Thursday, November 21, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Zorro - The Complete Second Season



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun action with a historic twist
Cons: A bit light and dated overall
The Bottom Line:
Zorro rides again
Saving California
From all kinds of threats




More Swashbuckling Fun with Disney’s Take on Zorro

As big a DisNerd as I am, there are still parts of the Disney legacy I have no clue about.  Such was the case when both seasons of Zorro were released as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series (a DVD series I wish they would continue).  And while I had never heard of it before, I enjoyed watching Zorro Season 2.

As with all takes on this character, the action revolves around Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams).  By day, he is the carefree son of a land owner in 1820’s Spanish owned California.  But at night he is Zorro, a wanted outlaw who actually works to make sure law and order reign supreme in the territory.  Some times he opposes real outlaws and thieves; other times, he’s fighting government officials who would oppress the people.  He works closely with his mute servant Bernardo (Gene Sheldon), and he gains another ally in this season.  The stories run from several episodes to just a stand alone adventure.

Actually, the action opens in Monterey as Diego is on a mission to deliver money there for supplies to help his native Los Angeles.  He’s just barely arrived when someone tries to rob him of the money.  The trouble only intensifies as Sergeant Garcia (Henry Calvin) and Corporal Reyes (Don Diamond) arrive with the money.  Before they all return to LA, Zorro must free the people of Monterey from an acting governor who is making unreasonable demands.  Then Diego and a prankster friend get caught up in a battle for a hand of a woman.

After thirteen episodes, the action moves back to LA, but things don’t calm down.  A new Comandante always seems to bring problems, and that’s the case again.  When two indentured servants are not permitted to marry, Zorro winds up involved.  A mountain man comes to the pueblo and almost gets himself hung.  And when the governor has an accident outside the Diego’s, his life is suddenly in danger.

Some of the episodes are very suspenseful, but others are on the comedic side.  Even the suspenseful side of things has the lighter moments since Garcia and Reyes are still bumbling comic relief figures.  I love laughing at their antics, although the adult in me appreciates the fact that Diego still considers them friends and treats them with respect.

Each episode manages to find Zorro in a sword fight.  These are actually quite well done, especially for TV in the 1950’s.  Some of the stunts are also impressive as well.  Frankly, all of this holds up well today.  Only a couple of times do they use special effects, and you could tell what was really happening, but it was inventive for the time and budget, and it’s not a huge distraction.

The acting is not award worthy, however it suits the tone of the show well.  I never have an issue believing these characters in these situations, and there’s nothing that throws me out of the show.  Guest stars in this season include Annette Funicello. who shows up for a three episode story involving a young teen who arrives looking for her father – a man no one has heard of.  Also, Cesar Romero plays Diego’s uncle who arrives determined to get rich after his time in California.

Every so often, they include some songs in the show.  Frankly, I feel they usually slow things down a little, but they are a minor complaint.

Likewise, there is a certain level of lightness to the entire production.  I don’t mind, necessarily, but it does feel a bit dated as a result.  The more I got into the show, the more I forgot about that, however, and started to really enjoy it.  When you remember that the target audience was really kids, that lightness certainly makes sense.

This being a show from the 1950’s, they did a new half hour episode every week.  When you think about that, the stunts and effects that don’t quite work are certainly forgivable.  They were just cranking them out.

Anyway, all 39 episodes of the show are compiled here on 5 discs.  They are in their original black and white and full frame picture with mono sound.  While certainly not up to today’s standards, they do look and sound very good.  They’ve been well preserved and restored.

This is a six disc set, and disc six has the bonus features.  The main bonus is the third and fourth of four hour long Zorro episodes that aired on the anthology show Walt Disney presents after the original show was canceled.  (The first two hour long episodes were on the season one set.)  There is also a profile of the actor with memories from his son and the stunt man who worked on the show.  We also get an up close and color look at some of the costumes and merchandise from the show.  Leonard Maltin, of course, introduces the season on disc one.

The show definitely feels dated, but there is still charm to Zorro Season 2.  If you are looking for some light action, this show will fit the bill.

Season 2 Episodes:
1. Welcome to Monterey
2. Zorro Rides Alone
3. Horse of Another Color
4. The Senorita Makes a Choice
5. Rendezvous at Sundown
6. The New Order
7. An Eye for an Eye
8. Zorro and the Flag of Truce
9. Ambush
10. The Practical Joker
11. The Flaming Arrow
12. Zorro Fights a Dual
13. Amnesty for Zorro
14. The Runaways
15. The Iron Box
16. The Gay Caballero
17. Tornado is Missing
18. Zorro Versus Cupid
19. The Legend of Zorro
20. Spark of Revenge
21. The Missing Father
22. Please Believe Me
23. The Brooch
24. Zorro and the Mountain Man
25. The Hound of the Sierras
26. Manhunt
27. The Man from Spain
28. Treasure for the King
29. Exposing the Tyrant
30. Zorro Takes a Dare
31. An Affair of Honor
32. The Sergeant Sees Red
33. Invitation to Death
34. The Captain Regrets
35. Masquerade for Murder
36. Long Live the Governor
37. The Fortune Teller
38. Senor China Boy
39. Finders Keepers 

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