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Friday, November 26, 2010

The Mark of Zorro (released in 1920) - A silent era film starring Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery

Zorro is the fictional Character developed by Johnston McCulley and has gone through many avatars since 1919. Numerous comics, movies and short television films are made about this dashing hero who is a combination of Robin hood, Batman, Scarlet Pimpernel and many other superheroes. But the myth of the bumbling hero and his heroic Alter ego continues to allure audiences for over a century.
The Mark of Zorro is a silent era film staring Douglas Fairbanks. Don Diego is the son of Don Alejandro, a wealthy rancher and is outwardly a cowardly, effeminate, bumbling guy. But on witnessing the travesty of justice he transforms himself in to a swashbuckling Hero, called Zorro who battles the rich and delivers for the poor.
His hometown in California is governed by Governor Alvarado, his henchman the villainous Captain Juan Ramon and the brutish Sergeant Pedro Gonzales. They terrorize and plunder the peasants who have no where to go. So the peasants turn to Zorro or the Fox who delivers them from their troubles, and marks the assailants with his “z” mark on their faces.

Don Diego is smitten by Alvarado's daughter, Lolita and tries to court her through numerous magic tricks which fall flat. Lolita cannot stand his actions and is courted also by Captain Ramon. But she nurses a romantic feeling for the super hero Zorro. Zorro's adventure continues as he gives one defeat after another for the oppressors and escape through the various mazes and alleyways in the city.
After many adventures, Alvarado's family along with Lolita is jailed and Captain Ramon tries to forcibly take her away. Zorro arrives in his costume only to tear it off to reveal his true identity. Lolita is ecstatic that Diego is in fact her real love Zorro. After a bout of fierce fighting Zorro imprisons the wrong doers and forces Alvarado to abdicate from his post. He wins the soldiers to his side to cleanse the system and also gains Lolita's hand in marriage.
This movie presented Zorro with the present day costume complete with the mask, black clothes and the round hat, which was not envisaged by the creator of Zorro. This movie has been remade many a time, but Douglas Fairbanks Zorro remains the template for all who imagine this super hero.
This movie on release proved to be a critical and box office success. Douglas Fairbanks', athletic good looks made the fighting scenes memorable. The chase through he roof tops, stables and the alleys have to be seen and are magnificent even without any sound effects. The silent movie may not impress you at the start, but soon grows on you as you put yourself completely at the hands of the visuals. It may be overwhelming initially but the cinema grows on you.
This movie has been made very recently with Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas as Zorro. The story has undergone a metamorphosis but the underlying premise is the same. Try comparing the two and you will love Douglas Fairbanks too.

The Mark of Zorro (released in 1920) - A silent era film starring Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery

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