When Tyrone Power co-starred in a supporting role with actress Linda Darnell in “Brigham Young,” the studio recognized not only a great chemistry between the two beautiful thespians, but the need to finally allow Power to break into a full fledged leading man after several years in supporting roles.
“The Mark of Zorro” remains one of the best action films Fox produced, with beautiful, dramatic cinematography by Arthur Miller, a rambunctious score by Alfred Newman, and smooth direction from Rouben Mamoulian. The romantic scenes may seem a bit precious in spots, but it's near impossible not to find the cast and brisk story engaging; and just plain fun.
Perhaps taking advantage of Basil Rathbone's success with “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” the actor was cast as a cold, meticulously vicious Captain (and appears once again with “Robin Hood” alumnus Eugene Pallette), and gets to show off his top-notch fencing skills in an exciting duel with Power.
“The Mark of Zorro” is an excellent introduction to Tyrone Power as one of the most popular actors of the Forties, as he embarked on a series of huge action and romantic spectaculars throughout much of the decade. Though less dense on extras compared to previous Studio Classics editions, the commentary track by Richard Schickel is above-average for the historian, giving listeners a good overview of Power's career, with generous attention to the equally delightful actors that contribute a good measure of humour to the film's otherwise action-oriented tone.
A more detailed examination of Power's career is given in “Biography: The Last Idol.” The finales to these glossy productions tend to over-emphasize the worth and nobility of their subjects with saccharine music and feel-good narrative before the end credits, but the overall content remains highly informative.
Thriving and later enduring one of the longest exclusive contracts to a studio, Power struggled to parlay his international matinee idol image into more dramatically rewarding productions, and “Biography” does a good job illustrating his colourful life with interviews from former wives, daughter Taryn Power (better known for her appearance in “Sinbad & the Eye of the Tiger”), his loyal friends, and biographer Fred Guiles.
There's a good mix of archival photos, family movies, film clips, and a few rare stills and footage from Power's final film performance as King Solomon, in “Solomon and Sheba” – a physically demanding role that ultimately killed the actor at the age of 44 with a heart attack. (Directed by King Vidor, Power's scenes were quickly reshot with a toupeed Yul Brynner taking the role.)
20th Century Fox's transfer is made from a good source print, with minor, occasional scratches in a few spots. The digital cleansing is very subtle, preserving the rough texture of the film's stucco and stone-face sets, and listeners can choose a new pseudo-stereo sound mix (but are better served by the bouncy mono mix).
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan