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Disney's Zorro on DVD: Season 1 • Season 2

Zorro: The Complete Second Season DVD Review

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Zorro: Season 2 (1958-59)
Show & DVD Details

Directors: William Witney, Charles Barton / Repeat Writers: Lowell S. Hawley, Gene L. Coon, Robert Bloomfield, Bob Wehling; Johnston McCulley (stories) / Producer: William H. Anderson

Regular Cast: Guy Williams (Zorro/Don Diego de la Vega), Henry Calvin (Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia), Gene Sheldon (Bernardo)

Recurring Characters: George J. Lewis (Don Alejandro de la Vega), Don Diamond (Corp. Reyes), Jolene Brand (Ana Maria Verdugo), Carlos Romero (Romero Serrano, Ansar), Eduard Franz (Se๑or Gregorio Verdugo), Nestor Paiva (Innkeeper), John Litel (Governor), Cesar Romero (Estevan de la Cruz), Richard Anderson (Ricardo del Amo), Annette Funicello (Anita Cabrillo, Constancia), George N. Neise (Capitan Felipe Arrellanos), Barbara Luna (Theresa Modesto), Joan Evans (Leonar), Jeff York (Joe Crane), Jonathan Harris (Don Carlos Fernandez), Everett Sloane (Andres Felipe Basilio), Ric Roman (Capitan Briones), Robert J. Wilke (Capitan Mendoza), Perry Lopez (Joaquin Castenada), Edgar Barrier (Don Cornelio Esperon), Patricia Medina (Margarita), Gloria Talbott (Moneta Esperon), Jean Willes (Carlotta), Howard Wendell (Don Marcos Cortazar), Paul Richards (Hernando), Arthur Space (Rafael Gonzales), Ken Lynch (Pablo), Lloyd Corrigan (Sancho), Penny Santon (Cresencia), Douglas Kennedy (Manuel), Frank Wilcox (Luis Rico), Carlos Rivas (Ramondo Ruiz)

Notable Guest Stars: Lee Van Cleef (Antonio Castillo), Michael Forest (Anastacio), Whit Bissell (Comandante Luis del Guerro), John Hoyt (Don Thomas Yorba), Arthur Batanides (Lazaro), Harold J. Stone (Salvio), Mark Damon (Eugenio), Tige Andrews (Nava), Robert Vaughn (Miguel Roverto), Neil Hamilton (Don Hilario), John Zaremba (Magistrado), Tony Russo (Pedro Avila), Booth Colman (Pineda), Joseph Calleia (Padre Simeon), Alex Gerry (Don Sebastian), James Hong (The Prince), Richard Deacon (Father Ignacio), Fintan Meyler (Celesta Villagrana), Suzanne Lloyd (Isabella Linares), Ricardo Montalban (Ramon Castillo)

Running Time: 1,113 Minutes (18 hours, 33 minutes) / Rating: Not Rated

Season 2 Airdates: October 9, 1958 - July 2, 1959; Specials: January 1 - April 2, 1961
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 3, 2009
Six single-sided discs (5 DVD-9s & 1 DVD-5); Suggested Retail Price: $59.99

Buy Season 2 from Amazon.com • Buy Season 1 from Amazon.com

By Aaron Wallace

Each of the last nine decades has seen at least one Zorro movie and most have seen a new TV series as well. Though the hero in disguise has never enjoyed the box office prowess of his web-slinging, grapple-hooking superhero colleagues, his lineage in entertainment is as long as any. Given the dozens of adaptations, it's a little surprising that among the best known is a half-hour, black and white TV series than ran on ABC for just two seasons in the late 1950s.
Simply titled "Zorro", the Walt Disney-produced show made a lasting impact on a generation. Revisiting the program fifty years later, I find myself similarly impressed.

With the modern memory of 1950s television shaped by TV Land and the like, it's all too easy to forget the important role Walt Disney's programming played in the early landscape of the medium. The "Mickey Mouse Club", "Disneyland", and the many serials coming out of the latter have a legacy that spans to the present day, even without the frequent re-airings enjoyed by "I Love Lucy" and others.

