Yesterday afternoon, my girls and I sat down for a movie. My youngest – who is 4, let’s call her Smiley – is usually game for anything. My eldest – 6 and known as the Princess – is very sensitive about any kind of conflict or suffering, physical or emotional. I chose the 1940 Tyrone Powers vehicle, the Mark of Zorro.
A few weeks ago, the three of us had watched Errol Flynn’s the Adventures of Robin Hood. The girls loved it. The fighting and conflict were bearable for the Princess, though only with daddy there to snuggle against. The movie is also easily reducible to bad guys and good guys. We all really enjoyed the swashbuckling adventure, though daddy really wished they had made some different costume choices.
The Mark of Zorro is much like the Adventures of Robin Hood. The bad guys are easy to point out, and the good guys are easy to cheer for. The problem encountered by my girls was the concept of a secret identity. They had a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that Diego Vega and Zorro were the same guy. I think they had figured it out by the end after a few explanations.
These old swashbucklers are perfect for the girls right now. The characters are drawn with very little depth. I’ve never needed deep characters if the story is light and the action is fun, which is true for both of these swashbucklers. The fighting is relatively bloodless, though (do I need spoilers for a 73-year old movie? Spoilers) when Basil Rathbone dies in the Mark of Zorro, there is dark liquid involved.
On the whole, I enjoyed both of these movies. I think there was at least one odd story choice in the Mark of Zorro, and the discussion of a 17-year old girl happily marrying a character in his mid-twenties is disturbing for a 21st century viewer, and even moreso for a father of two beautiful young ladies, but it is still an engaging, enjoyable and exciting movie. No one has yet topped Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood for fun action, and I have a doubt that anyone ever will. Modern action is much more visceral, choreographed and exciting, yes, but they lack the heady exuberance that fills every frame of the Adventures of Robin Hood.
I give the Mark of Zorro 4.5 slashes out of 5, and I give the Adventures of Robin Hood 4.75 arrows out of 5 (losing that .25 only due to the costumes, which I have a hard time taking seriously).