Sunday, April 24, 2016

In short: Zorro (1975)

Young Miguel de la Serna (Marino Masé) comes to Mexico to not just take on the post of provincial governor his uncle left him by dying of the kind of malaria that comes from the edge of a blade but to do so as a beacon of justice and righteousness. Alas, he is murdered before he can even reach his province, dying in the arms of his old friend, the rather more worldly and cynical master fencer Don Diego (Alain Delon). Diego – perhaps after some exciting reading of Icelandic sagas? – is all pumped up to take bloody vengeance on the people responsible, but Miguel’s last wish is that his friend take his vengeance by restoring order and justice in the province without killing anyone. So Diego does the obvious and goes undercover as a fake, buffoonish dandy new governor whom it is pretty difficult not to read as a gay stereotype, an approach that certainly keeps evil Colonel Huerta (Stanley Baker), a man so evil milk probably curdles through his sheer presence, far from suspicious.

Thanks to the inspiration of a little orphan boy (no idea who plays him, alas), Diego dresses up as the local legendary protector of all that is good, Zorro, and starts to swashbuckle Huerta and his men into submission.
Unfortunately, I’m not really the ideal audience for Duccio Tessari’s version of Zorro. I may not be the kind of guy anymore who isn’t able to enjoy an adventure comedy at all, but this thing feels as if someone had seen Richard Lester’s Musketeers and only seen the slapstick, leaving out the films’ particular ideas of historical veracity, its dark sides, as well as the sheer verve of it all. Which leaves us with a Zorro film that is basically all slapstick all the time - and it’s the kind of slapstick that only misses somebody doing the old banana peel thing.

It’s about on the level of the more childish Bud Spencer and Terence Hill movies, a series of films Zorro’s further reminds me of by its incessant use of its horrible (and alas earworm-y) title song whenever Zorro appears. “Here’s to being free, here’s to you and me, la la la la la la, Zorro’s back” until brain and ears bleed. And you’ll really hear it a lot, because this thing is nearly two hours long, not exactly ideal for a low brow comedy.

However, it may very well be this’ll be perfectly fun for people not-me. At least, Alain Delon looks as if he’s having a blast (and how often have you seen that in a career spent looking coldly disinterested?), and Tessari knows how to choreograph his slapstick action.

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