The same is true of Disney's version of "Zorro", which was all the rage until Disney voluntarily shelved it in the midst of a rights dispute with ABC. The company more or less left the show (and the character) alone after 1961, save for an oh so brief revival in the '80s and quietly re-airing the original episodes on The Disney Channel in the 1990s and early 2000s. Nevertheless, children of TV's Golden Age fondly recall the swashbuckling adventures of Zorro and Disney's catchy theme for the letter-branding swordsman.

By night, our hero is Zorro, but his day job is that of respected thinker and peacemaker, Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams). Zorro, Zorro, the fox so cunning and free... against the nighttime sky, the picture very briefly loses some detail, but it makes for an awesome silhouette!

Zorro's appeal is easy to understand. By day, he is Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams), a respected man of intellect and diplomacy. By night, he is the eponymous man in black, his secret identity allowing him to fight the injustices of martial law in the nineteenth century Spanish territory of California. He has no special powers, no selfish vendetta. He's merely a man who's handy with a sword and decides to put it to good use. By his side is his servant, Bernardo (Gene Sheldon), a mute but rather animated man who is privy to Diego's nighttime persona and helps out whenever he can.

In many ways, Zorro resembles Batman (or, I should say, Batman resembles Zorro, as Batman came later). While he doesn't fight against a revolving door of card-carrying villains, he is an ordinary man who has devoted both sides of his life to the defense of innocence and justice. Diego wields social influence, Zorro wields an intimidating mystique and finesse with weaponry. As a caped crusader, he operates outside the law, a vigilante. One might even say that Garcia is his Gordon, Bernardo his Alfred.

Disney's "Zorro", however, is neither dark nor surreal. Despite its half-hour format, the show is a drama, its thicker-than-expected plots centered on crime and local politics. The narratives continue from one episode to the next until the completion of one story arc and the onset of another. While the series' first season spaced those arcs out over a rigid span of thirteen episodes each, the second season is more comfortable with ending an arc whenever the time is right and even calling back elements and characters from previous storylines to surface anew in later ones. The show feels fluid and involving as a result.

For a man who can't speak, Diego's assistant Bernardo (Gene Sheldon) has a lot to say! As a new story arc begins, Sgt. Garcia (Henry Calvin) and Corporal Reyes (Don Diamond) join Teresa Modesto (Barbara Luna) in a very catchy song about tamales.

"Zorro" is also very often funny. Though big on conflict, action, and even mild (especially by today's standards) violence, the show's tone stays pretty light throughout. Clever dialogue and visual gags provide humor. Characters will sometimes sing songs. One character in particular, Sgt. Garcia (Henry Calvin), contributes to the warm atmosphere. Though supposedly something of a heel, this officer of the law is too genteel, too impressed by Zorro, and too aloof to be anything more than a reluctant and lovable ally.
After Zorro himself, Garcia commands the most screentime in the show's second season and the spotlight is wise to keep him in its sight.

This is not the kind of TV experience that one can watch only half-engaged and still enjoy. To understand the stories, the audience will need to keep track of unusual names, alliances, and the events of a few episodes prior. Plot points aren't altogether sophisticated or complicated, but they aren't broken down and repeated for the lazy viewer either.

Fortunately, engagement with the series can be extremely rewarding. Like most of Walt Disney's efforts during that time, the quality of the production is extraordinarily high. The acting is consistently strong. The distinctly "1950s TV" score is charming. The sets and costumes are elaborate and detailed. The stories are entertaining, the characters identifiable, and the world unfolding onscreen altogether extremely credible.

Se๑or Verdugo (Eduard Franz) and his daughter Ana Maria (Jolene Brand), are important characters in Season Two of "Zorro", playing prominent roles in several story arcs. Diego's longtime friend, Ricardo del Amo (Richard Anderson), comes to town and strikes up quite the rivalry in the third arc in Season Two.

Though it ran for only two seasons, "Zorro" produced enough episodes to fill nearly four years' worth of a TV series today. After its conclusion, "Zorro" continued in the form of four one-hour installments aired as part of the "Disneyland" series (by then renamed "Walt Disney Presents"). The half-hour episodes were released in Europe and, as a Disney Movie Club exclusive, in their 1990s colorized versions on DVD in the US. For the majority of the Region 1 buying public, however, "Zorro" has been pretty inaccessible for a long time now.

