Back in the early part of this century, the Disney channel used to offer up night owl broadcasts of their classic programming under the Vault Disney banner. Included amongst visits with Walt and Annette was Zorro. But in the fall of 2002, the suits yanked off the heritage programming for 2 a.m. showings of Even Stevens. Fans protested, but their hero couldn’t defeat Hilary Duff and Shia LaBeouf for airtime. Seven years later, Zorro returns to your small screen thanks to Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete First Season 1957 – 1958 and Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete Second Season 1958 – 1959.
Zorro’s a dashing masked hero that roamed a Spanish controlled California. His real identity is Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams), the son of a rancher. Don Diego sails back from Spain to help out on the old man’s spread that’s just outside Los Angeles. He quickly discovers that things have changed since his last trip to the ranch. Turns out corruption is out of control and there’s nobody in government eager to clean it up. He takes it upon himself to battle the crooked military personal and lawless ranchers. He brings justice to Los Angeles by putting on a black mask, cape and outfit. He rides a bold black horse through the night. He even hides his outfit behind a swinging bookcase and his horse in a cave. He’s Batman except he uses a sword instead of various bat-devices. Instead of a bat signal, Zorro cuts a “Z” to mark his territory. For those only used to Guy Williams as the cautious Professor Robinson on Lost In Space, prepare to be shocked by his raw sexual charisma. His mustache is a more powerful weapon than his sword.
Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete First Season 1957 – 1958 gives us the origins of the character. “Presenting Senor Zorro” introduces us to Diego on the boat arriving in Los Angeles. Bernardo (Gene Sheldon) is his mute faithful servant. Quickly Diego sees the tyrannical actions of the local military. Captain Monastario (Britt Lomond) is running his own private empire. His right hand man is the hefty Sergeant Garcia (Henry Calvin). He’s a bit of a bumbler and a perfect slapstick victim. During the opening credits, he gets a Z slashed into his pants. Diego grows frustrated at the conditions. Nobody cares about justice. He dons his disguise and becomes Zorro. Monastario isn’t amused. “Zorro’s Secret Passage” makes Diego as suspect by Monastario. Will the series end after 2 episodes? The series had a serial aspect to the storylines. “Zorro Rides to the Mission” lets Don Torres taking refuge in a nearby church. The soldiers take control of the local Indians in hopes of making them cooperate. This story plays out over four episodes. Other times a story is contained in a single episode like “The Secret of the Sierra” when gold is discovered. The series plays out like a movie and not merely a radio play with pictures. There’s extended sword flights that rival Errol Flynn. The action plays out on locations so nothing looks studio faked with bad backdrops and rear projection.
Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete Second Season 1958 – 1959 keeps up the excitement of the night time avenger. “Welcome to Monterey” begins a series that takes Diego up north on a business deal. He wants to take a break from being Zorro. However crime doesn’t stay in Los Angeles. At his hotel and Bernardo find themselves held up by robbers. What gets him suspicious that he’s been set up is their knowledge of how much money he was supposed to be carrying to finalize the deal. Be careful to spot a young Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly). “The Practical Joker” lets Zorro face off with Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man‘s Oscar Goldman). “The Gay Caballero” features Guy William’s biggest threat to being the most macho man on TV. Cesar Romero (Batman‘s The Joker) arrives as Esteban de la Cruz. “The Missing Father” borrows Annette Funicello from The Mickey Mouse Club. “Zorro and the Mountain Man” lets Williams share screen time with his future nemesis Jonathan Harris. Thrill to the sight of Professor Robinson and Dr. Smith in a non-futuristic setting. Strange to see them not yelling about kids and the robot.
The series was a major success, but only lasted two years because of a legal battle between Walt Disney and ABC over ownership issues. Walt kept the character alive with four specials that ran on the Walt Disney Presents series that starred Williams. Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete First Season 1957 – 1958 and Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete Second Season 1958 – 1959 contains everything related to the series including the specials. There’s only 30,000 copies of each season set so act fast. Last year the Disney Treasures collection of Dr. Syn vanished fast. Used copies are swapping hands at over $200. Grab both sets if you have crave vintage action and adventure with the clanging of swords.
