The Mark of Zorro (1940)

The Mark of Zorro (1940)

Run time: Approved | 94 min | Action, Adventure, Romance
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Writers: John Taintor Foote, Garrett Fort
Stars: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone
Storyline
This splashy version has enough good spirits and desire to please to bring smiles all around. Power may be the best Zorro of them all, and the calibre of swordplay is excellent; particularly with the skillful Rathbone swashing.

4 Comments

  1. IMDBReviewer

    September 16, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Tyrone Power – the swashbuckling answer to Errol Flynn – is cast as the agile masked avenger who decides to take up the people’s cause in disguise leaving his ‘mark’ "Z" everywhere, on walls, coach, wooden barrels and human chest…

    Power – in a double leading role – is at his best as Zorro, climbing, jumping, riding and fencing, determined to finish with tyranny and oppression by terrorizing, and retrieving taxation funds and by challenging a cunning officer, proving in public his indifference, his ostentation and irony as a perfect pacifist fop in 19th-Century Spanish California, confusing and deceiving his aristocratic father Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love), the deposed Alcalde…

    The inspired casting (in supporting roles) recalls "The Adventures of Robin Hood."

    Linda Darnell is the pretty Lolita, Quintero’s charming niece, who loves the mysterious hero and can’t tolerate the fop until she is told that they are the image of the same person…

    Basil Rathbone, one of the most durable of screen villains who has mastered stage fencing but never won a Swordfight, plays the cruel captain Esteban Pasquale, the Alcalde’s military adviser… He is a second-rate soldier of fortune who leads the campaign of frustrating taxation, who considered Diego "a fancy clown" but who suggests a practical plan, an alliance for the good of the state…

    J. Edward Bromberg is the cowardly Alcalde, Don Luis Quintero, a corrupted thief, enemy of the people, whose tyranny and avarice are always enforced by the treachery of his iron hand, the rigorous captain Esteban…

    Eugene Palette plays the mission ‘fat’ priest (Father Felipe) who ignores that Diego is the opposing force…

    The high point of the picture is the fantastic duel between Power and Rathbone, a masterpiece of screen Swordplay…

    Rouben Mamoulian succeeds in making two great stars dance to an unheard music… With a touch of a great filmmaker, Mamoulian mixes harmoniously movement and action, decor and lightning with rage and turmoil, heroism and romance…

    Under Alfred Newman’s Oscar-Nominated score and despite the unusual absence of Technicolor, the film (the first of the great Tyrone Power swashbucklers ) is great fun, full of vitality and suspense, an exciting, deliciously ironic swashbuckler…

  2. tfsadmin

    September 16, 2015 at 8:13 am

    I like to be an iconoclastic jerk sometimes, so whenever I’m asked to name the best superhero movie, I always say "The Mark of Zorro." Then I have to specify that I mean the Tyrone Power movie, not the Fairbanks one and certainly not the Banderas. Ah, elitism can be amusing sometimes…

    Seriously, though, this is one heck of a motion picture. The best part is the pacing; it’s deliciously slow, in the most effective way. Characters are developed fully, tensions heighten gradually, and just when you’re on the verge of getting bored – BOOM! A fantastic chase scene or swordfight perfectly repays your patience. Well, my patience, anyway. Maybe you were bored the whole way through?

    Tyrone Power is simply awesome in this flick. He’s hilarious as the fey Don Diego, and he cuts an impressive figure as Zorro. It’s easy to see that Batman was patterned on Zorro, as he also pretends to be a stupid playboy, but Bruce Wayne was *never* this cool.

    Basil Rathbone makes a great villain, as always, and his close-quarters duel with Zorro is, as I’m sure you’ve heard, one of cinema’s great action scenes (I think the confined setting actually enhances the suspense). Even J. Edward Bromberg, who plays a slightly dated and silly character, somehow manages to come across well – it’s interesting to see his character come into his own as the main villain at the end of the movie.

    Even the romance isn’t a dud. Lots of amusing flirting goes on, and Linda Darnell certainly is easy on the eyes.

    Why can’t they make action flicks like this anymore? To paraphrase a certain famous political catchphrase, "it’s the characters, stupid." Everybody in this movie is colorful and cool, and through them I get wrapped up in the plot. When the biggest complaint I have is a bit of rear-screen projection during a boat ride, you know the movie’s almost perfect.

