Making the Grades
When an urgent message from his family arrives, Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power), the star pupil of a Madrid military academy, is forced to pass up a pending commission. Disappointed, the dutiful son obeys the request to return to Spanish California, fearing he is trading the promise of an adventurous career for a peacefully boring existence in his homeland.
But upon reaching the new world, the wealthy caballero begins to suspect something has changed during the long years he has been away at school. Such clues include the fear and distain he is treated with when ever he introduces himself as the son of the Alcalde and the transformation of his old residence into a heavily guarded garrison.
The mystery is finally explained by Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone), a sword-wielding soldier he meets in the foyer of his former family home. Due to age, his father Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love) has retired from his post as mayor, and has been succeeded by His Excellency Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg). Summing up the situation, Don Diego shrewdly decides to present himself as a lily-livered pretty boy, too tired to care about politics. He gets the perfect opportunity to cement this image when he meets His Excellency's flirtatious and frivolous wife, Inez Quintero (Gale Sondergaard).
However, the illusion proves a grave disappointment to Senor Vega, who had hoped his offspring might join in a law-abiding effort to stop the injustices being heaped upon the local population. What the elderly man doesn't realize is the boy's rapier quick mind is already formulating his own vigilante approach to handling the tyrannical Quentero and his right hand man, Captain Pasquale.
Like a Spanish-speaking Robin Hood, Don Diego dons a black mask, saddles up a faithful steed and rides into town brandishing both a sword and threats of revenge. Calling himself Zorro, he cuts his trademark "Z" into walls, trees and even a man's chest, after robbing ill-gotten gains from zealous tax collectors and corrupt officials. His courageous defiance also makes an impression on the heart of Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell), His Excellency's beautiful young niece.
Deriving humor from the contrast between his split personalities, this swashbuckling tale offers danger, daring, and dueling. Although there is some mild sexual innuendo and a few religious expletives (uttered in Spanish), the greatest concerns for young viewers will be depictions of violence, like swordfights that sometimes results in death (blood is shown in one instance), and discussions of whippings, beatings, and torture.
Considering it was filmed in 1940, this black and white movie (also available in a colorized version) still offers a fun watch for contemporary audiences. Based on the 1920 silent movie of the same name, The Mark of Zorro went on to spawn other adventures and a television series, as well as leaving its mark on the masked-man superhero genre.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Mark of Zorro.
By definition, a vigilante is one who takes the law into his own hands to punish criminals. Do their usually good intentions justify the use of illegal means? Is there ever a situation when this is an acceptable approach? What would happen to our society if everyone settled grievances this way?
Why do you think Lolita is attracted to Zorro? How do you feel about some of the violent acts he committed in the name of justice?