Mask of Zorro, The (1998)

The Mask of Zorro (1998), directed by Martin Campbell.

Like The Mummy (1999) this is designed to be a crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster, mining an established mythology and using familiar action/romance film themes. It's the awful aristos vs the dignified peasants and their hero. The audience need contribute nothing except their time.

Zorro himself is a composite of Robin Hood and the Scarlet Pimpernel. The fantasy of Alta California has a touch of the Arabian Nights and the mythologies almost touch when Elena talks about riding her horse at night across the plains of Andalusia. More: there is an "I am Spartacus!" moment in the prison and an escape taken from The Count of Monte Cristo.

Abundant swashbuckling sword-fights and ambitious comedy action brawls which owe much to The Three Musketeers: the demolition of a troop barracks and horse-chase stunts.

Antonio Banderas is really very good at the comedy bits. He, Anthony Hopkins and the always perfectly-lit Catherine Zeta-Jones had extensive sword training for the film. This was her breakout role.


Lush James Horner score. Photographed by Phil Méheux who frequently collaborates with director Campbell.

Followed by The Legend of Zorro (2005) with the same leads and director. It did not do as well.

I am posting this on August 9, 2019, the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of Zorro in the pages of All-Story Weekly:

People are sometimes surprised that Zorro is not from traditional folklore, but is rather the invention of American novelist and screenwriter Johnston McCulley. He has 45 IMDB credits, not all of them for Zorro stories.

Available on a splendid-looking Blu-ray with a detailed, technical commentary by the director.

I am gratified to learn that he studied swashbucklers from classic Hollywood when making this. As I suspected, he cites Gene Kelly's The Three Musketeers (1948).