Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Bold Caballero
I've been a Zorro fan almost as far back as I can remember, starting with the Guy Williams TV version, but I'd never seen this 1936 feature film until now. It stars Robert Livingston, probably best known for playing Stony Brooke in a bunch of Three Mesquiteer movies, as Don Diego Vega, who in this version is a poor but charming adventurer rather than a Spanish aristocrat. And of course he's also the masked rogue/hero Zorro.
The film opens with Zorro about to be hanged by the brutal Spanish commandant, played by Sig Ruman in an odd performance in which the character comes across as part bumbling comedy relief, part ruthless psychopath. Strange it may be, but it's effective. Anyway, Zorro escapes the gallows, of course, and then a new Spanish governor shows up in California, accompanied by his daughter (Heather Angel, British accent and all, even though she's supposed to be a Spanish noblewoman). The governor is murdered in short order, Zorro is framed for the killing, and the beautiful orphaned daughter takes over as the new governor and vows to hunt him down.
The script by Wells Root (who also directed) is fairly complex and has some nice lines. The photography is pretty good, although I watched the black-and-white version, rather than the "thrilling natural color' version mentioned on the poster above. The acting is adequate at best. I've never been much of a Robert Livingston fan. The movie also gets a little bogged down in the middle with too much silliness. But overall things move along nicely and there's some excellent stunt work here and there, leading up to a big battle at the end that finds Zorro fighting off a bunch of Spanish soldiers by using a couple of flaming arrows as if they were swords. That's a really nice scene.
So in the end I found THE BOLD CABALLERO to be worth watching, especially if you're a Zorro fan. And it put me in the mood to read some more of Johnston McCulley's Zorro stories, as well. Will I find the time? We'll see.