Long before Batman, there was another caped crusader that prowled the night. The mysterious Zorro struck fear in the heart of his enemies in the early 1820s when Los Angles was still a Spanish colony. He rode on his black horse while wearing an all black outfit including a mask. He stood up for the little guy against hoodlums, greedy rich land barons and oppressive government officials. Zorro: The Complete Series contains all four seasons of the half hour series that aired on the Family Channel back in the early 1990s. This was before it was the Fox Family Channel and ABC Family Channel.
Don Diego de la Vega (Monster Squad‘s Duncan Regehr) returns to Los Angeles to find the area under the control of the cruel tyrant Alcalde Luis Ramon (Mr. Deeds‘ Michael Tylo). Diego’s dad (The F.B.I.‘s Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) expects his son to attack the despicable one. But that’s not the case. Diego is no fighter. He’s all about science and music. Luckily for the citizens, someone is bold enough to stand up for little people against Ramon and his goons led by Sergeant Jaime Mendoza (James Victor). That man is Zorro. Turns out the viewers know his true identity. Although we don’t get his origin story until the eighth episode of the first season, “The Legend Begins.” This four part arc reveals why Diego donned the disguise to fight Ramon’s men. “The Pride of the Pueblo” features Philip Michael Thomas (Miami Vice) as a freed black slave that doesn’t get a nice welcome in Los Angeles. Ramon doesn’t like Thomas and plans to destroy his paperwork and sell him to a plantation back in America. It’s up to Zorro to stop this scheme. Because of the short running time of the show, the episodes are rather straight in their telling. Along with his constant battling with Ramon, there’s a running slight romance with Victoria Escalante (Patrice Camhi Martinez). Nothing too serious comes from their flirtations since Diego’s first love is his horse Tornado. Felipe (Juan Diego Botto) provides the kid angle as the mute youth that maintains Diego’s dual life. He learns valuable life lessons while assisting his master.
The success of the first season allowed the producers to get major names as guest stars. Adam West (Batman) arrives as an inventive peddler. He gets hired by Ramon to create a trap for Zorro involving the execution of Patrice. Why would Batman want to bring down Zorro? Was this a case of Superhero envy? The score has a little musical fun when West visits Zorro’s secret cave. Roddy Piper gets accused of being a cheating gambler in “Broken Heart, Broken Mask.” It’s up to Zorro to rescue the WWF icon. Doug McClure (The Virginian) goes against Ramon’s rules of entering Indian country in “The Challenge.” The recently deceased Pete Postlethwaite has a bit part in “The Marked Man.” The biggest guest star of the season storms in for “Big Brother.” Andre the Giant proves once more why he’s the greatest wrestling thespian as the man looking to free his imprisoned brother. A bit of a contrast arrives with Warwick Davis (Willow) in “The Jewelled Sword.” There was also a major character change with Henry Darrow (The High Chaparral) taking over the role of Diego’s dad. He’s more convincing in the role.
The third season brings a new evil figure with J.G. Hertzler as Alcalde Ignacio de Soto. This works out well since how long can a guy get beaten by the same mysterious character in a rather small town? There’s more wrestling connections in the guest casts. Roddy Piper returns for “The Man Who Cried Wolf.” Jesse Ventura gets two episodes with “The Buccaneers” and “A New Beginning.” “Test of Faith” gives the monstrous Soon-Tek Oh from Missing In Action 2 a chance to play nice. He’s a Japanese fisherman that’s gone really off course. The fourth season wasn’t quite so fortunate as the series was canceled after 13 episodes. The big extra is Daniel Craig (James Bond in Casino Royale) in “Death and Taxes.” He’s far from a hero as Lieutenant Hidalgo. His group messes hard with Diego. He pays for his nastiness.
In a bit of weirdness, the series about Los Angeles was shot in Spain. This makes sense since the rugged Spanish views were the locations used for the Spaghetti Westerns. The exteriors looks old West without an In and Out Burger lurking in the background. The series is really family friendly. The action isn’t too intense. The sword fights don’t get nasty. Zorro isn’t out to disfigure his enemies with a “Z” slashed into their faces. The 88 episodes will bring back the thrills from two decades ago for nostalgic viewers.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series was shot on film, but edited on videotape so there’s a loss of resolution. This is a shame since the Spanish landscapes should dazzle the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. The mix keeps things clear on the simple mix. The soundtrack music is a cheesy synth score.
The Mark of Zorro (88:39) is the silent movie starring Douglas Fairbanks. Noah Beery and a guy who went by Walt Whitman are in the cast. Fairbanks looks stunning with the sword in hand.
Zorro’s Fighting Legion (27:37) is the first chapter of the serial that stars Reed Hadley. Zorro and his masked group end up in the middle of a battle between corrupt government officials and a metal God leading blood thirsty indians. All three groups are after shipments of gold. Shame they didn’t include the other dozen chapters.
Pilot Alternative version (22:20) has Patrick James in the title role. Did he do anything else after losing the role?
Trailers (6:30) hype the coming of Zorro s Fighting Legion, Zorro s Black Whip and Zorro Rides Again. You can hunt down the full versions on other DVD collections.
Photo Gallery (7:18) are various stills from the production.
Zorro: The Complete Series simplifies a complicated masked avenger. Nothing gets too wild or complicated in this old Los Angeles. These are simple and enjoyable adventures. The inclusion of the first Zorro film gives a great sense of why this man in black has remained a powerful icon after nearly a century.
A&E Video presents Zorro: The Complete Series. Starring: Duncan Regehr, Patrice Camhi Martinez, James Victor and Henry Darrow. Boxset Contents: 88 episodes on 15 DVDs. Released on DVD: January 25, 2011.
Tags: Adam West, Andre the Giant, zorro