Reaching Lesson Four

Mask of Zorro’s romanticized, pulpy dreamscape embraces golden age Hollywood. Heroes swing on ropes, wave their rapiers, and rescue peasants from overbearing leaders.

Old Hollywood fits. When Errol Flynn did this act, stories often came from recent history. Mask of Zorro sticks with the early 1800s, joyfully energetic in doling out a story of rich, corrupt men seeking to control land as America formed. Gold swindlers, all of them, using slaves (even kids) to steal territory. Impossible villains, perfect heroes; Mask of Zorro harnesses a pulp soul and doesn’t let go.

Zorro becomes a folk hero to the oppressed poor. A mystery man, righting wrongs via precise last-second saves, giving hope to the persecuted crowd. It’s a character from before cinema, and Mask of Zorro feels as such. He’s total fantasy, utterly mysterious, but righteous. His stories spread, his allure infinite, and his deeds certainly exaggerated.

Set against America’s gold rush, Mask of Zorro upsets a national ideology

But he’s a nobody. A skilled nobody, but still nobody. That’s Mask of Zorro’s inspirational spark. Antonio Banderas’ Zorro doesn’t begin a legend, rather a drunk who can’t afford another round. Set against America’s western expansion, the gold rush, and merciless greed, Mask of Zorro upsets a national ideology. People rise up against injustice and inequality if they have someone to guide them. That someone doesn’t need to be special.

Certainly, Mask of Zorro looks elegant. The pure cinema trappings choreograph lavish sword battles, lacing conflict with comedic quips, and ensuring Zorro always gets the girl (an old-fashioned chauvinistic wink in a movie full of them). Direct and familiar, storytelling doesn’t challenge norms, instead embracing them. Actors carry Mask of Zorro. Inspired casting puts Anthony Hopkins and Banderas together. Just considering Hopkins for the role of an aging Zorro is bold. Yet, Hopkins feels comfortable in swatting down egos half his age.

For the finale, a lit fuse sparks its way toward a tunnel stuffed with gunpowder. A creaking wooden mine hosts the battle under southwestern sun. Master and protege pair off, each dueling against their grudge. Mask of Zorro’s calibrated thrills frees slaves and send villains to their deaths in a gold pile, symbolically crushing them in their own greed. An explosion ensures avarice stays buried. Or, until another Zorro is needed. It’s delightfully corny, yet effusive toward vintage cinema’s genius.


A beautiful new 4K master (not shared by the included Blu-ray) graces this edition, restoring Mask of Zorro to a precise luster unseen since its theatrical release. Small grain resolves easily via Sony’s generous encoding; Mask of Zorro’s file size is appreciable.

Lush definition and striking sharpness pair together. Resolution leaves no question this is a true 4K scan; it’s too exacting to be anything less. Facial texture reaches a premium tier, while wide exteriors handle small town sets, from wood grains to concrete. Lavishly decorated interiors spare nothing either, resolving wall art and/or ornamental rugs in hallways.

Fetching color draws the eye, if changed by modern grading. A push toward warmer hues isn’t inherently wrong given the locale, although an undeniable shift from previous releases. Primaries still excel, vibrant in their intensity. Expect a warm wash over them though. Rarely is this egregious enough to cause concern, but notable.

While marginal black crush does seep into shadows, blame partly falls on the black cloaks and costumes at the source. Image density spares nothing in keeping depth intact. Mask of Zorro mostly plays out under sun, pushing highlights to fantastic extremes. Silver swords reflect light, and individual sweat beads catch the same brightness. Candles glisten too. Overall though, Mask of Zorro receives a hearty push from HDR, and that feels right.


Each rapier clash sends sounds across the stage, sweeping between speakers. Whooshing effects and clanging metal position properly. It’s aggressive material, given added space thanks to Atmos. Almost hyperactive design cleanly separates channels, right on the edge of being overdone. Thankfully, Mask of Zorro’s mixing stays cautious enough to discretely direct splashes at the finale’s water mill, or debris from gunshots. Overheads play nicely, whether in crowds or even the score. Listen during the dance sequence where music fills and spreads into the heights.

Opening credits catch fire, instantly establishing high volume and high range. Spectacular low-end support pays heed to horses chasing one another, guns fire with force, and multiple explosions dig in for superb rumble. The latter is especially true for the final blast.


On the UHD, new deleted scenes run nine minutes total. The rest stays exclusive to the Blu-ray, so ancient as to preview the 2005 sequel, Legend of Zorro. An unfortunate trend keeps the director’s commentary on the Blu-ray instead of both formats. Unmasking Zorro spends 45-minutes on the character and this movie’s production. A few more deleted scenes follow.

The Mask of Zorro
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Embracing the character’s pulp origins with no restrictions, Mask of Zorro is a delight that holds up thanks to the inspired casting.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 57 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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