In the 1920s Douglas Fairbanks started his series of historical super-spectacles with The Mark of Zorro, a tale of early California under Spanish rule, adapted from Johnston McCulley’s story, The Curse of Capistrano. In the remake [adapted by Garrett Fort and Bess Meredyth] 20th-Fox inducts Tyrone Power into the lead spot.
The colorful background, detailing Los Angeles as little more than a pueblo settlement under the Spanish flag, is utilized for some thrilling melodramatics. In the early portion picture drags considerably, but once it gets up steam, it rolls along with plenty of action and, despite its obvious formula of hooded Robin Hood who terrorizes the tax-biting officials of the district to finally triumph for the peons and caballeros, picture holds plenty of entertainment.
Power is not Fairbanks (the original screen Hood) but, fortunately, neither the script nor direction forces him to any close comparison. He’s plenty heroic and sincere in his mission.
After an extensive education in the Spanish army in Madrid, Power returns to California to find his father displaced as Alcalde of Los Angeles by thieving J. Edward Bromberg. Latter, with aid of post captain Basil Rathbone and his command, terrorizes the district and piles on burdensome taxes. Power embarks on a one-man Robinhoodian campaign of wild riding and rapier-wielding to clean up the situation and restore his father to his rightful position. And there’s a sweet romance with Linda Darnell, niece of Bromberg, who is unsympathetic to his policies.
Sword duel between Power and Rathbone, running about two minutes, is a dramatic highlight.
1940: Nomination: Best Original Score