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The Mark of Zorro: Special Edition

When Don Diego De Vega (Tyrone Power) returns to his Los Angeles home after studying in Spain, he finds that his father has been replaced as the governor. In his father's stead is now the mean Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg), who is guided in corruption by ace swordsman Capt. Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone). Don Diego recognizes this abuse of power, and thus — to protect the people and himself — by day he pretends to be a fey dandy, and at night dons the mask of "Zorro" to steal from the rich and give to the poor. But Diego gets caught up in the Quintero household when he espies Don Luis' niece Lolita (Linda Darnell) and falls in love. Though the legendary Zorro had been on screen since Douglas Fairbanks played him in 1918, Rouben Mamoulien's 1940 swashbuckler The Mark of Zorro is indebted to the success of Michael Curtiz's Adventures of Robin Hood — Zorro is a very similar hero, and there is the matter of the overlapping casting of Eugene Pallette and Rathbone. Robin Hood is one of the great cinematic pleasures, but Mark of Zorro is another solid piece of action filmmaking, one that's a bit leaner, though less opulent. Zorro is one of those great studio films that's meant to be a confection of escapist entertainment, and as such it's as gripping today as it was upon release. Packaged tightly, and delivering on its promise of an excellent swordfight, Mamoulien was a master at making a studio picture and he elicits fine archetypal performances from his leads. Power is great both as the suave Zorro and in his foppish disguise, Rathbone exude the smarminess that has always made him one of the great villains, and Darnell is convincing as the love interest. Fox's second release of The Mark of Zorro arrives in a "Special Edition" that offers one upgrade from the initial "Fox Studio Classics" disc — an additional colorized transfer, with the original black-and-white film on the flip-side. Purists are more than entitled to resist the colorization process — we only note for the record that the version included here looks reasonably attractive without the sort of garish color palette and ripe flesh tones that mark lesser products. Besides that, the previous commentary by film critic Richard Schickel can be found on both sides of the disc, while side B offers the A&E Biography episode "Tyrone Power: The Last Idol" (44 min.) as well as trailers for other films in the Fox Studio Classics line. Keep-case.

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