Friday, July 12, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Zorro - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun mix of sword play, action, and comedy
Cons: A bit on the cheesy side overall
The Bottom Line
Disney's take on a
Legendary character
Is black and white fun




Saving Mexican California with Zorro Season 1

While I was familiar with many of Walt Disney’s TV shows, I’m sure there are many I hadn’t heard of.  For example, I wasn’t aware he had done a TV show based on the character Zorro until both seasons were released for the Walt Disney Treasures line.  I just finished season one, and I enjoyed it.

The show is set around Los Angeles in the 1820’s.  Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams), who grew up here, has been away for several years studying in Spain until he was summoned back by his father.  As he nears the coast, he learns that there is a new Monastario (Britt Lomond) who is trying to grab all the land and money for himself.  That’s when Diego decides to take on the alter ego of Zorro (also Guy Williams).  Only his personal servant Bernardo (Gene Sheldon) knows the truth of his dual identity.  Even Bernardo, a mute, gets into the act by also pretending to be deaf, thereby often gaining some important information.

Now, if you are familiar with current TV shows, you might expect the fight with the Monastario to last most of the season.  Instead, it lasts about a third.  Just as Diego thinks he can retire his Zorro persona, he gets wind of an even bigger danger – The Eagle.  Who is the Eagle?  Who all works for him?  And can Zorro defeat this giant network of evil?

This show really is a serialized story told in half hour increments.  Each episode stands on its own, although they do occasionally build on each other.  Often, there are some smaller arcs that last three or four episodes within the larger arcs.

The episodes mix in a dash of danger with some humor and plenty of sword fighting.  Each episode finds Zorro needing to use his skills at some point to defend himself and save the day.  Meanwhile, Bernardo can provide some comic relief, although that job usually falls to Sergeant Garcia (Henry Calvin), the man caught in the middle of some bad orders but who really does try to do the right thing.  He's not too bright, and his bumbling using helps in the end.

The episodes are fairly formulaic, and this is especially evident if you watch two or three in a row.  That doesn’t mean you won’t get caught up in the danger.  I’ve got to admit I was on the edge of my seat several times trying to figure out how Zorro would save the day.

The acting is certainly good, but it feels just a bit over the top.  I’m not saying I don’t buy anything I saw here, but it is much broader than we’re used to seeing today.  This is something you get used to as the season goes along, and it soon becomes a non-issue.

I mentioned the sword fighting earlier.  If you enjoy a good sword fight, you’ll certainly like what you see here.  There are very few special effects involved, although a few of the things they have Zorro do stretch the suspension of believe, even for me.

The first season consisted of 39 half hour episodes (another way TV was different back then: longer seasons and half hour action shows).  All of them are on the first five discs of this set in full frame and stereo.  The show was broadcast in black and white, so that’s what we get here.  I’ve got to say, for how old it is, it looks and sounds great.  The picture is sharp and very rarely do I see any issues with it at all.  In the way of extras, we get an introduction from Leonard Maltin on disc one.  The sixth and final disc in this set contains the rest.  There are two of the hour long Zorro specials that aired after season two, plus the introduction Disney did for the character and the show on his Disneyland weekly show.  Finally, there is a documentary on the history of the character up through the TV show.

I’ve got to admit I’m not super familiar with the character of Zorro period, but I got sucked into Zorro - season 1.  If you enjoy some light action and adventure, track down this set.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Presenting Senor Zorro
2. Zorro's Secret Passage
3. Zorro Rides to the Mission
4. The Ghost of the Mission
5. Zorro's Romance
6. Zorro Saves a Friend
7. Monastario Sets a Trap
8. Zorro's Ride into Terror
9. A Fair Trial
10. Garcia's Secret Mission
11. Double Trouble for Zorro
12. Zorro, Luckiest Swordsman Alive
13. The Fall of Monastario
14. Shadow of Doubt
15. Garcia Stands Accused
16. Slaves of the Eagle
17. Sweet Face of Danger
18. Zorro Fights His Father
19. Death Stacks the Deck
20. Agent of the Eagle
21. Zorro Springs a Trap
22. The Unmasking of Zorro
23. The Secret of the Sierra
24. The New Commandante
25. The Fox and the Coyote
26. Adios, Senor Magistrado
27. The Eagle's Brood
28. Zorro by Proxy
29. Quintana Makes a Choice
30. Zorro Lights a Fuse
31. The Man with the Whip
32. Cross of the Andes
33. The Deadly Bolas
34. The Well of Death
35. The Tightening Noose
36. The Sergeant Regrets
37. The Eagle Leaves the Nest
38. Bernardo Faces Death
39. The Eagle's Flight

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