Of course, Disney has a project aimed at making their hard-to-come-by vintage works available for the masses (in very limited quantities): the Walt Disney Treasures. This collectors' line of DVDs has been pumping out productions from Walt Disney's lifetime since 2001.
Eight years later, with much of the most-requested content already available, the studio has gotten more creative and flexible with the Treasures sets. The latest wave brings only two DVD titles, each comprised of six discs. Notably, that makes this the first wave to feature only two titles and the first to include a Treasures set with more than two discs inside it. This is also the first wave without content that is animated, in color, or theatrical in origin -- and the first time that the Treasures line has presented TV material in complete season sets.

Arriving alongside the first season of "Zorro" with the hour-long episodes divided between them is this article's review subject, The Complete Second Season. These massive sets are loaded with content. As they arrived very close to street date, I haven't made my way through everything yet, but all the essentials of this Treasures-changing release are laid out below. Short episode synopses follow, though I've left blank the episodes I haven't gotten through yet and will update them once I've finished.

Bernardo and Don Diego are held up by bandits... bandits who seriously chose the wrong dudes to rob. This is the day you shall always remember as the day you almost caught Don Diego de la Vega. Zorro saves Corporal Reyes and Sergeant Garcia from a sticky situation but gives all sides a fighting chance.

Disc 1

1. Welcome to Monterey (25:40) (Originally aired October 9, 1958)
While on business in Monterey, Diego and Bernardo are held up for some investment money they've been entrusted with. Later, Bernardo is held for ransom. Diego makes a connection between the crimes and a well-known man in the community named Verdugo (Eduard Franz), launching the season's first story arc.

2. Zorro Rides Alone (25:41) (Originally aired October 16, 1958)
Diego hatches a plan to catch Verdugo in his wrongdoing but Garcia and his right-hand man Corporal Reyes (Don Diamond) fall victim to the trap instead. Zorro must come to their rescue. As is often the case, Zorro finds himself defending adversaries and allies alike.

3. Horse of Another Color (25:42) (Originally aired October 23, 1958)
The Verdugo family is targeted when a group of bandits attack a lieutenant and assume his identity in order to fool Sr. Verdugo.

4. The Se๑orita Makes a Choice (25:41) (Originally aired October 30, 1958)
Sr. Verdugo is kidnapped and held hostage. His daughter, Ana Maria (Jolene Brand), returns home to find their hacienda wrecked and one of the bandits, Pablo (Ken Lynch), waiting to warn her that her father's life depends on her silence and a cash payment.

Pablo (Ken Lynch) is not such a nice guy, but a major thorn in Diego and Ana Maria's sides. Luis Rico (left) serves as acting governor but he and Don Diego (right) aren't exactly on the same side of the law. Joaquin Castenada (Perry Lopez) posts a declaration of revenge against Rico.

5. Rendezvous at Sundown (25:41) (Originally aired November 6, 1958)
Another bandit, Serrano (Carlos Romero), brings Sr. Verdugo back to his hacienda in order to collect the money. They find Diego's father, Don Alejandro (George J. Lewis), waiting there. Serrano and Alejandro fight until Zorro arrives. Bad news for Zorro, though: Ana Maria has been taken captive too.

6. The New Order (25:42) (Originally aired November 13, 1958)
A second story arc begins when Garcia relays an order to a lady named Theresa Modesto (Barbara Luna) that she must close down her song-inspiring tamale stand. Theresa refuses but Capitan Briones (Ric Roman), who leads a group of soldiers known as the Especials, enforces the order by coming to destroy her stand.
Diego comes to Teresa's defense, angering her boyfriend, Joaquin Castenada (Perry Lopez). Joaquin changes his tune, though, when the Especials crack down on him too and Diego (and later Zorro) defends him as well.

7. An Eye for an Eye (25:40) (Originally aired November 20, 1958)
Though not the governor, Sr. Luis Rico (Frank Wilcox) was acting in that role when he ordered that the tamale stand come down. Joaquin has made Rico his enemy, gathering some supporters to assist in his crusade. Rico tries to arrest Joaquin and Theresa, killing one of Joaquin's men along the way. Joaquin promises to respond by killing two of Rico's soldiers. Confident that he has at least two disposable men, Rico accepts the collateral cost of capturing the outlaw and sends Garcia and Reyes (unwittingly) to slaughter.

