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The Mark Of Zorro – Rouben Mamoulian

Submitted by on January 12, 2011 – 4:58 pmNo Comment

To Lolita’s dismay, she is betrothed by her uncle to Don Diego. At first, the handsome young man makes a good impression; for when they dance together, he forgets his foppishness and performs with passion. But he instantly relapses into his languid pose. Arriving late at the betrothal dinner, he apologizes that his bath water had been drawn too soon and had become tepid and that there was a further delay over adding the proper scented salts. Captain Pasquale smirks to Inez that he fears Lolita’s married life will be as tepid as the bath water. The Captain resents Diego’s flirtation with Inez because he has designs on her himself. However, Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love) is furious at his son’s declaration that he plans to marry the niece of the hated tyrant. When his mother begs him to follow his father’s advice, he responds superciliously, “I had no say in my father’s marriage, so why should he in mine?”

This comic masquerade draws to an end when Captain Pasquale discovers that Father Felipe is Zorro’s accomplice, disarms him in a brisk bit of swordplay, and imprisons him. Pursued by soldiers, Zorro enters the alcalde’s hacienda by a secret passageway and transforms himself back into the foppish Diego. By now, Captain Pasquale has had enough of this butterfly, taunts him with cowardice, and dares him to a duel. To his amazement, Diego accepts. As they prepare to fight, Pasquale slashes through a candle with his rapier, slicing off the top and leaving the bottom intact. Diego makes a pass at another candle and appears to miss. “Hah!” sneers Pasquale. “Hah, hah!” responds Diego, as he lifts off the top of the candle, which he has severed without seeming to touch it. (Rathbone later parodied this scene in The Court Jester with Danny Kaye in 1956.) The duel that follows is one of the finest on film, done authentically without the suicidal leaping about on furniture, fireplaces, and chandeliers by which too many movie heroes leave themselves off balance and off guard. At the climax, Diego runs Pasquale through; the captain falls, knocking down a picture, behind which a Z is carved on the wall. Don Luis, who has witnessed the fight, is terrified; “You handle a sword like a devil from hell,” he says. Diego’s plan, in fact, has been to frighten the alcalde into resigning and returning to Spain. Doha Inez is his ally in this scheme, for she believes Diego will return with them and become her lover. Just as the plot is about to succeed, soldiers enter through the secret passageway, and Diego is revealed as Zorro.

Part of his foppish masquerade consisted of showing off insipid parlor tricks with cards and handkerchiefs. Now in prison he dupes the jailor into thinking he can transmute a copper coin into gold. Instead, he seizes the man and takes his keys and pistol. At this point, his father and the other hidalgos enter under guard; The alcalde has rounded them up for imprisonment and gloats that he has captured Zorro. Don Alejandro scoffs that it is merely his foolish son. “Have you seen this trick, father,” simpers Diego in his last performance, and whips out the pistol from beneath his handkerchief. Overpowering the guards, the hidalgos begin an attack from within the prison, as a horde of peasants try to storm the outside gates. Performing spectacular feats of swordplay, Diego fights his way over the rooftops, leaps upon the guards at the gate, and opens it for the peasants. At the end, justice is served. His fighting days over, Diego announces that he will marry Lolita, who now loves him, raise fat children, and settle down in California. He hurls his sword into the ceiling, this time to hang for good.

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