Monday, November 9, 2009

DVD Review: Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro - The Complete First Season and The Complete Second Season

Walt shows 'em how it's done

A great philosopher once said that there was nothing new under the sun. Although the stories we tell are ever renewed thru human creativity and evolving culture, the essence of the tales remains the same. In the present day, the phenomenon of the Hollywood blockbuster attempts to lay claim to being the ultimate story but very often resorts to dressing up mediocrity with glitz and leaves the viewer feeling empty and cheated. Similarly, TV viewers have never had more programming choices but still manage to exclaim "nothing's on!" (thank God for Tivo and video on demand...) For this very reason it can be tremendously compelling to revisit a timeless classic of moving pictures such as Zorro.

So here we have the two box sets of the late 1950's Zorro TV series released as part of Disney's Treasures line. Today's viewers might find the black and white images off-putting but that's about the only hurdle a generation X or Y viewer would have to surmount to sink their teeth into this masterpiece. For this is a tale that has been told and re-told countless times, from Robin Hood to Batman: the swashbuckling masked hero who swoops in to put an end to tyranny and deliver the oppressed. In our world of creaky legal systems and dubious political machinations, most everyone has wished to be able to take up the sword and cut a swath thru the injustices of those who abuse the power they possess. Like few other incarnations of the vigilante, Zorro embodies this ideal with flair, finesse and goodness.

From the opening strains of the unbelievably snappy theme song, the viewer is transported to the wild west, forgetting their surroundings and immersing themselves in the world of 1820's California. Right from the get go, Walt Disney and his crack team of storytelling magicians enchant us with excellent production, perfect pacing, engrossing storytelling, humour and adventure. It makes you want to take a crappy film or TV director, strap him in a chair and force him to watch all thirty-some hours of this series in one sitting to make him realize how crummy his work is. Zorro is so good it immediately puts tons of other quasi-adventurous celluloid dross to shame.

Leading man Guy Williams simply devours the scenery as Zorro, enough to make you wonder why some modern actors get as much credit as they do. Williams has a charismatic gleam in his eye without being overwrought. He has that dashing flair that is so instantly recognizable but nearly impossible to emulate. You love him as Don Diego, you love him as Zorro. And he's surrounded by a head-spinningly good cast. It seems that dear old Walt spared no expense to bring these gems to the small screen.

Although of appeal to collectors, I feel that the Zorro pins, promo pictures and certificate of authenticity included in the sets are rather unnecessary, bordering on wasteful. Really, what is someone going to do with a Zorro pin, much less two Zorro pins?

And is anyone truly going to want one set but not the other? I mean, the show is 50 years old for crying out loud, just make a single mega-set. I suppose the Disney execs have got to make a living somehow, so I'll allow them their packaging prerogative.

And really truly, is slapping a blue-screen copyright notice before the main menu going to change anyone's behaviour? Can you imagine a 15-year-old saying... "oh man, I was totally gonna rip the DVD's and post them as torrents until I saw that copyright notice"? I mean the warning is on the DVD box already, why do I need to sit thru it each time?

It's almost a shame that the Disney name is usually associated with animation and theme parks in the mind of the casual fan, because Zorro is the sort of masterpiece for which it has earned its legendary standing in pop culture. Kudos to Disney for taking the time and care to restore these visual delights and have them placed in their proper cultural context by the fascinating Leonard Maltin. I'll take this over half-baked remakes and derivatives any day.


Street Date: November 3, 2009

MSRP: $59.99 each set

Adam Paige
Review Editor

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