PictureThe Mask of Zorro comes to UK Region-Free Blu-ray with a great 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Detail is excellent throughout, from the classic ‘old’ Zorro opening setpiece, to the closing goldmine sequences, retaining clarity on these longer shots – irrespective of the crowds of people depicted in them – as well as on the close-ups. It’s often freeze-frame and look-on-in-awe standard, and a decent amount of depth even leads to some 3D-pop qualities. The colour scheme is largely of the sun-drenched New Mexico variety, i.e. golden browns, deep mahogany woods, and often dusty environments, but the richness and authenticity of all of the tones offered is superb, up to and including the black levels, which are strong and solid throughout. There are, admittedly, a few instances where the blacks seem to absorb some of the surrounding image content, but these are negligible. And the fine sheen of grain permeating the production only lends it that suitable filmic quality essential for any decent ‘movie’, especially one as classic in tone as this. Almost reference quality, this is a very nice rendition indeed, probably easily the best the movie has looked.
SoundThe accompany aural track for The Mask of Zorro is similarly great, presenting the movie with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 offering which has few faults. Driven by Horner’s rip-roaring score, which energises every single scene with rousing pomp and glory, it’s an engaging track which is totally integral to the enjoyment factor of the movie. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, from Hopkins’ measured and witty repartee to Banderas’ gruff grumbles. Effects are myriad, ranging from those that are more ambient – keen focus on the bustling crowds and changing weather conditions – to musket-blasts echoing across the sound-stage and the twanging clash of metal-upon-metal as Zorro shows off his skills with a rapier. A nice bass level rounds off a superior aural rendition of the movie, which brings out the best in this engaging action-adventure, and again treads a fine line bordering on reference quality.
ExtrasThe Mask of Zorro comes to UK Blu-ray with the same bunch of Extras that graced the US Blu-ray released last year.
First up we get a full-length Audio Commentary from the Director Martin Campbell. Whilst quite reserved and occasionally dry, his offering is fairly interesting, providing lots of trivia about bit-part actors, and crowd extras, some background into the script and how they visually brought it to the screen this way, talk about John Barry’s excellent score, using real Flamenco dancers to do the foot-taps, observations about the difficulties of shooting the majority of the movie on location and a few nicer, more interesting anecdotes, like how Hopkins joked on release that he had done all of the stunts himself, how the actors learnt swordfighting for the roles (including Hopkins), and about the amount of input Spielberg had into both the script and the style of the production. Nice, but not compelling, despite the fact that fans will want to trawl through it for every last titbit of information.
Unmasking Zorro is a comprehensive making-of Documentary that runs at 45 minutes in length and covers just about every aspect of the production in (arguably) a far more organised and, visually, interesting way than the Commentary. Examining the iconic swashbuckler himself, and his Century-old origins, as well as his various incarnations, we get an extensive look at the production itself as well, detailing how they put it together, the original ideas, storyboarding them, making it come to life, and editing it into the final cut.
There are but two Deleted Scenes, totalling an extra five minutes in footage. The first shows Banderas’ thief doing what he does best – stealing – and Hopkins’ exiled Zorro not being impressed by it. Very inconsequential, it really had no place in the movie, and was wisely excised. The second scene would have come at the very end of the movie, I guess, and resolves some of the more political aspects of the story. Interesting to check out, but you can see why they removed it as it is a little anticlimactic after the eventful climax, and leaves things on a dry note.
We also get a Music Video by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena – “I want to spend my lifetime loving you” as well as two extras related to the sequel, which is no doubt winging its way to Blu-ray in the UK, and has been out in the US for some time: The Legend of Zorro Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek, and a short scene from the movie, featuring Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas fending off some foes together.
VerdictThe Mask of Zorro just works. Casino Royale Director Martin Campbell is no stranger to popular franchise names, and, off the back of his first Bond reboot, Goldeneye, succeeds on every level with bringing the Zorro legend to the Big Screen in 1995’s The Legend of Zorro. He perfectly infuses his overlapping story arcs, solid characterisation and grand set-pieces with a warm sense of derring-do. Although dark enough for adult sensibilities, this is still a great family fun film, a true classic-style adventure, driven by Anthony Hopkins’s presence and Banderas’s energy, and assisted by the chemistry between the latter and the delectable Catherine Zeta Jones – here in her prime. Rounding the package out with a rip-roaring James Horner score, the film has remained great entertainment for over a decade and may just, with the passage of time, grow into something of a timeless classic.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get an identical offering to the US counterpart, but that’s no real issue considering the video and audio are near-reference quality, and the extras are a decent package to accompany the film. Fans should definitely pick this up to add to their collection, newcomers should start here and then consider whether to invest in the sequel. Honestly, if you miss these kinds of period action-adventure romps because, these days, they are just no more fun, then it is time to revisit a near modern classic, and one of the last of its breed. Recommended.
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