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The Mask Of Zorro
Special Edition

review by Zach B.


Rated PG-13

Running Time: 137 minutes

Starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher

Screenplay by John Eskow and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Story by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Randall Jahnson

Directed by Martin Campbell


Studio: Columbia/Tristar

Retail Price: $27.95

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Martin Campbell, "Unmasking Zorro" Documentary, Deleted Scenes, Costume Desgins, Music Video, Talent Files, TV Spots, Publicity Photo Portraits, Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles,Scene Selections (28 Scenes), Two-Disc Set

Released: September 25th, 2001

Come now and let us journey back to the summer of 1998. Oh, what a summer it was for movies. "Mulan" was a pretty big success for Disney, "Armageddon" was the smash hit and "The Mask Of Zorro" feel somewhere in between. While the film scored big box office, it was backed up with a good deal of hype and positive buzz. Critics did enjoy it, and "The Mask Of Zorro" became a fast crowd pleaser. With its stellar cast, great action and sharp writing, this new breed of "Zorro" was supposed to start a new franchise for Columbia/Tristar. Unfortunately, those plans still seem to be suspended in motion. While I await a sequel, Columbia/Tristar has gone back to rerelease the film on DVD in a cool special edition.

So what's the plot of this new Zorro? We begin in nineteenth century Mexico, where the old Zorro, AKA Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), was a hero to all against the evil Montero. However, right before the liberation of Mexico, Montero learns who Zorro really is and invades his home. Accidentally killing his wife (who Montero also loved), Montero kidnaps Diego's daughter (by claiming her for his own) and holds Don Diego captive. Twenty years pass, and Don Diego escapes his imprisonment with intent on reclaiming his daughter and seeks his revenge. Don Diego soon meets up with Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), a man who did help Diego long ago. Diego agrees to train Alejandro as the new masked man, where they must stop Montero from taking total control of California.

"The Mask Of Zorro" is pure popcorn entertainment, and in my opinion, one of the best of those movies from the 1990s. I remember there being a good drought a few years ago for a classic, action adventure movie that used a script and its characters, plus classic stunts instead of overusing special effects. But I think what makes "The Mask Of Zorro" succeed is that it features so many great elements, plus a well developed and entertaining story and fuses them together. That's right, this movie is not some usual jumbled mess as an excuse for cool action sequences, but really has a magnificent edge to it.

The screenplay, written by John Eskow and Ted Elliott as well as Terry Rossio (the two a duo who have worked on a good deal of animation screenplays) is pretty fantastic. They develop a good sense of the characters, and develop them and their motives well leading to good tensions and confrontations. They also know how to have fun with their writing, creating interesting situations and writing up good action packed scenes. There's a good balance to what is written here. They have plot elements, and in between action scenes, so two different audiences won't be bored very long during periods of time. But if you like a good story and good action, then you won't complain at all.

I believe so much of the movie works due to its charismatic cast who are energetic and have good chemistry between them. Antonio Banderas was simply born to play Zorro, capturing the excitement and strength of the fighter. Not to mention Alejandro is flawed himself, so Banderas captures the vulnerability as well and the character's mindset improves as the movie goes along. Anthony Hopkins brings his usual graceful touch as Don Diego, serving as a fine and wise mentor to Alejandro. And of course, Catherine Zeta Jones, in her breakthrough role, is a great love interest and holds her own.

Yet what all ties it together is Martin Campbell's astounding direction. The movie lasts over two hours, but it doesn't feel that long. Besides capturing great shots and editing the movie well, there's a great flow to it making it feel fleshed out, developed and it goes along at the right pace. It never goes too fast but it never drags either. Not to mention the climatic finale and stunts, which Campbell seems to have directed with ease. Adding its own flair is James Horner's memorable, zesty and catchy score that fits the movie so well.

So there you have it. "The Mask Of Zorro" is quite a good movie, and this special edition finally does it justice. After delays and delays, and the fact the content was available in other regions, I must say, plus the inclusion of a DTS track, made it all worth it. Sit back and enjoy!

