The Douglas Fairbanks Collection (The Thief of Bagdad/The Mark of Zorro/The Three Musketeers/Robin Hood/The Black Pirate/Don Q, The Son of Zorro)
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(Feb 03, 2004)
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The Mark of Zorro/ Don Q, Son of Zorro - In The Mark of Zorro, his first full-blown effort at the costume thriller, Fairbanks portrays Don Diego Vega, a comically effete young nobleman with a taste for tassled sombreros and juvenile silk-hanky magic tricks. But when danger calls, Diego swathes himself in black, straps on a well-honed sword and storms the countryside as the mysterious Zorro, slicing his initial into the faces of the "sentinels of oppression," pausing only to boldly romance the woman (Marguerite De La Motte) to whom his shy alter-ego can hardly summon the courage to speak. Returning to the legend that inspired his first swashbuckling adventure, Fairbanks appears in Don Q, Son of Zorro. Don Cesar De Vega (Fairbanks) crosses swords with a vicious member of the Queen's Guard (Donald Crisp, who also directed), and steals the affection of a young heiress (Mary Astor). When the officer frames the young upstart for murder, Don Cesar fakes his own death and retreats into the crumbling ruins of the family castle where he plots his vengeance. The Three Musketeers - D'Artagnan is a naive and ambitious farm boy who yearns to join the Musketeers, the elite regiment of guards under King Louis XIII (Adolphe Menjou). Riding into 1625 Paris on the back of a weathered plowhorse, the young rapscallion quickly wins the respect and friendship of the Musketeers' most valiant trio in a breathtaking display of acrobatic swordsmanship. When Queen Anne (Mary McLaren) is maneuvered into a political scandal by the devious Cardinal Richelieu (Nigel De Brulier), D'Artagnan and his bons hommes embark on a treacherous race across France, to England and back to regain a precious brooch that will save the queen's honor and the future of their nation. Robin Hood - As the Earl of Huntington, Fairbanks epitomizes the valiant, loyal knight immortalized in Arthurian legend, gently wooing the virtuous Lady Marian (Enid Bennett). When King Richard, Huntington and a band of warriors embark on a crusade to Palestine, Richard's conniving brother John (Sam De Grasse) assumes the throne and turns the once-idyllic empire into a Dante-esque sty of corruption. In the darkest hour, however, Huntington shirks off his noble demeanor and is transfigured into Robin Hood, a hyper-animated avenger who, just a few leaps ahead of his merry men, breathlessly storms the battlements in pursuit of Prince John, the High Sheriff of Nottingham (William Lowery) and all who stand in the way of justice. The Thief Of Baghdad - A spectacular accomplishment in production design and special effects, Raoul Walsh's The Thief of Baghdad is a bold Arabian adventure starring Douglas Fairbanks as a carefree pickpocket who turns his appealing brand of mischievous thievery toward the attainment of happiness... and an exotic Princess (Julanne Johnston). The Black Pirate - The sole survivor of a ship pillaged by buccaneers, Michel (Fairbanks) poses as the mysterious Black Pirate and infiltrates the nest of bandits. He mounts an elaborate ploy to recover the brigands' treasure, reclaim the ship and rescue the divine Princess (Billie Dove) held captive there. Like a Robert Louis Stevenson adventure come to life, The Black Pirate ripples with customary intrigue and a rapid succession of brilliantly inventive stunts that never fail to astound.
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Top customer reviews
So, five years later, Fairbanks did a REALLY unusual thing: he made a sequel to his own grand classic - and starred in a double role: as both Zorro AND his son, 'Don Q'. The story is most entertaining, suspenseful and romantic, and, like all of Douglas Fairbanks' movies, not without a touch of comedy, the acting is marvelous and the atmosphere of Old Spain most authentic - a jewel among silent movies, which makes even the greatest and most famous later sound and color swashbucklers look pale!
That Douglas Fairbanks should fade from memory is tremendously sad. "The Mark of Zorro" is a good example of the kind of film Fairbanks specialized in toward the end of the silent era, and were hugely popular because of the dynamic presence of its star.
There really has been nothing to compare with Fairbanks since his departure from films. No action star since can come close to his grace and power in an action film. If you doubt me, buy this DVD and see for yourself. Watch Fairbanks leap over tables, vault over chest-high walls to mount a horse, leap from a table top to a cornice near a ceiling, etc. And it was not just that he was able to do these feats, it is that he did them effortlessly. The sheer grace of the man was truly thrilling. He never seemed to strain for anything. I realized this while watching the Mark of Zorro during one scene when Fairbanks swings a leg up and dismounts a running horse, in full gallop, to land on his feet as easily as though he were stepping off the ladder. He made it look so easy, I went back and watched the scene again to make sure I had seen what I thought I saw. Yep, he had done it - smooth as silk.
Then there is his acting. In this film, Fairbanks plays a duel role: Don Diego, a foppish young noble, and his masked counterpart, Zorro. His portrayal of Don Diego is subtle and effective. His body seems shapeless and soft. His manner is distracted and indecisive and vaguely lost. He detests swordplay and is constantly wiping his face due to his great "fatigue." When his love interest declares "He is not a man - he is a fish!" she hits the nail on the head. Yet when he dons the mask, his body and manner are reborn. His body looks lithe and full of movement, and his smile, that tremendous, beaming smile that radiated pure happiness, is almost as devastating as his blade.
Finally, there is the art design and sets of this film. Fairbanks loved these period pieces, and he spared no expense on research and detail. His care, financial investment, and dedication to craft really show. Everything has a beautiful, "deep" feel.
As a side note, this review is based on the Kino DVD release of this film, and as with all the Kino releases, this edition looks simply great. God Bless Kino for being one of the best companies preserving and marketing silent films.
If you have bothered to read this review, please buy this film. If you do, Douglas Fairbanks will be popular and famous again, at least in your heart.
Donald Crisp (who also directed) plays the chief bad guy Don Sebastian and rival for Dolores's hand in marriage. As it becomes more and more clear that Don Cesar will win her, Don Sebastian murders the foreign prince and frames Don Cesar.
The movie is a bit overlong and drags in spots but it is still quite good and makes a good double feature with the original Mark of Zorro. The grand finale featuring father and son (both played by Fairbnanks) is entertaining and Mary Astor makes a nice understated heroine who doesn't faint too much.
In the supporting cast is Lottie Pickford, sister of Mary Pickford, as Don Cesar's maid and spy. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were married at this time. Also, Charles Stevens plays Cesar's manservant. He was grandson of Geronimo whom Fairbanks put in almost all of his movies since he considered him lucky.
A final note, this movie, like The Mark of Zorro, is silent and the old fashioned methods of acting take a while to get used to but it is worth the effort.
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