  3. tfsadmin

    September 16, 2015 at 8:13 am

    There is a curious parallel between Tyrone Power’s life and career, and that of WB swashbuckler, Errol Flynn. Both of Irish descent, the two actors exploded into superstar status in their twenties, due to a single starring role in films made within a year of each other (for Flynn, barely 26, it was in 1935’s CAPTAIN BLOOD; Power’s breakthrough, at 22, came in 1936’s LLOYDS OF LONDON). Both actors were extraordinarily handsome, were great practical jokers both on and off-screen, fought continuously with their respective studios for better roles, married three times (Flynn fathered three daughters and a son; Power, two daughters and a son), lived wildly adventurous lives, becoming infamous for their sexual indiscretions, and would die, less than a year apart, within two years of making their only film together (1957’s THE SUN ALSO RISES). However, while Flynn had a reputation as a charismatic hell raiser which would make him as many enemies as friends during his tempestuous life, Tyrone Power was, by all accounts, even more charming and likable in person than he was on screen, and was universally loved, even by his ex-wives.

    Both stars were considered premier swashbucklers of their time, and 1940’s THE MARK OF ZORRO introduced Power to the genre dominated by Flynn. Just as Flynn’s greatest triumph was a remake of an earlier Douglas Fairbanks classic (1922’s ROBIN HOOD), Power’s best-loved swashbuckler had first been a Fairbanks favorite, as well (1920’s THE MARK OF ZORRO). As Don Diego de Vega, a cadet at ‘the Academy’ in Madrid who puts his gift with the sword to good use in an oppressed California, when recalled home by his father, he quickly adopts an effeminate persona (a la THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL), to mask his true ability and plans. While the charade infuriates his father ("My son has become a PUPPY!" he laments, at a time when the word ‘homosexual’ was not used), the guise helps the younger Vega worm his way into the confidence of the corrupt yet cowardly current Alcalde (the venerable J. Edward Bromberg) and his socially-conscious wife (Gale Sondergaard). Less ‘taken in’ is the true villain of the film, military commander Captain Esteban Pasquale (superbly portrayed by frequent Flynn nemesis Basil Rathbone), who sneers at the Alcalde’s plan to marry Vega off to his niece, Lolita (the ravishing Linda Darnell), to quell local unrest; when Vega claims tardiness for the engagement dinner because of his bath water becoming ‘tepid’, Pasquale comments, "Just as I fear poor Lolita’s future married life shall be."

    The on-screen chemistry between Power and Darnell is terrific (a key scene, with Vega/Zorro disguised as a priest, as Lolita confesses her secret desires, would be ‘spiced up’ and recreated in the Banderas/Zeta-Jones 1998 update, THE MASK OF ZORRO). As the only other person who knows Zorro’s real identity, Fray Felipe (Eugene Pallette, playing a role very similar to his ‘Friar Tuck’ in Flynn’s ROBIN HOOD) has some of the film’s wittiest dialog, and gets to show his swordsmanship in a brief duel with Pasquale ("You should have been a soldier", the captain comments, after disarming him).

    If the film has a fault, it is that the Power/Rathbone climactic duel occurs too early. Staged by Errol Flynn’s fencing master, Fred Cavens, the action is spectacular, confined to a single room, yet with Pasquale’s death, the film loses it’s most potent villain, and the final large-scale fight between the Alcalde’s forces and the peons and gentry lacks the focus of the climax of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.

    Directed with tongue-in-cheek by veteran film maker Rouben Mamoulian, and with an Oscar-nominated score by Fox’s musical mainstay, Alfred Newman, THE MARK OF ZORRO was a major studio hit (plans for a sequel were begun, but dropped when it was discovered that Fox only had the rights to the title, THE MARK OF ZORRO; the name ‘Zorro’ belonged to another studio, ending any possibility of a follow-up).

    Tyrone Power had joined Errol Flynn as the reigning ‘kings’ of swashbucklers, a title both would find amusing, if limiting, but which would be how both actors are best remembered, today!

  4. tfsadmin

    September 16, 2015 at 8:13 am

    What fun! This film has not aged a day in 63 years…..it is still a great tale of old California and the masked caballero, Zorro. Tyrone Power plays it to the hilt, and is especially good in his alter ego of the effeminate fop, Don Diego. He may not be quite as acrobatic as Fairbanks was in the original silent version but it doesn’t detract from the performance. And Power was a fencer, so his sword fighting scenes certainly rang true. Put him with that elegant gentleman, Basil Rathbone, also an excellent swordsman, and you get one of the best sword fights in film history. Rathbone is the other shining star of this film. He oozes evil and was the master of the condescending sneer. The supporting cast is impeccable…..Palette, Sondergaard, Bromberg, Love, and the young, extremely beautiful Linda Darnell. It is curious to note that both Gale Sondergaard and J. Edward Bromberg were caught up in the Red Scare in Hollywood in the late 40’3, early 50’s and their careers were basically destroyed by it.

    This is a rousing, fun film with great dialogue and should be on everyone’s "must see" list. One curious thing…….how did those very revealing tight pants worn by Power and Rathbone get by the Hays Office? These were the days when you could not even show a married couple sharing the same bed and those pants didn’t leave much to the imagination!

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