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Martin Campbell
Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher
Ted Elliott

Box Office:
$65 Million.
Opening Weekend
$22.525 million on 2515 screens.
Domestic Gross
$93.771 million.
Rated PG-13 for some intense action and violence.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Portuguese Dolby Surround 2.0
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai

Runtime: 137 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 10/18/2005

• Audio Commentary With Director Martin Campbell
• Two Deleted Scenes
• “Unmasking Zorro” Documentary
• Exclusive Scene from The Legend of Zorro
The Legend of Zorro Behind-the-Scenes Sneak Peek
• “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You” Music Video
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spots
• Talent Files
• Costume Designs

Score soundtrack

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The Mask of Zorro: Deluxe Edition (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Hollywood just loves to update properties from the past, and some of these make more sense than others. A new Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson? Sounded like a good idea. A version of The Mummy made for contemporary tastes? Seemed to work out well. A new edition of Zorro? That one caught me by surprise.

Zorro was one of those heroes who felt stuck in a past era so strongly that I didn’t think an updated take on the character would work. I believed that such a swashbuckling persona wouldn’t appeal to modern audiences, and Zorro was best left to parodies like 1981’s Zorro, the Gay Blade.

I was wrong, at least to a certain extent. While 1998’s The Mask of Zorro didn’t knock off any box office socks, it did reasonably well with a US gross of $93 million and it nabbed a tidy $232 million worldwide. Not exactly Titanic level, but it seemed pretty solid for a movie with a $65 million budget.

As for the film itself, I thought it provided a reasonably entertaining experience that surpassed my expectations. The flick mainly takes place in 19th century Mexico, but it actually begins with a flashback sequence of sorts. We see Zorro, as masked hero who champions the people. Unfortunately, his archenemy Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson) discovers his real identity of Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins). Montero’s men accidentally kill Diego’s wife, and they then imprison him and leave the fate of his infant daughter Elena uncertain.

Twenty years later, we meet a ragged criminal named Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), his brother Joaquin (Victor Rivers), and a partner named Three-Fingered Jack (L.Q. Jones). A vicious military captain named Harrison Love (Matthew Letscher) kills Joaquin and harms Jack, but Alejandro escapes. He vows revenge but is in no shape to enact his plans.

Enter Diego, recently escaped from his long imprisonment. He realizes that a young Alejandro helped him elude pursuers years earlier, and he decides to take on the adult version as a protégé. Much training ensues and eventually Alejandro’s ready to become the new Zorro. Matters are complicated by the arrival of Montero’s “daughter” Elena, who really is Diego’s kid. Montero, Love and others attempt a scheme to own much of California, and it’s up to the twin Zorros to stop them.

Three years earlier, director Martin Campbell helped update another slightly moribund franchise with a new James Bond piece called GoldenEye. Zorro didn’t bring that series to life with equal success, but he did nicely with the material. The key to Zorro stemmed from the respect with which Campbell treated the subject. While the new movie clearly felt like a product of its times, with some cheeky humor and vibrant action sequences, it still showed a link to its forebears, especially through the exciting sword fighting pieces. These amped the action for a modern audience but kept up a connection with the past; Campbell nicely expanded the material but didn’t make it seem like it had no link to the original.

As was the case with GoldenEye, Campbell showed his greatest talent for the action scenes, and those sword fighting sequences offered some genuinely thrilling material. In a smart move, Campbell didn’t tip his hand early; though we see a little of that sort of action, he saved the big set pieces for more climactic moments in the film, and they escalated in intensity and activity. While I liked much of the rest of the movie, those parts were definitely the most fun.

Zorro also did well for itself due to its cast, especially in regard to our dual Zorros. Hopkins is often money in the bank; while he can falter at times, he usually provides a solid performance that adds weight to a movie, and that occurred with Zorro. The concept of Hopkins as a Spanish don seemed a little ridiculous at first, but I quickly forgot any concerns in that regard and accepted him fully in the role. He made Diego strong and led us believe that he would be a forceful presence even as an older man.

As for our newer Zorro, Banderas did a terrific job. He neatly balanced buffoonish humor early in the movie with charisma and vigor as the story progressed. That wasn’t an easy task, but Banderas seemed up to the challenges. He created a solid action hero as well as a dashing leading man; the role of Zorro appeared tailor-made for him.

