In the year 1820, Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Powers – The Razor's Edge, Rawhide) is called back from Madrid by his father, Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love – The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Prince and the Pauper). He finds that his father has been forced out as the 'alcalde' (mayor) of Los Angeles by Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone – We're No Angels, Dressed to Kill), who has installed Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg – Phantom of the Opera, Jesse James) in his place. Quintero is a corrupt alcalde and has been taxing the people at an extremely high rate. Don Alejandro decides that he can do nothing about Quintero, but Don Diego, who has been trained in the army in Spain, decides that he cannot just sit back and do nothing. By day Don Diego plays the useless fop, but by night he dons the black mask and is Zorro. Zorro fights for the people and leaves the letter 'Z' engraved in his enemies' walls, clothes or bodies. Don Diego is trying to get Quintero to resign, move to Spain and to name his father as his successor. Don Diego meets Quintero's niece, Lolita (Linda Darnell – Anna and the King of Siam, Fallen Angel), and is quite taken with her. She, however, will not pay Don Diego any mind because she is quite taken with Zorro. Don Diego has to try and stay one step ahead of the authorities while still trying to win the affection of Lolita.
Tyrone Powers is perfect as Zorro and the rest of the cast aren't too bad either. It is a well-acted film. Powers is funny as the slightly effeminate Don Diego and also very believable as Zorro. The highpoints of the film are the action sequences, which Rouben Mamoulian (Silk Stockings, Summer Holiday) directs with a great eye, imagination and pacing. There is one fantastic sword duel between Powers and Rathbone, which takes place in a very tight area, that is one of the better ones ever filmed. Mamoulian has made what is essentially an action film, but includes everything from romance to anger to dancing to comedy. Despite being shot in black and white there is still a liveliness to the film. The superior score, by Alfred Newman (Airport, The Seven Year Itch), adds a further depth to the film. Pick up this version of The Mark of Zorro; I think it is even better than the Douglas Fairbanks version.
-Commentary by Richard Shickel