• Mark Of Zorro, The

    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: August 2, 2016
    Director: Rouben Mamoulian
    Cast: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard, Eugene Pallette
    Year: 1940
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    The Movie:

    A remake of the 1920's Douglas Fairbanks picture, and based on the "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley, 1940's The Mark of Zorro finds Hollywood leading man Tyrone Power in the role of the masked swordsman and the inimitable Basil Rathbone as his able rival. It's 1800's Madrid, the Spanish Empire is sitting on top of the world, and California's own Don Diego De Vega (Power) is dazzling soldiers and peasants alike with his mind-blowing skills at swordplay and steeplechase. So adept is he at the former, in fact, that Don Diego has become quite weary of being challenged to fencing matches by those who consider it a distinct honor to do battle with the young American.

    Appearing as an answer to his frustration, Don Diego is called home to the sleepy vineyards of his hometown Los Angeles by his father, Don Alejandro, the current mayor. Things seem to have changed once he gets to the state of California, though, where his announcement as the son of the current mayor draws scowls and ire from everyone, and Diego starts to hear tales of torture and excessive taxation. None of this makes sense to the young man, as his father is a man of honor, but his questions are answered when he finds his father replaced by a more diabolical regime...led by a tyrant named Luis Quintero and the vicious Captain Esteban Pasquale...who have convinced the elderly Vega to take an early retirement.

    Despite Senor Vega's insistence that he cannot betray the institution of government that he has faithfully served for so long...and therefore, neither shall his son...Diego is infuriated by the abuse heaped upon the citizens by Quintero and his army, ranging from astronomical taxes to physical abuse. And so, as he plays the role of a rather foppish and blase nobleman by day to set the the minds of Quintero and Pasquale at ease, at Diego is reborn at night as Zorro, the masked hero of the people, taking from the rich to give to the poor, a Robin Hood with a quick wit and a quicker sword. And while Diego works his way into the hearts of Quintero's wife and young, available niece as a dandy with a dandy moustache and a way with the ladies, his calling card of a "Z" etched into the walls and tunics of his enemies riles the oppressors of his people into a panicked chaos. But balancing romance and swashbuckling is a hard business, and Quintero's sizable reward for the capture of Zorro is bound to cause a few more issues for the young man as he attempts to restore order and justice to the good people of Los Angeles.

    Featuring wit, mayhem, merriment, and a good heap of swashbuckling action, The Mark of Zorro does everything right, and keeps a perfect balance. The story is engaging, the lead sympathetic, and the villain dastardly. While Power's performance as Diego by Day contains a good deal of comedy...and is strikingly similar to Johnny Depp's mannerisms in "Ed Wood", it's offset by the menace of Rathbone's Pasquale, delivered with cold and murderous precision. The two present a wonderful dynamic onscreen, and while the terror-stricken character of Quintero lends itself more to laughs, Rathbone more than tips the scales to compensate, preventing The Mark of Zorro from falling into the schlock of Disney's later television series. The supporting cast does their part as well right down to the bit parts, in perhaps the largest gathering of non-Latino actors playing Latino characters ever assembled.

    Rouben Mamoulian, already an accomplished director by this time and perhaps best known for Paramount's 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, pulls of some great direction here, whether it's a grand sword fighting sequence or a casual exchange between characters, and there's nary a dull moment to be found in the film, which feels almost too short at 94 minutes. That, and an Oscar-nominated score by Alfred Newman, combined with the extraordinary talents of Cinematographer Arthur Miller, package and deliver The Mark of Zorro as entertaining cinema at its finest and a genuine classic of a film.


    Kino brings The Mark of Zorro to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.33:1 transfer that looks franfriggintastic. Detail is huge in this transfer, and though there are a few moments of softness or dirt and debris, this is a clean transfer with beautiful contrast and deep blacks.

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track (English) is equally wonderful, balancing dialogue and sound effects with the beautiful, interweaving score effortlessly, sounding robust throughout and lacking any distortion or tinniness. For a film over 3/4 of a century old, The Mark of Zorro on blu-ray looks amazing.

    No subtitles are provided for this release.

    First up in the extra features is Tyron Power: The Last Idol (45:03), the 1996 Biography special on the leading man. Interviews with Roddy McDowall, Piper Laurie, a couple of Power's ex-wives round out this informative look at the life of the Hollywood star, focusing on his childhood and theatrical upbringing and his introduction to the stage in New York City, followed by his breakout role in Lloyds of London at 23 years of age, and his subsequent movie career, plentiful affairs, and mischievous social activities with Cesar Romero and others.

    A feature-length commentary with film critic and historian Richard Schickel is also included, and can be best described as a cure for insomnia, as Schickel runs through some info on Director Rouben Mamoulian and lead actor Power, as well as some comparison to the Fairbanks film of the same name, but mostly describes the plot of the film with sizable gaps in conversation; sounding like a late-night jazz DJ.

    Trailers for The Mark of Zorro, Rawhide, and Witness for the Prosecution round out the supplements.

    The Final Word:

    Besting the Banderas film and the Disney TV show isn't difficult, but 1940's The Mark of Zorro is high adventure and entertainment with a super-swell transfer from Kino Lorber.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Terrific. I was hoping this one would have a great transfer, as it's far and away my favorite Zorro film!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Yeah, it looks great! Always impressed me that film this old can look so fantastic given the proper treatment.