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Undoubtedly, THE MARK OF ZORRO ($20) is one of the greatest swashbuckling dramas ever committed to celluloid. THE MARK OF ZORRO has everything going for it, it is a truly rousing adventure filled with action, romance, great sword fighting and even a bit of humor. On top of that, THE MARK OF ZORRO features an impressive performance from Tyrone Power, whose looks were at his matinee idol best, plus the leading lady was Linda Darnell, who was certainly one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen. Structurally, Fox’s THE MARK OF ZORRO is very similar to Warner’s earlier hit THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, although old California is made to substitute for merry old England. Reinforcing the similarity between the two films, are cast members Basil Rathbone and Eugene Pallette, who play roles in THE MARK OF ZORRO that are very reminiscent of those they embodied in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.

In THE MARK OF ZORRO, Tyrone Power portrays Don Diego de Vega, who is summoned home to California from a military academy in Spain. Upon his arrival, he discovers the territory under the tyrannical control of Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone), the military muscle behind the local government figurehead Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg). Because Pasquale and Quintero are extracting harsh taxes from the local peasantry at the end of a lash, Don Diego assumes a foppish persona during the day, and a black mask at night to become the heroic Zorro- a sword-fighting liberator of the people. Of course, the foppish masquerade serves to alienate Don Diego from his proud father Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love), but it does place him in a position to be close to the lovely Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell). The cast of THE MARK OF ZORRO also includes Gale Sondergaard, Janet Beecher, George Regas and Chris-Pin Martin.

20th Century Home Entertainment has made THE MARK OF ZORRO available on DVD in a really nice 1.37:1 black and white presentation, which is representative of the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio. The image on the DVD appears crisp and rather nicely defined. Blacks have a strong inky quality, while the whites appear pure and stable. Contrast is uniformly excellent and the picture produces a rich, varied grayscale. A grain structure is noticeable in places, but it helps to create a rather film-like appearance for the presentation. The elements used for the transfer do display some blemishes and a few scratches, neither of which is bad for a film that is over six decades old. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed throughout.

THE MARK OF ZORRO comes with English Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural and stereo soundtrack options. The pseudo-stereo version will decode to standard surround, but not terribly effectively, so one is best off listening to in the stereo mode. There are some mild channel separations on the stereo version, which gives a bit more life to the film’s enjoyable musical score. Fidelity is pretty much the same on the monaural track, both of which are undeniably from 1940. True high and true lows are nowhere to be found, but the track still sounds reasonably good with modest amplification. Dialogue is fairly crisp and always completely understandable. Fortunately, most of the background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process. A Spanish monaural track is included on the DVD, along with English and Spanish subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice supplements. Film critic Richard Schickel is on hand to provide an informative running audio commentary, which provides a great deal of production history for the film, as well as interesting tidbits on the personalities involved. Also featured on the DVD is an episode of Biography from A&E, which profiles the brief life and career of screen legend Tyrone Power. Closing out the supplements are trailers for other films in Fox’s Studio Classics line of DVDs.

THE MARK OF ZORRO is a great deal of fun and a great swashbuckling movie from Hollywood’s golden era. Fox has done a fine job with the DVD, producing a good-looking presentation for this sixty-plus year old classic. If you are a movie buff, or are a fan or Power, Darnell or Rathbone, then this is a DVD you will want to add to your collection. Recommended.



The Mark of Zorro (1940)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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