As someone whose bookshelf still contains the Penguin Classics edition of Johnston McCulley’s 1919 novel, “The Curse of Capistrano,” as well as a hardback of Isabel Allende’s 2005 “Zorro,” I’m drawn to many adaptations of Mexico’s mysterious, masked rider, no matter the medium. Although it lasted four seasons, Family Channel’s early-’90s television series is not one of them.
But I know the show has its ardent fans, as there are hard-core Zorro-ites out there who go nuts for anything featuring the character, much like the continuing followers of Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan. They’ll likely embrace this 15-disc box set from A&E Home Video, which I’ll admit is rather attractively packaged.
Donning the ever-swishing sword in the series is Duncan Regehr (perhaps best-known as Dracula in the ’80s cult comedy “The Monster Squad”). Now set in California, yet shot in Spain, this Zorro alternately pines for Victoria (Patrice Martinez) and duels with Alcalde (Michael Tylo) throughout the half-hour episodes.
But the adventure is a dud, beginning with an atrocious theme song that only emphasizes the production’s cheesy nature. Just because you’re on the Family Channel doesn’t mean you have to be neutered, but that’s what this version feels like. Compare it to the more recent Antonio Banderas films or even Disney’s beloved 1950s series to see how much fuego this squeaky-clean project lacks.
However, I can recommend it for the Zorro faithful, thanks to the set’s bonus disc, “The Zorro Archives,” which contains a treasure trove of miscellany, including the silent swashbuckler that started it all, 1920’s “The Mark of Zorro,” starring the legendary Douglas Fairbanks. More fun is the first chapter of the old-school serial “Zorro’s Fighting Legion”; one wishes the rest were here as well, but perhaps they had to be shuttered to make room for the series unaired pilot — with a different actor, Patrick James, in the iconic role — and a handful of vintage trailers from the hero’s early screen adventures. —Rod Lott