This release is identical in every respect but one (the colourization) to the previous Studio Classics edition, and so what follow below is the same review, with an additional note about colour.
Returning to California after some years in Spain, Don Diego (Tyrone Power) finds that his father has been deposed and that the region is ruled by a venal, corrupt governer under the thumb of tyrannical lieutenant Basil Rathbone. Pretending to be a useless fop by day, Diego dons mask and sw…rd by night as Zorro, fighting for the liberation of the poor and the downtrodden. Power spends surprisingly little time in the Zorro get-up, and the climactic duel comes earlier than one would expect. A classic duel it is, however, one of the definitive scenes of its kind, and the film is great fun from start to finish.
The sound comes in both mono and remastered 2.0. For the most part, you’re probably better off with the mono. The stereo is afflicted with most of the flaws one encounters with these sorts of mono conversions. The sounds are pumped indiscriminately into all speakers, and all kinds of dialogue and sound effects are now surround when they have no business being so. There is a fair bit of distortion in both the mono and 2.0 versions as well. Obviously, the film’s 1940 release date must be taken into account, though I’ve heard cleaner soundtracks for earlier films.
A decent print, with nice high contrast black-and-white, but still good shadings in between. There is some grain, however, and damage that comes and goes. While there are no splices, there are vertical lines and other print flaws to deal with. The occasional flicker and slight glare also mar the picture. The format is the original 1.33:1.
As for the colourization, well, for what it is, it isn’t bad. The colours are noticeably less ugly and more natural than most examples of this kind. It still doesn’t look great, and nothing can change the fact that the whole process is an artistic desecration.
Richard Schickel does the commentary. He’s on his way to becoming the in-house critic for the Studio Classics. At any rate, though he sometimes lapses into describing the obvious, as if at a loss for anything else to say, he does have plenty of interesting background and analysis to provide. The A&E Biography episode on Tyrone Power is included here, as are trailers for many of the other Studio Classics (though not for The Mark of Zorro itself). The menu is basic.
An absolutely spiffing swashbuckler. Too bad about the colour, but at least the original B&W is preserved.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- A&E Biography