Posted Feb 2nd 2010, 01:26 PM
Silent star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. is still the silver screen’s ultimate swashbuckling Zorro. Tyrone Powers ideally embodies the sly subterfuge of a man of iron turning on a dime from foppish languor to finely double-edged banter to masked derring-do. But Guy Williams, hero of Walt Disney’s popular 1950s television series, is the most beloved Zorro of all time.
Well-written, exciting, funny, with multi-episode story arcs, “Zorro” sets a standard for family entertainment unmatched by any other television series I can think of. Last November, when the Walt Disney Treasures series released Zorro: The Complete Seasons 1 and 2, I started watching them with my kids — boys, girls, older and younger kids. These are kids who’ve grown up with Pixar, The Lord of the Rings, Miyazaki. For weeks on end we watched an episode a night of a half-century-old black-and-white TV series, almost finishing the first season before anyone felt like requesting something else one night.
The Walt Disney Treasures edition marks the DVD debut of the fully restored black-and-white series. A previous DVD edition offered the colorized version of the show. There is no reason on earth why “Zorro” should be colorized. Bias against black and white is an acquired prejudice that I have met more in adults than in children. Children are open to black and white, silent film, anything (“so terribly catholic,” as C. S. Lewis put it).
The TV show offers its own spin on the Zorro mythos in some ways. Williams’ Don Diego adopts a more studious than foppish manner, and his mute servant Bernardo (talented pantomimist Gene Sheldon) only feigns deafness to serve as his master’s spy. Sergeant García (Henry Calvin), fat, slow-witted, and overly fond of drink, is a comic relief stereotype, but a lovable one who often proves a stout-hearted ally to both Zorro and Don Diego. Even more than in past incarnations, Catholicism is a positive presence in a number of episodes — especially early in season 1, as when Father Filípe aids Zorro by giving sanctuary to a wrongfully arrested prisoner.
The Walt Disney Treasures edition includes four rare hour-long “Zorro” specials from “Walt Disney Presents,” filmed after the second season ended while Disney was still trying to get a third season off the ground. Introductions by Leonard Maltin, a pair of featurettes on Zorro’s many faces, and a behind-the-scenes extra with Guy Williams Jr. round out the handsomely packaged set.
Mild, occasionally deadly action swashbuckling; much drinking, sometimes to excess; rare oblique innuendo. Fine family viewing.
Many, many thanks for the new website, particularly the new RSS feed. I keep tabs on most things through Google Feedreader, and have trouble remembering to check specific websites. I love your stuff, and so I was always kicking myself for forgetting to check it regularly. Now, I can stop kicking.
Secondly, I am happy to agree that “Zorro”’s standard for family entertainment is unmatched. My childhood days watching Guy Williams and Co. are some of my fondest memories, and my wife and I purchased the Complete Seasons this past Christmas for my kids — five boys under the age of eight. As you can imagine, they love it. In fact, they will ask for it before anything else, though Pixar runs a close second. (I must admit to being greatly gratified that they enjoy it so much. So very wholesome, compared to other things they could be watching.)
Thanks for writing, and for your encouraging feedback on the new site. Enough readers have written to thank me for the RSS feed that I began to wonder how I got through the last decade without RSS subscriptions to my own most visited sites. So as a side effect of redesigning my site, I have now joined the 21st century and begun subscribing to the sites I follow with Google Reader myself.
I’m glad your young family is enjoying “Zorro” — and that you snapped it up when you did. Another reader has alerted me that Season 1 is already discontinued (those Walt Disney Treasures editions are cruelly limited).
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We just wanted to thank you for your review of the “Zorro” TV show. Because of your review, we watched the entire first season and our whole family loves it, even our kindergartener!
Thanks for your kind note. I’m glad your family is enjoying “Zorro”! Our three-year-old boy loves it, and even the two-year-old is riveted by the theme song and will sometimes watch for awhile, especially if Zorro is onscreen.
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