The Sign of Zorro,
directed by Norman Foster & Lewis B. Foster
(Walt Disney, 1960)

Walt Disney Studios created The Sign of Zorro from their Zorro television series, which was based upon the stories written by Johnston McCulley.

Disney left his mark on the Zorro story by adding a powerful, trick-trained stallion named Tornado. He also enhanced upon the Spanish sergeant, turning him into a bumbling, overweight, good-natured soul of the not-so-bright type. These additions greatly improved the story and viewers soon considered all to be vital parts of the story.

Disney also added the Zorro theme song, which was performed by George Bruns and Norman Foster. The musical score by William Lava is ideal for this movie and heightens the emotional and psychological impact throughout.

Diego Vega (Guy Williams) has been summoned home from his studies in Spain. The ship's captain informs him of the terrible changes in California. The people are being tortured and killed by the sadistic tyrant, Captain Enrique Monastario (Britt Lomond), the commandante of Pueblo Los Angeles.

Diego decides to pose as a bookworm -- a gentleman of the arts. His mute servant, Bernardo (Gene Sheldon), pretends to be a deaf, mute fool and becomes Diego's eyes and ears.

Diego makes himself a mask, dresses in black, and becomes "El Zorro," the fox. He has a black stallion that he had been training before he left for Spain. Tornado was still a colt when Diego left him hidden in the care of a shepherd. He has grown into a huge, fast and powerful mount -- perfect for Zorro's activities.

Monastario's sergeant-in-charge, Garcia (Henry Calvin), tries very hard to follow orders, but often his kind-hearted nature gets in the way. Sometimes he ends up being more help than hindrance for Zorro, in spite of his best soldiering.

It may be unfair, but I have to compare this film to The Mark of Zorro from 1940. The sets are not as visually entertaining. Even the richest haciendas are still drab and the characters are not as deeply developed. We only get to know them on the surface; never what they are really thinking or feeling. This is likely because the movie was created by piecing together segments from the television series. Usually television series do not build deep characters due to time limitations. I am certain that this was the problem.

However, I cannot make any excuses for the acting being of inferior quality. When you compare the performances of Guy Williams and Tyrone Power, the differences in the acting quality can easily be seen. Williams did not bring out the duality like Power did. Power seemed to have two personalities that carried into his speech, mannerisms and movements. Williams simply traded his sword for a book.

The positive points to this movie begin with the marvelous Sgt. Garcia. Everybody loves this character. You cannot keep from liking him ... or laughing at him. Adding him was a brilliant writing ploy. Bernardo is also an improvement who adds much energy and humor to the script.

The swordplay and fighting scenes are great. I especially liked seeing Diego pretend to not know how to fight. He did a super job of being a buffoon with the sword. However, the stunts are not near as impressive, especially the horseback scenes, although this horse does rear up and even leap into the air once.

Between these two movies, The Mark of Zorro is a far better movie, but that does not mean you won't enjoy The Sign of Zorro. When standing on its own, without a comparison to the previous segments, this is an enjoyable film. It delivers lots of laughs and loads of action. You may like it so well that you will want the entire Disney Zorro series.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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