Zorro returns with his saga
Zorro joins the glittering galaxy of immortal film heroes.
MASKED CRUSADER: In the latest sequel, `Legend of Zorro.'
The black-garbed, Robin Hood of Spanish California, the fearless but fictional Don Diego de Vega whose secret code name is `Zorro' (meaning `fox' in Spanish) has inspired many movies, television series and comics ever since the silent movie of 1920, "The Mark of Zorro."
Zorro entertained millions around the world and continues to do so with his scintillating swashbuckling sword - play, fighting single-handedly political corruption, injustice, and greed of the rich.
The latest, "Legend of Zorro," released a few weeks ago and running successfully in several parts of the world, proves that the champion of the underdog is still popular.
The Zorro films include "The Mark of Zorro" (1920), "Don Q, Son of Zorro" (1925), "The Mark of Zorro" (1940), "The Erotic Adventures of Zorro" (1972), "Zorro" (1975, an Italian-French production dubbed in English with French star, Alain Delon, in the title role), "Zorro, the Gay Blade" (1981), "Zorro" (1990, here Zorro goes West to untamed cowboy land.) and "Mask of Zorro" (1998). It all began in mid-1919, when crime reporter Johnston McCulley wrote a magazine serial in All-Story Weekly, "The Curse of Capistrano," in which he created the character Zorro. Obviously, McCulley drew inspiration from classics like "Scarlet Pimpernel" by Baroness Orczy, and from the exciting novels of Alexandre Dumas.
The story attracted the attention of the celebrated star Mary Pickford (1893-1979), who had married another superstar, Douglas Fairbanks ((1883-1939).
With his lithe physique, handsome looks, seductive smile and stylish body language, Zorro seemed the perfect role for Fairbanks.
Since the action movie genre was new to him, Fairbanks took the risk and made "The Mark of Zorro," which he wrote. It turned out to be a smashing success and established him as an action hero.
Among the various talking picture versions, the 1940 movie, "The Mark of Zorro" directed by Rouben Mamoulian, is considered to be the best by critics. It featured a popular Hollywood star, Tyrone Power as Zorro, with voluptuous Linda Darnell and Basil Rathbone. It was a major hit.
In 1944 came a B movie "Zorro's Black Whip" in which Zorro was a woman! There was even a little known movie, " Zorro and The Three Musketeers"!
Zorro rode his way into television thanks to the Disney series, which was on air from 1957 to 1959 with Guy Williams as Zorro. It made him a star.
Two feature films with Guy Williams were put together with the material from the TV series, and both did well.
And in 1998 came another major hit, "The Mask of Zorro," produced by the movie wizard Steven Spielberg with Anthony Hopkins, the Spanish star Antonio Banderas, and a British actress Catherine Zeta-Jones in lead roles.
Zorro (Hopkins), who languished in prison in Spain for 20 years manages to escape and comes back to California where he finds unrest and terrorism unleashed by the villain.
He discovers his kidnapped daughter ( Zeta-.Jones), and then he meets an orphan bandit (Banderas), who saved his life once, to take up his mantle as Zorro and trains him successfully. The new Zorro falls in love with his daughter.
This movie though successful was ripped apart by critics.
In 2005 came "The Legend of Zorro" in which Antonio Banderas is now Zorro with a wife (Zeta-Jones). Not surprisingly, the couple has a son thereby planting the seed for yet another sequel. Characters like Robin Hood, Three Musketeers, Scarlet Pimpernel and the Count of Monte Cristo are immortal and to that glittering galaxy belongs Zorro who is already whispering, "I shall be back!"
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