The Mark of Zorro (1940), starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone, J. Edward Bromberg, Gale Sondergaard, Eugene Pallette
Synopsis of The Mark of Zorro
Posing as a foppish coward
, Diego, a Spanish nobleman, fights injustice in colonial California in The Mark of Zorro
. Upon his return from Spain, Diego realizes that Captain Pasquale is terrorizing the district and levying unreasonable taxes. Disguised as Zorro – a masked Robin Hood-like swashbuckler – the young Spaniard menaces the local authorities to the delight of all the peasants
. In the meantime, posing as the inept fop, he is able to move through society without being suspected.
Editorial review of The Mark of Zorro courtesy of Amazon.com
When they say they don’t make ’em like they used to, they’re talking about 20th Century Fox’s exhilarating The Mark of Zorro
, starring Tyrone Power
as the caped one, Linda Darnell
as his love interest, and Basil Rathbone
at his scurrilous best as Zorro’s nemesis. More textured than the 1920 original with Douglas Fairbanks, this 1940 version has Don Diego/Zorro (Powers) returning from Madrid to defend his father and rally the caballeros (noblemen) against Los Angeles’s corrupt new governor (J. Edward Bromberg
), intent on taxing the peons to death.
If this all sounds like an Old California redo of the classic Adventures of Robin Hood
, that’s because it is. Powers has a field day as Don Diego, the “fancy clown” betrothed to the governor’s niece, Lolita (Darnell)
. Don Diego the effete snob performs silly parlor tricks, peers through pince-nez, and yawns disdainfully at one and all. Power’s cowardly alter ego is so believable, his transformation to masked superhero becomes all the more thrilling
. Imagine Captain Pasquale’s (Rathbone) shock when, in the film’s brilliantly choreographed showdown, this annoying fop turns out to be a world-class swordsman.
Director Rouben Mamoulian, known for great period melodramas, does a skillful job of alternating garrison intrigue with big action scenes, including a nighttime ride that climaxes with Zorro on horseback leaping off a bridge. In the romantic highlight, Lolita confides her innermost desires to a suspiciously worldly friar. The first-rate supporting cast includes Gale Sondergaard as the governor’s treacherous wife and the frog-voiced Eugene Pallette (Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robin Hood) as a padre in cahoots with the masked one. Technically, this retelling rates an unqualified “Wow!” The cinematography, obviously influenced by Goya, makes full use of chiaroscuro shadows, and Alfred Newman‘s Latin-flavored score is irresistibly rousing and romantic. –Glenn Lovell