Rico's not too concerned about Joaquin's promise to kill two of Rico's men, telling his officers that they have at least that many that they can do without. In this 1950s Saw scenario, two men who don't like or know each other very much must work together to free one another. Oh no! Don Diego's trapped in jail! Maybe Zorro will come save him... oh, wait...

Disc 2

8. Zorro and the Flag of Truce (25:41) (Originally aired November 27, 1958)
The Governor (John Litel) arrives and Rico convinces him to offer the still-hidden Joaquin a truce if he'll turn himself in, secretly planning to kill Joaquin when he arrives. The Governor agrees but is again deceived after Rico sets a trap for Joaquin.

9. Ambush (25:40) (Originally aired December 4, 1958)
Rico and Joaquin become unexpected allies when both seek to kill the governor. Rico uses Teresa as leverage, however, forcing Joaquin to do his dirty work for him. In a scene that surely must have inspired Saw many years later, Zorro locks both the governor and Joaquin in leg irons and gives each the key to the other man's lock. While the two work to realize that Rico is the real enemy, Zorro goes to save Teresa.

10. The Practical Joker (25:41) (Originally aired December 11, 1958)
The third story arc brings Ana Maria back into the picture. Diego has fallen in love with her but it is unrequited, for she loves another... Zorro. Complicating matters, Diego isn't the only one vying for Ana Maria's affections. His long-time friend, Ricardo del Amo (Richard Anderson), comes into town and is soon smitten with the young lady too. A friendly rivalry ensues, inspiring Ricardo to falsely accuse Diego of horse thievery in order to win over Ana Maria with a good laugh.

11. The Flaming Arrow (25:40) (Originally aired December 18, 1958)
Diego and Ricardo's rivalry takes a turn for the worst when Ricardo disguises himself as Zorro and pretends to be in love with another woman, hoping that jealousy will turn Ana Maria away from the masked avenger. Ricardo is arrested, prompting the real Zorro to rescue him. Ricardo, unfortunately, is far from grateful.

Ricardo (Richard Anderson) prepares to settle his beef with Zorro in a duel... but first, he'll settle his beef with Diego in a flowery white shirt contest. In an isolated, single-episode storyline, a young couple of indentured servants seek permission to marry. The town comes out to admire Sgt. Garcia's one thousand pound iron box, made specially for transporting tax money to the governor.

12. Zorro Fights a Duel (25:40) (Originally aired December 25, 1958)
Ricardo challenges Zorro to a duel. Ricardo is quite the swordsman, but the bigger problem is that Ana Maria wants Diego to watch the duel with her and Garcia asks Diego to help him capture Zorro at the same time.

13. Amnesty for Zorro (25:41) (Originally aired January 1, 1959)
Still jealous of Zorro, Ricardo persuades the governor to offer a one hour window of amnesty,
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during which Zorro will be pardoned for his vigilante crimes if he unmasks himself for all to see. Swayed by his love for Ana Maria, Diego decides to comply, but a mysterious figure in a similar costume arrives to stop him.

14. The Runaways (25:41) (Originally aired January 8, 1959)
Before launching into a fourth story arc, "Zorro" presents a couple of isolated episodes. In this one, Diego provides some matrimonial assistance to two indentured servants, Buena and Romaldo (Gloria Castillo and Tom Pittmann), when Romaldo's master is unwilling to approve of the union.

15. The Iron Box (25:41) (Originally aired January 15, 1959)
Garcia has the brilliant idea of transporting tax money to the governor in a sealed iron box, the key having already been sent to the governor in advance. Unfortunately, the plan doesn't stop the would-be tax thieves, who simply kidnap the blacksmith instead and force him to make a new key.

Disc 3

16. The Gay Caballero () (Originally aired January 22, 1959)

17. Tornado is Missing () (Originally aired January 29, 1959)

18. Zorro Versus Cupid () (Originally aired February 5, 1959)

19. The Legend of Zorro () (Originally aired February 12, 1959)

20. Spark of Revenge () (Originally aired February 19, 1959)

21. The Missing Father () (Originally aired February 26, 1959)

22. Please Believe Me () (Originally aired March 5, 1959)

23. The Brooch () (Originally aired March 12, 1959)

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Reviewed November 10, 2009.