here, I can't find fault with them. The set also comes with 6 reprints of photos from the movie set, which are a nice bonus.
I got this disc dirt cheap, and it's more entertaining than most films these days. Definitely worth the purchase for any movie fan.
on May 13, 2007
Rouben Mamoulian's THE MARK OF ZORRO, adapted from The Mark of Zorro, a book Johnston McCulley wrote in 1919, is one of these films I discovered between the age of 10 and 15 on TV and which are the reason why I love movies so much. The action is so fast that you'll forget after five minutes that THE MARK OF ZORRO is in black and white.
Linda Darnell was 17 when she starred in the film, the exact age of Lolita Quintero, Zorro's love, and she still ignites the screen. Basil Rathbone is the villain by essence, the guy you'll love to hate and Tyrone Power plays to the perfection the double role of Don Diego Vega/Zorro, the coward and the hero. I showed the film last night to my children (9 and 12) and they simply loved it. As I did some 35 years ago.
A DVD zone your library.
on May 24, 2002
During the age when swashbuckling action films were the most popular form of entertainment, there arose from Twentieth Century Fox an adventure film that topped all others. This film was "The Mark of Zorro" starring Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone. The daring masked avenger cloaked in black has been an American legend for 80 years, and many films have been produced starring the masked fox. However, I believe that this film is the best Zorro production ever made.
The setting is Spanish California in 1820. Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power), an expert fencer of Madrid an in the elite training corps, is summoned back to Los Angeles by his fahter, Don Alejandro (Montagu Love), the alcalde. Upon arriving home, Diego learns his father has been run out of office by Capitan Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone). Esteban holds in his hand the perfect puppet, a superstitious, greedy alcalde, Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg). However, Diego pretends to be a fop, unmotivated to fight the capitan, befriending the alcalde and his wife Inez (Gale Sondergaard). However, Diego soon dons the mask of a daring hero, identifying himself as Zorro. Zorro terrorizes the alcalde and robs Esteban of the money he has robbed from the peons. Zorro and a local padre (Eugene Pallete) work to return the money to the citizens of Los Angeles. Diego/Zorro also falls in love with the beautiful Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell), the niece of the alcalde. She cares nothing for her father's plans, her full support to Zorro. However, when the padre is arrested, Diego abandons his mask and leads the caballeros on a revolt.
This film added into the Zorro figure a new trait. In most Zorro stories, Zorro forces his enemies to return stolen money themselves. This Zorro, more serious, delivers the gold himself. This is a definate classic.
Of course, the film has it's problems. Power spends less time as Zorro and more time as Diego. Zorro only battles one soldier, the main battle occuring between Esteban and Diego. However, dispite minor errors, this film is an undisputed classic, and cannot not be missed by Zorro fans.
on October 30, 2003
One of my favorite movies is on DVD. Finally. Tyrone Power is the best Zorro you will ever see, and the supporting cast is top-notch. And let's not forget the fantastic score by Alfred Newman. One of his finest. Eevrything is polished here, production-wise. There is also an excellent Biography show on Tyrone Power and an outtake from the movie.
The only thing that I can say that is detrimental about the DVD is the commentary by Richard Schickel. He is a very respected film historian, but his commentary is slow and boring. What's worse is that he will explain a part of the plot as we are seeing it. For example, during one scene, he will talk about how Power's character of Don Diego suddenly realizes that when they are talking about the Alcalde being a tyrant, they are talking about his father's corrupt replacement, not his father. Well, duh, Richard, hello, I can see that without any additional coaching. Play the movie without the commentary and you will thrill to one of the best swashbucklers ever. Listen to the commentary and you will probably be asleep long before the movie is over, as I was.
on May 19, 2002
After the success of Warner Brothers "The Adventures of Robin Hood," starring Errol Flynn, Twentieth Century Fox released a film of their namesake, "The Mark of Zorro," starring Tyrone Power. It was a box office hit, and is a classic of it's time. While not in color, and wary of action, this film holds up as, in my opinion, the best of the Zorro films.
In the 1800's, the Spanish Empire rules California. Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power), is "the best fencer of Madrid." He is ordered home by his father, Don Alejandro. Upon arrival, he hears that the alcalde is an evil tyrant. But Diego's fahter is the alcalde!
Diego learns from Capitan Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone) that his father resigned, and that Luis B. Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg) has replaced him as alcalde. Both Esteban and Quintero are worthless land theives, taxing the peons into poverty to fill their own pockets. However, Diego suddenly appears to have lost his swordsman skills, now acting foppish and peaceful, much to Alejandro's dissapointment. However, Deigo soon becomes the black-clad Zorro, a daring freedom fighter rescuing both the rich and poor from the tyrants. To disguise himself, he must remain foppish. Only the padre Felipe (Eugene Pallette) knows his true identity, along with Diego's fiance Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell), a kind girl against her uncle and his henchman. However, when Fray Felipe is arrested as Zorro for trying to defend the mission taxes, Diego abandons both disguises and leads the caballeros and peons to battle, personally taking on Esteban in a spectacular showdown.
"The Mark of Zorro" was based on three stories. One was Johnston McCulley's original Zorro story. Unlike the Fairbanks film, the theme here focuses on saving the people from corruption, rather than defending Lolita. Another was Douglas Faribanks's "The Mark of Zorro" (1920). The other was "The Adventures of Robin Hood." Basil Rathbone and Eugene Pallette had roles in the Robin Hood film before starring in "The Mark of Zorro." Zorro here as a Robin Hood characteristic: he steals tax money and returns it to the people. Most Zorros force their enemies to give the money back themselves.
Sword battles in this film occur mainly between Diego and Esteban. The fencing in this movie is excellent. Rathbone is one of the best fencer's of all time, as is Power. The Zorro in this film is the closest thing ever that fits the Zorro legacy. This is a beautiful classic, one than cannot be missed.
And yes, I know, this exact same review is already up, but I made a few errors.
on July 29, 2001
This remarkable film (loosely based on the Zorro stories of Johnston McCulley) has everything one could ask for from a swashbuckling adventure story . . . excellent acting, a wonderful script and the inspired direction of Ruben Mamoulian. Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Basil Rathbone are outstanding as the exciting hero, his true love, and the deliciously evil Captain Esteban Pasquale. An inspired supporting cast including J. Edward Bromberg, Eugene Pallette, Gale Sondergaard, and Montagu Love convinces you that this is California of the 1820's. Excellent pacing moves the story forward from adventure to adventure, finally culminating in that magnificent duel between Power and Rathbone, between justice and tyranny. The clever use of humor, and the innocent yet passionate love that grows steadily between Power and Darnell (the Villain's niece), adds dimension to the characters and makes us care about them. This is a film that deserves to be seen again and again!