The Mark of Zorro (1940) – Rouben Mamoulian

The 101 Action Movies brings is a rip-roaring adventure starring Tyrone Power as Don Diego Vera and his alter-ego Zorro! This film relaunched the character of his previous on-screen appearance after Douglas Fairbanks had essayed the character in the silent era.

I have to say, Zorro is a pretty cool character, and he’s like the Robin Hood of the Americas, but without the uber-cool long bow, so that’s why for me Robin was always the better character.

Despite that, this romp is good, melodramatic fun!

After becoming a caballero in Spain, Vega returns to his native California, only to find her little neck of the woods isn’t the way he’s left it. It’s under vile leadership in the personage of Don Luis Quntero (J. Edward Bromberg), with his ruthless henchman, Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone (AGAIN! This guy was everywhere!).

tyronwMasquerading as a bit of a layabout, and a spoiled brat, Vega woos the Don’s wife, Inez Quinetro (Gale Sondergaard) in an attempt to get closer to the lovely Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell). Everyone, including his family as well as his mentor Fray Felipe (Eugene Pallette – who seemed to have followed Rathbone from Robin Hood where he played Friar Tuck), thinks he’s a bit of fop, and downright useless.

But of course, that’s a perfect cover for him to don his newly created alter-ego, Zorro, and fight for the rights of the people, driving out the baddies, and romancing the girl.

Of course, it all leads up to a final showdown between Pasquale and Vega, dueling at an almost blinding speed.

It truly is a light romp, without the Technicolor spectacle that helped make Robin Hood so popular. Having said that, Power is very engaging as both sides of Vega, the dandy and the hero.

And while scenery isn’t necessarily chewed, it’s definitely nibbled on, but all for a good cause.

vegalolitaOne of my favorite scenes features Vega and Lolita dancing, quite energetically, and passionately, and you can tell both of them are falling for one another, but when the dance is over, and Lolita admits what an amazing dance it was, Vega feigns exhaustion and even boredom. It’s a nice moment, allowing Lolita to storm off in frustration, until Vega appears on her balcony shortly afterwards to reveal his true identity to her.

Power seems to have a lot of fun playing the bored Vega, and then springing into action like a superhero to mount his horse and slash some “Z”s into walls, costumes, wherever he can.

The film has no pretensions about what it is, and is quite happy to simply entertain. You know the good guy is going to win, you know he’s going to get the girl, it’s the how of these things that makes the film such a joy to watch it. It’s tightly edited and boots along for its hour and a half runtime, almost ending too quick in my opinion.

This one is a real joy to watch, backed with the Adventures of Robin Hood, these make for a wonderful day spent on the couch, reminiscing about yesteryear, and Saturday matinees…

rathbonepower

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