While all of the parts were there, I must admit that at times I felt the whole seemed less satisfying. Sometimes I review movies in which I bitch and moan about everything but then say that I still found the film to be fairly enjoyable. Conversely, there are times that I’ll praise everything about a flick but then say that I didn’t think it was all that great. Zorro fit into that category. To be certain, I liked the movie, but not as much as my praise might indicate. The story started well and ended with a terrific climax, but at times in between, I felt it dragged at times. I also wasn’t especially wild about Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena; she looked lovely but lacked a great deal of charisma.

Nonetheless, I found The Mask of Zorro to provide a generally exciting and enjoyable experience. The pace usually moved briskly, and it included some excellent action pieces. Much of the acting seemed solid and the film provided something different. The Mask of Zorro wasn’t a classic, but it offered a fun screening nonetheless.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

The Mask of Zorro appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD. The image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As a whole, Zorro provided a terrific picture that lost a few points only because of some very minor concerns.

Sharpness looked excellent throughout the movie. At no times did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness, as the film seemed to be very crisp and distinct. This was a terrifically detailed and accurate picture they appeared genuinely impressive. No moiré effects or jagged edges cropped up, but I saw minor edge enhancement at times. Print flaws seemed to be exceedingly minor. I noticed a speckle or two, but otherwise the image was very clean and fresh.

Colors offered a highlight of the movie. From the lovely sun-dappled scenery to the vivid and gorgeous costumes, Zorro presented a sumptuous vision from start to finish. The hues looked exceedingly vibrant and warm throughout the movie; they came across as genuinely stunning at almost all times. Black levels seemed to be equally deep and rich, while shadow detail appeared to be appropriately heavy but never excessively thick; considering all of the candle-lit sequences, this was an important consideration, and the DVD handled them well. Lose the minor edge enhancement and the picture of The Mask of Zorro would approach reference level. As it stood, the transfer remained an excellent piece of work.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Mask of Zorro, it also fared well. Zorro featured a nicely active and involving soundfield. All five channels received a full workout throughout the movie, as the track provided a vivid and smooth experience. James Horner’s score cropped up cleanly and distinctly from the front and received solid support from the surrounds, while the effects appeared to be appropriately localized and moved between channels well. The surrounds contributed a great deal of material during much of the movie. From galloping horses to cannon blasts to sword swishes, the mix provided clear audio from all around the viewer, and this helped make the movie a more engrossing and dramatic affair.

Audio quality also seemed to be very strong. Dialogue always came across as warm and natural, and I discerned no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was very bright and brilliant, with fine fidelity and strong low-end response. Effects showed similar characteristics, as they seemed to clear and accurate and displayed excellent dynamics. At no time did I hear distortion or other flaws to mar the presentation. Overall, this was a terrific soundtrack that really escalated the effectiveness of the movie.

How did the picture and sound quality of this 2005 release compare to those of the 2001 special edition? Picture quality looked identical to me, as I discerned no differences. The Dolby Digital track on this one also sounded just like the previous package’s DD mix. Unfortunately, this set lost the 2001 release’s DTS track. I liked that one a little more than the DD edition, so it’s too bad both mixes fail to appear here.

Would this new “Deluxe Edition” of The Mask of Zorro exist were it not for the theatrical release of The Legend of Zorro? Of course not – this set is here solely to promote the new movie. That means very little in the way of new elements. Almost everything from the 2001 special edition repeats here. I’ll note new pieces with asterisks.

The set begins with a running, generally screen-specific audio commentary from director Martin Campbell, who offered a very chatty and compelling piece. Campbell’s one of the better commentators, and he made this track a consistent joy. He covered a very wide variety of subjects, including topics such as executive producer Steven Spielberg’s influence on the film, problems on the set, his own shortcomings, the long path Zorro took to the big screen – with discussions of other directors who worked on the project, such as Robert Rodriguez – and a nice mix of other areas. He provided a wealth of information and did so in a frank and open manner; Campbell didn’t seem afraid to speak his mind, and though he never really dished any dirt, the honest attitude was refreshing. Ultimately, I thought this was a fine audio commentary that gave me more respect and admiration for the film and its director.

Next we find an “exclusive” documentary about the film – though it can’t be too exclusive since it appears on the prior DVD. Entitled Unmasking Zorro, this program runs for 45 minutes and it includes the usual mix of film clips, shots from the set, and interview snippets. The latter featured Campbell, actors Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, and Matthew Letscher, Sandra Curtis and John Gertz from Zorro Productions, costume designer Graciela Mazon, executive producers Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes, producers David Foster and Doug Clayborne, production designer Cecelia Montiel, composer James Horner and sword master Bob Anderson.

The program offered a moderately interesting experience at times, mainly due to some decent behind the scenes material. Otherwise, I thought it seemed somewhat superficial and flat. It included too many snippets from the movie and the comments provided by the participants brought a little information to the table but didn’t reveal a great deal of depth. Ultimately, it was a fairly entertaining program but it wasn’t anything special.

Two Deleted Scenes appear on the DVD. The first shows a minor episode early in the relationship between the Hopkins and Banderas characters, while the other provides an alternate ending discussed by Campbell during his commentary. The initial clip runs 75 seconds, while the second lasts three minutes and 27 seconds. Both snippets seem interesting but unspectacular. One disappointment: the documentary showed bits of an unused scene that didn’t appear in this section.

Next comes an *exclusive scene from The Legend of Zorro. We find a one-minute, 43-second clip from the film. It shows a battle scene that highlights Catherine Zeta-Jones’ talents. I’m sure fans will be interested to see this before Legend hits the screens, but once it’s out, this snippets becomes pretty useless.

Another piece related to the new movie, we find a *Behind-the-Scenes Sneak Peek at The Legend of Zorro. This runs five minutes and includes remarks from Zeta-Jones, Banderas, and Campbell. They tell us a little about why they decided to finally make a new movie, the story and characters, and some production elements. It’s all highly promotional and it lacks much to maintain our interest. As with the

In the “Advertising Materials” area, we get a whopping 12 TV Spots. Two of the latter last 15 seconds each, while the rest go for 30 seconds apiece. The Publicity Photo Portraits includes 21 stills. We see Banderas, Zeta-Jones and Hopkins alone, and there are also shots of Banderas and Hopkins and Banderas and Zeta-Jones. One nice touch: an index lets you jump to any of the five subsections, but you can also skim through them as one big package, which means you don’t return to the menu after three or four photos.

Under Trailers we get both a teaser and a full theatrical ad for Mask of Zorro along with promos for The Legend of Zorro and Bewitched. The Costume Design section shows eight stillframes. On the left, we find costume sketches, while the right side of the screen displays finished product in the movie. It’s a minor extra but an interesting one.

Bland Talent Files appear for Banderas, Hopkins, Zeta-Jones and director Campbell and the disc finishes with a music video. We get a clip for “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You” from Tina Arena and Marc Anthony. This four-minute and 45-second piece mainly combines shots of the two as they lip-synch the song with snippets from the movie. In addition, it attempts a very weak Zorro-esque subplot in which some dude rescues a babe from a nearby hacienda. That aspect shows no excitement or intrigue; it feels tacked-on and superfluous. Still, Arena’s very sexy, so I won’t complain too much.

This Deluxe Edition includes almost all the supplements from the 2001 Special Edition. It loses only some text production notes found in that set’s booklet. Note that the DE provides a voucher for either $7.50 off of a Legend of Zorro movie ticket or one of a few different DVDs. Usually these coupons expire pretty quickly, but this one’s good through March 2006! That’s because it will allow you a discount on the DVD of Legend of Zorro. I like this touch, as it makes the coupon useful for a much longer period than normal.

The Mask of Zorro isn’t a classic film, but I felt it provided a fun and exciting affair. It benefited from good acting and some solid action pieces that helped compensate for a mildly generic quality. The DVD offers very strong picture and sound, and it adds a smattering of decent supplements crowned by an excellent audio commentary.

Except for the DTS mix, I see little reason for folks who don’t own any Mask of Zorro DVD to grab the old one. Should fans who already have that set get this new version? No. It adds almost nothing new, so why bother? The 2005 Mask is a good value for new purchasers, though, especially if they plan to see Legend.

To rate this film visit the review of THE MASK OF ZORRO: Special Edition