Without a doubt Zorro is one of the iconic heroes of the 20th
Century. He was created by writer Johnston
McCulley in 1919 for a pulp magazine, but the following year mega-star
Fairbanks brought the character to the silver screen in his famous
film, The Mark of Zorro and he's been in the
public's mind ever since. Appearing in
several movies, TV shows, comic books and more the Spanish American
revived once again in 1990 for a TV program that aired (in the US) on
Channel. Simply titled Zorro
(though it was also known as The New Zorro) the show
ran for four
seasons and has a solid following, which makes it a bit surprising that
hasn't arrived on DVD until now. The
wait is over however and all four seasons are available separately or
in a nice
collected set that includes an exclusive bonus disc of other Zorro
Back in the late 1700's- early 1800's when what is now
California was controlled by Spain and Los Angeles was but a small
town was ruled by the Commandant of Los Angeles, Alcalde Luis Ramone
Tylo). He treats the peasants cruelly
and oppresses the citizens to such an extent that a local well-to-do
owner, Don Alejandro de la Vega (played by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in
season one and
Henry Darrow for the rest of the series) recalls his son, Don Diego
Regehr) from Spain
where he's studying to help combat the evil Commandant.
When Don Diego arrives however, he does not take up arms
like his father had hoped. Accompanied
home by his mute teenage servant Felipe (Juan Diego Botto), Don Diego
interested in conducting scientific experiments and playing music. He has no interest in the local
Or so it would seem.
In reality Don Diego is outraged by what he sees.
He's smart enough to realize that if he
attacked the Commandant with a head on assault his father and his
suffer. Instead, he dons a mask and
black caped outfit and rides as El Zorro (Spanish for The Fox),
defender of the
weak and champion of justice. (Though
this origin story isn't told until a third of the way through the first
which makes things a little confusing if you don't know the characters
This Zorro takes a lot from earlier incarnations, but it
changes some things too. The most
significant alteration is that Don Diego really enjoys music and
science. That part isn't an act. This Zorro also fills his secret lair with
various chemicals and instruments and often uses science to steer him
right direction. Zorro also has a love
interest, Victoria (Patrice Camhi Martinez).
She's madly in love with him, and he enjoys wooing her, but
things start to get hot Zorro Alcalde or his incompetent right-hand man
Mendoza (James Victor) manage to spy the masked man which causes him to
This is an episodic show, and aside from a few multi-part
stories (which are some of the best the series has to offer) little
show to show. The biggest changes are
actually with the cast. After the first
season Efrem Zimbalist Jr. leaves the role of Don Alejandro de la Vega
replace with Henry Darrow who plays the same character.
After season two Michael Tylo who played
Zorro's foil Alcalde Luis Ramone leaves the show and is replaced by J.
Hertzler. He plays a new Commandant,
Alcalde Ignacio De Soto, who is just as villainous as his predecessor.
This lack of a larger story and the target audience of the
show (it was shown in the US
on the Family Channel), make each episode feel the similar to all the
installments so that the more you watch, the less you feel like going
next episode. It's a very formulistic
show with the broad plot being just about the same:
Alcalde sets a trap for Zorro, it looks like
he'll fall for it, and then the hero outsmarts the villain in the last
of the show. They really need to mix the
formula up a bit.
In addition to that, this was promoted as a family show so
the suspense is not to suspenseful, the action isn't very violent or
and the romance (as mentioned earlier) is very tame.
The fight sequences, the highlight of any
Zorro film or TV series, are very bland and poorly executed. It's obvious when stunt doubles are being
used and the choreography of the fights just isn't dynamic. It comes across like the barroom brawls in
1930's B westerns more than a 90's TV show.
Honestly, Power Rangers has
more convincing fights, and that's saying something.
The acting is just average, with Duncan Regehr looking the
part (though my wife insists he fails in the looks department when
Disney's Zorro, Guy Williams) but doesn't have the screen presence to
make the role his own. Patrice Camhi
Martinez is rather poor in her role as Victoria,
her acting is weak and unconvincing, and the other main characters are
passable, but only just.
All four seasons (four discs each except for the shortened
final season which only has two) arrive in five single width keepcases
last one contains a disc devoted to extras.)
These cases are housed in a nicely illustrated slipcase.
The DD stereo soundtrack is okay, but not more than
that. The dialog comes through clearly,
but the background music lacks punch and the range isn't as wide as I
hoping. It's not a bad mix, just
adequate and not more than that.
Unfortunately, there are no subtitles provided.
The full frame image is fine, but not spectacular.
The picture is fairly soft, especially for a
show that was made in 1990, and there is some aliasing present,
the background. It's never overt of
distracting, but it is there. The colors
are fine and the black levels are adequate, but that's about all you
about the presentation.
The seasons themselves don't have any extras, but the final
disc is the set is devoted to bonus items.
First off is the movie that propelled Zorro into the
spotlight: The Mark of Zorro (1920)
staring Douglas Fairbanks. It's a great
film, much better than the series in fact and well worth watching. The print and transfer to this is only so-so,
but it's watchable. Next up is the first
chapter of Zorro's Fighting Legion, a
good Republic serial from 1939. It has a
lot of adventure and action though it strays from the original
than a little. The whole serial is
available from several different companies and if you enjoy this
should definitely seek out the rest.
The main bonus for fans of the show is the unreleased 22
minute pilot that was made to sell the show.
It's a lot like the show, not surprisingly, and interesting from
The extras are wrapped up with a series of trailers to Zorro
serials and a photo gallery.
So, what's missing?
It's sad, but none of these extras included input from the cast
of the show. No commentaries, no behind
the scenes footage, no reminiscing on camera about the show. Nothing.
That's too bad as fans of the program would undoubtedly liked to
heard what the stars had to say about the show.
While there are some fun episodes, most of the installments
are mediocre at best and won't appeal to anyone who is out of middle
school. The predictable and cookie cutter
plots and timid action sequences leave this series wanting. If you're a big Zorro fan, go ahead and rent
it, but only after you're exhausted the other Zorro material available.