THE MARK OF ZORRO
(directed by Fred Niblo and Theodore Reed, 1920/1925)
**** (out of 5)
> I’m having lots of fun catching up with the few great silent films I’ve yet to see, that have not been lost to posterity through neglect and the extreme volatility of nitrite film stock. And among silent film stars, Douglass Fairbanks was one of the best. Except for the great Errol Flynn, few actors of his time could match him for sly charm or swagger.
. Here, Zorro is much like a superhero: ever vigilant against injustices to the common man, he’s there in a flash when you need him, facing down multitudes of foes with a confident smile, using his blade, and more importantly his wits to escape from situations that seem inescapable. The storytelling techniques feel remarkably modern. It’s ambitious stuff, and great fun to watch.
DON Q: SON OF ZORRO (1925) *****
. This sequel was coupled with the original on one DVD, and it’s that rare instance of a sequel improving upon the original. I found the story here more compelling than the original of five years earlier. Cinema had grown some in those formative years, and Mr. Fairbanks brought a more nuanced approach to this film that offered rich rewards.
. Despite the broad strokes of silent screen performances, there is some very good acting here, particularly from the haughty, dismissive villain who is delicious to watch. In DON Q, Zorro’s son goes to Spain, falls in love, and is set up for a murder he didn’t commit. In a delightful bit of double-casting, Fairbanks plays both the young acolyte and the aging father, who sails to his rescue from California.
. Classic, baby!
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