1940, 20th Century Fox. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard, Eugene Pallette.
Decent Films Ratings
|?Kids & Up*|
Content advisory: Swashbuckling violence, including one duel to the death; very mild innuendo; romantic complications.
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The Mark of Zorro (1940) (DVD)
A National Catholic Register "Video/DVD Picks" capsule review.
By Steven D. Greydanus
Tyrone Powers is Zorro in this enjoyable remake of the 1920 silent classic starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Powers can’t match the original Zorro’s astonishing acrobatics and doesn’t try — but the rousing climactic duel against Basil Rathbone’s villainous Captain Esteban, one of the best swordfights ever filmed at that time, almost makes up for it. Powers also brings more romantic feeling to his scenes with the heroine (Linda Darnell) who prefers Zorro to Don Diego.
The 1940 film further benefits from a more coherent story in which we see Zorro’s origin, as Diego returns from Spain to a California beset by injustice. The well-written script shows an angrily bewildered Diego shrewdly analyzing this new situation, instinctively adopting a dandyish persona to hide behind even before deciding what to do.
Zorro’s Catholic milieu is again positively portrayed, though with less depth than in the original. Eugene Pallette — Friar Tuck in the 1938 Errol Flynn Robin Hood — plays a similarly pugnacious, stalwart clergyman, and Diego casually displays a brief flash of Marian sentiment ("Thank you, Mother," he says as he retrieves stolen tax money hidden behind a statue). The social-justice themes, too, play out with feeling, culminating in a popular uprising against the tyrannical alcalde.