Columbia/Tri-Star should please everyone here, as the film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen in this set (one transfer for each disc). Each transfer are quite incredible, so take your preferred viewing aspect ratio. Though this release is not THX certified, the widescreen transfer seems to be same as the one from the older DVD version, which was THX certified (and did not include the full frame transfer). Colors are bold and striking, giving off a mesmerizing picture with the variety of Spanish-flavored hues to make this new legend of Zorro come to life. Color saturation is amazing, while blacks are deep and bold, and detail is rather fantastic. Now and then there is a blemish or scratch, but that's a rare case and they are never distracting. The sharpness of these transfers are amazing, and while there can be grain, there's so much visual fair it's not really noticeable. I didn't see any shimmering or noise either. These are rather illustrious, though slightly flawed transfers. Though do go for the widescreen version... I hate full frame (of course), and during some key scenes you do lose a good deal of the picture. Still, there is very little to complain about. Slight edge enhancement, while the glorious interior and exterior locations look amazing.


On both transfers you'll find stunning English Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes that simply scream reference quality. James Horner's catchy, thrilling and highly original score is well mixed through the channels, while the swords clanging and swishing give off a really incredible effect. The intense finale, crowds cheering, explosions and big fight scenes really put you directly in the action. .1 LFE is booming, while no sounds are distorted and retain a good balance. You can hear everything without one element overpowering the other. The two come really close when put directly head to head, but I must say I did prefer the DTS a little bit more. I felt the DTS had better dynamic range in some respects, not to mention I felt it had a bit more power in it. It felt more full and had more subtle sounds. There's just a great amount of momentum and all of it feels so natural. Also included is a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track, English subtitles, French subtitles, Spanish subtitles and English closed captions.

Originally released as a bare bones disc nearly three years ago, it would only be a matter of time before "The Mask Of Zorro" would be revisited, considering Columbia/Tristar's track record to remake titles, and the fact there has been a special edition in other regions.

On both discs we have an Audio Commentary with Director Martin Campbell. This is a rather strong commentary, as Campbell is relaxed and poised. Right when the film begins, he starts talking and just doesn't seem to stop offering information about everything. No pauses... he just goes on and on, which is a very good thing. From the opening titles, to his cast to James Horner, Campbell is very enthusiastic and offers a good deal of praise for his cast and crew, not to mention Steven Spielberg's own story ideas that made it into the movie. Very well done. If you liked the movie, this is really worth a listen.

The documentary Unmasking Zorro is included, and is even divided into sixteen chapter stops. This forty-five minute documentary is superbly done, and is not very promotional at all. Besides, your usual clips from the movie and behind-the-scenes footage, stills and interviews are used. This documentary is one of the most in-depth I've seen on DVD, as it has a variety of interviews. President of Zorro productions, historians on the character, Campbell, Banderas and just a ton of people to give an exciting and really cool look at the history of the character and making the movie. This is a must-watch, as you'll learn about the stunts, the sword fighting, the locations, the sound and the controversial original ending (which can be found on this DVD).

With that said, there are two Deleted Scenes in non-anamorphic widescreen and below average quality, while the editing seems to be done on the film, the sound effects aren't quite complete it seems. You have "The Wallel" and "The Resolution." The latter is the original ending, but, after test audiences viewed the movie, they didn't like it as far as accpeting a character's death so they changed it.

There's a nifty Costume Designs section where you can read a nice text introduction, then see a comparison of the film costumes to the original designs, watch the Marc Anthony and Tina Arena "I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You" Music Video and read the Talent Files.

Rounding it all out is the Advertising Materials section, where you can view Publicity Photo Portraits, view no less than twelve TV Spots and watch the Theatrical Teaser and Theatrical Trailer. And like usual, sweet production notes are in the keep case insert.

"The Mask Of Zorro" is wonderful popcorn entertainment. This DVD delivers reference quality audio and great transfers. While this special edition is not jammed packed, there's a good amount of into on creating the movie. It's worth the upgrade if you own the original, but if you never owned it, jump at your chance right here.

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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