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Commandante Golle (Sig Ruman) rules Spanish California under his iron
fist, especially exploiting the natives, imposing huge taxes on them and
threatening to force them to work in his goldmines otherwise. But the
natives have an avenger of their own, masked highwayman Zorro (Robert
Livingston), who thwarts the Commandante's plans to be even meaner time
and again - but when Zorro's captured (but weirdly enough not unmasked,
the hopes of the natives start to vane ... until the Commandante gets a
letter that a Governor from Spain (Robert Warwick) will arrive the next
day to take over from him - which would destroy everything ...
indeed Don Diego Vega (also Robert Livingston of course), an effeminate
good-for-nothing who soon enough tries to get a job with the Governor
while at the same time wooing his daughter Isabella (Heather Angel) -
which the Governor doesn't like one bit, thus he decides to use Don Diego
as a bait for Zorro ... and weirdly enough, the Governor is killed a short
time after that, by someone who left the mark of Zorro, even if Zorro will
later insist it wasn't him.
When Isabella, the heiress of her father
when it comes to the role of governor, arrives at the Commandante's place,
she finds it in a desolate state, and Don Diego now teams up with the
Commandante and persuades him to woo Isabella - with his help - to
eventually retain control over California. At the same time though he also
tries to show Isabella in which horrible way the Commandante handles the
natives, and Isabella has sympathy ... until she hears the name of their
avenger, Zorro, whom she still thinks the murderer of her father.
Commandante arranges a bullfight, with a handful of natives as
cannonfodder, just to smoke Zorro out, but when Isabella sees there's a
kid among the natives, she begs Don Diego to intervene, which he does ...
which leads to him and Isabella confessing their love to one another,
which in turn drives the Commandante so angry he challenges Don Diego to a
duel, which Don Diego wins, but for some reason he leaves the mark of
Zorro on his adversary. Then he makes a getaway, but not without telling
Isabella where to meet him. Isabella though, now knowing he's Zorro, sides
with the Commandante to capture Don Diego ... and is captured by the
Commandante herself as well, who figures if he can put the blame of her
eventual murder on Zorro, he could get rid of all his problems in one go
... but of course, Don Diego manages to escape thanks to Isabella's
chaperone (Emily Fitzroy) - and eventually leads the natives to an
uprising (in drag - he's still in the chaperone's outfit) to see to it
that all the baddies get their just dessert and he his deserved girl.
very first Zorro movie with both sound and colour (Magnacolor) is a rather
mixed bag of goodies: On one hand, the script's at times really witty,
some of the performances are pretty good (especially Heather Angel and Sig
Ruman), the Zorro costume looks suitably eerie, and while taking many
liberties it remains true to the spirit of the source material. On the
other hand though, the direction's rather static, the story's quite
predictable, Robert Livingston is rather wooden in the lead, and there's
simply too little Zorro and too much Don Diego in the movie. And the very
limited sets and production values just fail to put it in league with the
Douglas Fairbanks or Tyrone Powers versions of the story, or even Republic's
Zorro Rides Again from
one year later - but at least fans of the character as such should get a
mild kick out of this one.