The Mark of Zorro (1940)
The early movies studios may realize one thing about members of the public to line up to buy tickets; action/adventure sells. Many of the first men were action heroes routinely taking on roles as pirate captains, adventurers or private investigators all rolling to go into the jaws of death complete their noble missions. The most memorable actors that use this genre to catapult him to fame was Tyrone Power. Over three decades he dominated the screen is frequently seen on the cover of celebrity magazine. Was dashingly handsome and athletic of build which guaranteed his legions of fans would include both men and women. The ladies over his good looks while the men wore in awe of his physical prowess. Most importantly of all the members a natural actor and would be able to embody the character he portrayed. He was also a publicist dream being the epitome of all-American hero. During World War II Mr. Power saw action as a pilot United States Marine Corps. Unfortunately, this fan base consists of people who remember World War II first and, the grandparents of today’s generation. Performances of the incredible talents of that era would normally be lost except perhaps for a few shoddy prints shown on local cable stations. Thankfully there are distributors who are diligently remastering these American treasures and examples of cinematic history and releasing them as Blu-ray additions. One of Mr. Power’ s most memorable works, ‘the Mark of Zorro (1940), has just been released by Kino Lorber. As part of an ongoing incentive that this particular has been diligently following. Remastering these movies restoring them to near pristine condition to enthrall yet another generation creating yet another group of ardent fans. This particular film also the sex with another very popular genre movies seems to have been absorbed by other types of film; swashbuckler. Actors such as Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn thrilled audiences with their repertoire of action moves including treating in on a rope to rescue a damsel fighting with multiple attackers holding back throng of men the dazzling display of swordsmanship. Elements of these one standard parts of an action movie still persists today’s films but a movie like this one offers the opportunity to experience the undiluted thrill afforded by his films.
Long before there was Batman there is a protector of the common man dressed entirely in black complete with a mask and cape to be authorities he was a vigilante but to people he was a savior; Zorro, the Fox. As far back as his appearance in pulp magazines in 1919 there’s been numerous combinations of this dashing hero throughout the years. Like any source of entertainment that utilizes unchanging fundamental human emotions, the Legend of Zorro deserves to be reinterpreted every generation or so. In 1940 movie on the consideration here, it presented three box office magnets talent and appeal were universal; Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone and for the leading lady, Linda Darnell, one of the first Latina actresses make significant crossovers into mainstream movies.
Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power), is a handsome young man from an exceptionally wealthy and powerful family where really cared only for a good time sporting the latest fashion. Sent to Spain by his father, Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love), a wealthy ranchero and former magistrate for the community. After arriving back in California Diego cannot help but notice the deplorable treatment inflicted upon the native people and common Spaniards. Succeeding his father as Alcade is the cruel and corrupt Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg), who illegally and immorally pushed his father out that position of power and authority. During his training back in Spain, Diego rose to be recognized as the best swordsman in the country. It’s most sons of wealthy means return from Spain as pampered playboys most would consider Diego would follow the same pattern. He had something in mind to help the common man and if possible restore his father to the authority that he wielded with mercy and kindness. At night he would assume the persona or mysterious man in black would initiate guerrilla type rates against Quintero and his military forces. Because of his spots like wit and ingenuity he was stopped, ‘Zorro’. He embraced the moniker would leave a Z slashed into board or fabric with the lightning flick of his sword. It becomes a champion of justice beloved among the common people yet feared among the troops.
In his normal guys as Diego he maintains his cover by romancing the beautiful and naïve daughter of the current Alcalde, Lolita (Linda Darnell). Despite not wanting emotional attachments that could deter him from his mission, Diego begins to fall in love with Lolita. Keenly aware that his talents are not restricted to his swordsmanship, Diego is good looks and debonair personality to work with Don Quintero’s wife, Inez (Gale Sondergaard). Because of the stories of Madrid and how it is sent to all civilized people in the very pinnacle of modern fashion. Surely a fine, hybrid woman such as she would flourish in Madrid rather than having to conceal flair for fashion and culture and the uncouth frontier of California. Inez is quite predisposed to such flattery begins to become obsessed with having her husband return them to their home in Madrid.
Diego finds that he has a nemesis that he shares with his alter ego Zorro, Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone). He is your spirited and malicious without pity anyone especially the low born. Above and beyond his high rank in the military much of his power comes from being the sadistic right hand of Don Quintero not only performs any despicable task asked of him but he does it with great joy in flourish. It’s the kind of role that Basil Rathbone became famous for mastering. Just a year before he played a similar role in the ‘Adventures of Robin Hood’ opposite Errol Flynn. As was common for young male actors of the time swordsmanship was a skill that was actively encouraged by the studio. Promising actors and actresses were trained in various skills that would bring realism to their roles. Joe actors were able to match Power Rathbone and Flynn in the agility and grace necessary successfully perform the scream sword fight. The tensions between the two main characters would be exacerbated throughout the story until the final moment, the showdown two men and their swords.
A movie like this had everything possible to heighten the entertainment value for the audience. Of course the men would be held mesmerized by the amazing acrobatic stunts and swordplay of the titular hero. The ladies there was always the romance between the handsome man in the elegantly beautiful leading lady. All of this was placed upon the setting of political intrigue in class discrimination which in a movie as well-crafted as this one provided an air of history to the story and validated it as something worthwhile. Remastering of this film is remarkable restoring the crystal clarity of the video and even removing any signs of degradation in the audio. This form is inducted into the National Film Registry in 2009 by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant", and to be preserved for all time. His new Blu-ray release by Kino Lorber helped perform that very function. This is a film that deserves to be available for generations to come.