The Mark of Zorro (1940)

Genres - Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Adventure, Romantic Adventure, Swashbuckler  |   Release Date - Nov 8, 1940 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Mark of Zorro is just about as much fun as a picture can be. A true swashbuckling adventure, Zorro is one of the finest costume adventure stories ever filmed, one that's laced with a healthy dollop of romance and more than a smidgen of comedy. It's all wildly improbable, of course, one of the ancestors of the superhero comic strip/film, and anyone who is bothered by a woman's inability to recognize her lover in a simple disguise should just look elsewhere. But anyone who is willing to dispense with logic and just accept things at face value will have a great time with Zorro. (One caveat: the portrayal of the peasants is decidedly stereotypical and will definitely offend some.) Director Rouben Mamoulian has a fine old time with this film, jettisoning his more experimental tendencies and concentrating simply on presenting a story that is all about excitement and delivering the goods in spades. He's helped enormously by the stellar performance of Tyrone Power, who was clearly born to play the role. He gets it all right -- the charisma, the courage, the foppishness, the desire -- it's all there in all the right proportions. Power picks Zorro up and carries it on his manly shoulders without breaking a sweat. He even manages -- just barely -- to keep Basil Rathbone from stealing the film away from him, which is no mean feat. Rathbone is in absolutely superlative form, all elegance and ice, the kind of villain that audiences truly love to hate. There's also some nice moments from the wicked Gale Sondergaard, and Linda Darnell makes Lolita a prize worth fighting for. Zorro leaves its mark, indeed; it's a delightfully good film.