filmhead2.jpg (3932 bytes)

Mask of Zorro,The/B+,A-

Columbia/1998/137m/ANA 2.35

     Yet another Zorro, you say. A remake, a retread. Well, the latest incarnation of the legendary swordsman has some nice twists, splendid production values and stars worthy of carrying the cause of Old Mexico to Hollywood screens.
     While neither Antonio Banderas nor Anthony Hopkins may possess the same screen magnetism of Tyrone Power (Who starred as the masked dandy in a classic black and white Mark of Zorro.), The Mask of Zorro has two stars to one for The Mark of Zorro. Each of them capture aspects of the Zorro character, making them a formidable duo. Hopkins exudes sophistication as the older Zorro and there is no denying the fire and sex appeal of Latin actor Banderas.
maskofzorro.jpg (18040 bytes)

Introducing the new Zorro. ©Columbia

     Martin Campbell proves again that he can put together a beautiful looking production, making the most out of his filmmaking team. With The Mask of Zorro, Campbell is blessed with the best screenplay yet and that means a terrific movie. The plot borrows heavily from earlier Zorros, but places its own stamp on this new version with great aplomb. The added benefit of the mentor/student relationship between Don Diego De la Vega (Hopkins) and Alejandro Murrieta (Banderas) serves to enhance the structure of the film. Campbell’s efficiency in depicting the training sequences is remarkable and he wisely breaks it up with the wild ride into the soldiers’ barracks before putting the finishing touches on the new Zorro.
     A small interesting cheat is at the opening when we look through the burlap mask we see the eyes of Antonio Banderas, but it cuts inside the tower, the eyes belong to a young boy. It’s a quick clue that the boy will grow up to be the new Zorro. The romp that follows as Zorro frees the prisoners about to perform a gallows ballet provides a rousing opening platform. The image of Zorro riding up the steps of the governor’s castle silhouetted against the sky is a terrific finish to the scene and but the first of many other memorable touches.
     Planted delightfully between Hopkins and Banderas is Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena. Playing Hopkins’ daughter and Banderas’ desired, she is simply a staggering screen beauty. With classic features and a ravishing figure, the young actress possesses a combination of spunk and sex appeal that is most unusual. Delightful sparks flare between Banderas and Zeta-Jones. Stuart Wilson gives great heavy as Don Rafael Montero, and Matt Letscher adds a perverse touch as henchman Captain Love.
     The visual detail on thinks DVD is delivered with unparalleled brilliance. Just like the magic of Zorro’s sword, someone in the back room has worked magic on the transfer to DVD. Testing the limits of the NTSC system, a segment like the edgy mine set, often breaks up into a series of jagged lines jumping all over the screen. Not so here. The structure of the mine is rock solid. Most scenes are transferred with reference precision. Take the return of Montero to California as an instance. Crowd detail is defined to perfection. Colors stand out beautifully against sky and water. Check out the multi-colored banners of the welcoming arch. The small patch of red on the sleeves of the soldiers’ uniforms stands out with unusual definition and clarity. Examine the range extreme sharpness in rendering the scene from the crowd to the water to the small promontory. In the dance sequence at the hacienda check out the fine gradations of black on the frock coats of the caballeros.
     The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround sound is very aggressive. Sword swipes pan across the theater space. Explosions erupt with divine impact. Dialogue is enunciated with crisply. My one reservation about the DVD is that the audio is transferred 4-5 dB high. Otherwise, The Mask of Zorro joins the ranks of great reference DVDs. The DVD comes with a nice multi-page booklet and there is a promotional short included as well as a couple of stills that purport to be a "Photo Gallery."