Episodes on Zorro, The Complete First Season 1957 – 1958
“Presenting Senor Zorro,” “Zorro’s Secret Passage,” “Zorro Rides to the Mission,” “The Ghost of the Mission,” “Zorro’s Romance,” “Zorro Saves a Friend,” “Monastario Sets a Trap,” “Zorro’s Ride into Terror,” “A Fair Trial,” “Garcia’s Secret Mission,” “Double Trouble for Zorro,” “Zorro, Luckiest Swordsman Alive,” “The Fall of Monastario,” “Shadow of Doubt,” “Garcia Stands Accused,” “Slaves of the Eagle,” “Sweet Face of Danger,” “Zorro Fights His Father,” “Death Stacks the Deck,” “Agent Of The Eagle,” “Zorro Springs a Trap,” “The Unmasking of Zorro,” “The Secret of the Sierra,” “The New Commandante,” “The Fox and the Coyote,” “Adios, Senor Magistrado,” “The Eagle’s Brood,” “Zorro by Proxy,” “Quintana Makes a Choice,” “Zorro Lights a Fuse,” “The Man with the Whip,” “The Cross of the Andes,” “The Deadly Bolas,” “The Well of Death,” “The Tightening Noose,” “The Sergeant Regrets,” “The Eagle Leaves the Nest,” “Bernardo Faces Death” and “The Eagle’s Flight.”
Episodes on Zorro, The Complete Second Season 1958 – 1959
“Welcome to Monterey,” “Zorro Rides Alone,” “Horse of Another Color,” “The Senorita Makes a Choice,” “Rendezvous at Sundown,” “The New Order,” “An Eye for an Eye,” “Zorro and the Flag of Truce,” “Ambush,” “The Practical Joker,” “The Flaming Arrow,” “Zorro Fights a Duel,” “Amnesty for Zorro,” “The Runaways,” “The Iron Box,” “The Gay Caballero,” “Tornado Is Missing,” “Zorro Versus Cupid,” “The Legend of Zorro,” “Spark of Revenge,” “The Missing Father,” “Please Believe Me,” “The Brooch,” “Zorro and the Mountain Man,” “The Hound of the Sierras,” “Manhunt,” “The Man from Spain,” “Treasure for the King,” “Exposing the Tyrant,” “Zorro Takes a Dare,” “An Affair of Honor,” “The Sergeant Sees Red,” “Invitation to Death,” “The Captain Regrets,” “Masquerade for Murder,” “Long Live the Governor,” “The Fortune Teller,” “Senor China Boy” and “Finders Keepers.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers look much better than the versions that ran on Vault Disney. And unlike Vault Disney, there are no colorized episodes. The details that Walt took by not making this a cheap TV show comes through in the DVD. If you watch just a clip, you’ll think this was from major budget movie. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix lets the original score shine during the action scenes. It’s subtitled in English.
on Zorro, The Complete First Season 1957 – 1958
Zorro: El Bandido (51:16) lets Gilbert Roland feel the “Z” on his wardrobe. Walt Disney introduces the episode by taking us back 50 years before the gold rush.
Zorro: Adios El Cuchillo (49:00) is the second half of Gilbert Roland’s special.
The Life and Legend of Zorro (12:25) gives the history of the character from pulp action magazines to the big screen. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was the first act to wrap on the black mask. Disney spent a fortune building the sets on the backlot. He wasn’t going cheap on his TV show.
Excerpt from Fourth Anniversary Show (3:16) has Walt Disney introduce the new series to the Mouseketeers. He points out Zorro won’t be on Disneyland – it’ll be its own series. The intro plays with the catchy theme song. Guy Williams makes a cameo to show off his fencing skills. This special aired Sep 11, 1957.
Zorro Pin that fits perfectly with any other Disney pins you’ve collected.
on Zorro, The Complete Second Season 1958 – 1959
Zorro: The Postponed Wedding (48:51) opens with Walt showing off his whip skills. Annette Funicello stars in it.
Zorro: Auld Acquaintance (49:03) is the last of the Zorro specials. The finale ups the ante by having Zorro face off with Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island).
Behind the Mask (7:52) is a biography of Guy Williams. Many ladies testify that he knew how to make a woman feel special. He had just taken up fencing when he auditioned for the part.
Trip to the Archives (10:55) is a tour through Zorro’s old wardrobe with Leonard Maltin and Guy Williams Jr. They also show off Zorro toys.
Zorro Pin that fits perfectly with any other Disney pins you’ve collected.
He’s not merely a TV dad. He was a dashing, suave stud who defended the downtrodden in California. Getting all the episodes and specials on these two boxsets is a holiday treat. There’s no teasing us like they’ve done with Swamp Fox. Be careful watching the show since you’ll feel the impulse to put “Z”s on people. This is a limited edition release so if you’re thinking about it – pull the trigger.
Walt Disney presents Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete First Season 1957 – 1958 and Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro, The Complete Second Season 1958 – 1959. Starring: Guy Williams, Gene Sheldon, Henry Calvin, George G. Lewis, Britt Lomond. Each boxset contains: 39 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released on DVD: November 3, 2009. Zorro, The Complete First Season available at Amazon.com and Zorro, The Complete Second Season available at Amazon.com
Tags: Batman, Lost in Space, zorro