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ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  George Hamilton, Lauren Hutton, Brenda Vaccaro, Ron Leibman
Director:  Peter Medak
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Anchor Bay
Features:  Trailer
Length:  93 Minutes
Release Date:  February 22, 2005

“Two bits, four bits, six bits, a peso!
All for Zorro…stand up and say so!”


Film ***

From the thrilling silent spectacles of Douglas Fairbanks to the exciting black and white Disney television series, to the triumphant return to the screen with Antonio Banderas, Zorro is a swashbuckling hero that has endured through the ages…and then, there’s Zorro, the Gay Blade.  A movie that stands out like a sore thumb in the filmography or as misplaced as a bastard at a family reunion, it never settled into the Zorro legacy with any comfort or sense of belonging.  But that’s okay…while it may have failed to live up to the legend, it succeeded as pure comic farce, with a hysterical script, flamboyant sense of action and style, and George Hamilton having the time of his life in the title role.  One thing’s for certain…when Johnston M. McCulley first created the Hispanic hero, he probably never imagined this film as an end result!

Hamilton plays Don Diego Vega, the heir apparent to the mask of Zorro, filling the role made famous by his late father.   With a troubled political climate, starving people and ruthless government, the time has come once again for the legendary hero of the people to rise.  “I’ve returned,” he boasts, “to defend the defenseless, to befriend the friendless, and to defeat…the defeatless…”

But when a botched getaway results in a broken foot, all seems lost, until…Diego’s long lost twin brother (Hamilton also) arrives to save the day.  The trouble?   While Diego is bronzed, romantic, and handy with a sword, his brother, Bunny Wigglesworth (no, I didn’t make that up) is pale, fashion conscious and dons a whip.  Rejecting the dull black uniform of old, Bunny brings a sense of color to the old hero, becoming Zorro, the Gay Blade.

Their enemy is the ruthless Alcalde Esteban (Leibman), who is taxing the peasants into starvation.  “I always count on people being nicer than me,” he sneers, “and I am never disappointed.”  Esteban is actually a childhood friend of Diego who has no clue his old chum has come back to thwart him!   Complicating the mix is his sex-starved wife, Florinda (Vaccaro), whose appetites are aroused by the dashing Diego.  “Why did I marry Esteban instead of you?” she asks.  “Probably because he asked you and I didn’t,” he answers.

But Zorro champions not only the cause of the people, but of a special woman, Charlotte Taylor Wilson (Hutton), who has dedicated herself to revolution and freedom.  She falls for Diego as Zorro…but will Bunny be man enough to requite?

There’s nothing serious about the film…although the action is satisfactory and the romance standard, it’s really the comedy that stands out.  The script by Hal Dresner squeezes every last drop of humor out of any given situation…the wordplay and hijinks flow at a good pace to keep the entertainment level high.  It helps that the cast, particularly Hamilton and Leibman, are more than willing to ham it up and offer the over-the-top performances that the film demands.   And Vaccaro, sans Spanish accent in favor of her normal raspy American growl, is funny just in juxtaposition to the Latino lilting of her leading men.

The laughs are large and frequent, which makes Zorro, the Gay Blade succeed not as a Zorro film, but as unabashed comedy.  It’s an hour and a half of lighthearted fun; nothing more, nothing less.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Curiously enough, the picture is dedicated to film director Rouben Mamoulian…why?  Because he made Gay Desperado and his own version of The Mask of Zorro?  Hmm…

Video *

Well, I didn’t expect a red carpet treatment for a film like Zorro, the Gay Blade.  The dirt road treatment is what this disc got.  The movie looks every bit of its twenty year age, and then some.  Colors are drab and muted, the print is scarred by scratches and bits of fading and flickering, and grain is frequent.  Images are generally soft, and color bleeding distorts the detail in many scenes.  Overall, not one of Anchor Bay's finer moments.

Audio *

The single channel mono soundtrack also could have done with some serious reworking.  As it stands, it’s quite flat and thin, with no dynamic range and even some occasional muddied dialogue.  It sounds like an old cassette that’s been played far too many times.

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

So, in the end, the saga of Bunny Wigglesworth didn’t end up as part of the Zorro vernacular…probably for the best.  No matter.  He lives on in Zorro, the Gay Blade on DVD, a film that proves that even black and white heroes can use a dash of color every now and then.

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