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
MARK OF ZORRO SPECIAL EDITION (1940) Genre: