You know you are in for a weird 70s-style camp treat when you see French heartthrob Alain Delon galloping his horse aimlessly across what almost seems to be a weird hilly moonscape, while pausing occasionally to let the camera zoom in to highlight his pretty face. Problem is, it is hard to truly look like a badass when your straw, wide-brimmed hat hanging off your neck keeps blowing to the side in your face while the soundtrack blasts the oft-recurring theme song for the movie.
I have to take a moment to acknowledge this somewhat amazing theme song, that I think showed up in my dreams last night. The artist is named Oliver Onions, for one thing (is this a bad spaghetti Western translation?), and the main lyrics go like this, “Here’s to being free la la la la la la Zorro’s back! Here’s to flying high la la la la la la Zorro’s back!” (repeat) It makes you want to laugh in disbelief and scream at the same time. This would have made an excellent theme song for a 70s kids show… the type that would make an adult wake up in a cold sweat at night when it enters their nightmares.
Moving on. In a bit of an origin tale, we see how Delon’s Diego turns from a sword-fighting killer into a fighter for the poor and downtrodden. His buddy, the soon-to-be-governor of the South American territory is assassinated and dies in his arms. Diego takes his friend’s ring, and vows to not kill again and to take his place.
In the meantime, Col. Huerta (Stanley Baker) is attempting to rule the land with military might, so is none-too-pleased to see the new governor (who he thought his men had killed), show up and take his place in the palace. Delon plays the governor in a foppish, flighty and broadly fey way, practically making a pass at the Colonel. But the Colonel doesn’t know that secretly the governor is the mysterious fighter who has shown up in town to protect the poor and downtrodden. A man who the people call… Zorro!
There is a forgettable love interest, and there is lots of over-the-top, slapstick swordfighting scenes that seem to happen in slow motion compared to action scenes today. There is an actor named Moustache (Yes! One name, like Cher!) who plays the fat, moustache-twirling bad guy who falls over onto stacks of chickens and such. And there is a cute kid and a mute to add some comic sympathy I suppose.
Zorro is a harmless if quite forgettable film. It goes on for a long two hours, which means there is plenty of time to go and get snacks without stopping the movie. There is no emotional investment needed, other than marvelling at how truly good-looking Alain Delon was in his prime. He seems to be having a great time, and is the only thing making this version of Zorro worth a peek for the curious.
The film has been restored to its original 120 minutes, and remastered for the 2012 DVD/Blu-Ray release. Extras include trailers, radio and TV promotional spots, stills from the movie, and a bio on Delon and director Duccio Tessari.