When a young Spaniard finds his hometown squeezed by the high taxes of an authoritarian government, he responds in the guise of the masked-hero Zorro. [ The Mark of Zorro credits: Dir: Don McDougall/ Frank Langella, Ricardo Montalban, Gilbert Roland/ 78 min/ Action-Adventure/ Anti-Taxation, Corrupt Government]
Zorro: “It is not theft to steal from a thief. It is merely irony. It is not murder to defend one’s self against uniformed terrorists posing as soldiers.” —Soldier: “What an audacious fellow. He pits himself, one man, against the state.” That’s pretty libertarian dialogue, and it’s indicative of what this retelling of the classic adventure is all about.
The story begins when our young hero, while attending school in Spain, receives news of trouble at home in California. He returns to find that an oppressive local government has taken control and is inflicting high taxes upon the citizenry. So, while feigning foppishness and physical weakness to allay suspicions, he robs the tax collectors, returns the gold to its rightful owners in the guise of Zorro, and ultimately participates in a rebellion.
If all that sounds familiar, that’s because this is almost a scene-for-scene remake of the 1940 (Rouben Mamoulian) telling of the Zorro legend. This made-for-TV production also borrows much from the earlier in terms of music and set design. However, unlike that much-lauded film, direction and acting here are just average, and the whole thing has more the flavor of a television show.
Still, taken on its own merits, The Mark of Zorro is a fair watch, and it makes points libertarians will appreciate. Robert Middleton, who earned fame playing jolly evil characters, is notable as the corrupt, grasping head of the government.