Mask of Zorro, The (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Sep 24, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Mask of Zorro, The (4K UHD Review)

Director

Martin Campbell

Release Date(s)

1998 (May 5, 2020)

Studio(s)

TriStar Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: C+

The Mask of Zorro (4K-UHD Disc)

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Review

Before the Pirates of the Caribbean series repopularized the swashbuckler genre, films with similar elements were few and far between. Two personal favorites, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Mask of Zorro, were released prior to Johnny Depp’s mega pirate franchise, but with not nearly the same amount of staying power. The Mask of Zorro was also the first time the character had been seen on movie screens in decades (portrayed splendidly by Antonio Banderas). With direction by Martin Campbell, who had just come off the huge success of Goldeneye, the film saw enough of a box office take to eventually get the late sequel treatment several years later.

Nobleman Don De La Vega (Anthony Hopkins), the original Zorro, stands in the way of Governor Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson) and his rule over the people of California during the Mexican War of Independence. Once De La Vega’s secret identity is discovered, Don Rafael’s men murder his wife and throw him into prison, with Don Rafael stealing his newborn daughter to raise as his own. Many years later, the wanted bandit Alejandro (Antonio Banderas) witnesses the death of his brother Joaquin after being tracked down by Captain Love (Matt Lescher). Love is also the right-hand man of Don Rafael, who has returned to California after years abroad. Now escaped from prison, De La Vega has also come back, but enlists the help of Alejandro to stop Don Rafael and the other Dons from using slave labor to dig the gold from land owned by General Santa Anna, which they intend to buy out from under him. De La Vega trains Alejandro to take his place as the new Zorro, facing Don Rafael and Captain Love head on, but De La Vega must also reconcile with his daughter Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is currently unaware of her true parentage.

The Mask of Zorro holds up as a quality piece of popcorn entertainment. The sword fights are some of the best in modern cinema (thanks in no small part to the late, great Bob Anderson) and the story, though a tad cliched, is paid off well. The only real flaw of the film is actually at the beginning. We’re dropped into a story without being given all of the details, making certain events feel clunkier than they should. It’s never clear how Don Rafael discovers De La Vega’s secret identity. He merely appears and orders his men to arrest him, but having a hint as to how he came by this information would make the scene make a little more sense. It’s also odd that Don Rafael pines for De La Vega’s wife, which frankly comes out of nowhere. It feels a bit like the end of a previous episode of a TV show, rather than the start of a film. Outside of that, there’s little to complain about. It’s a fun take on the character that takes itself seriously enough while also leaving room for humor.

The Mask of Zorro was shot photochemically on 35 mm film using Arriflex 35 and Moviecam Compact cameras with Cooke Xtal Express anamorphic lenses. It was finished on film in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Presented here is a native 4K restoration of the original camera negative that has been graded for color with high dynamic range (HDR10 is available on this disc). It’s an astonishing presentation—easily the best the film has ever looked on home video. The depth of the image is outstanding, from the smallest of skin imperfections to the abundantly-detailed wardrobe. Light organic grain allows for a natural film-like appearance, while the HDR pass brings out all the richness in the color palette, from the lush interiors of Don Rafael’s home to Zorro’s underground training lair, not to mention the vast desert environments filled with various rocky landscapes. The dungeon in the beginning of the film, as well as the various night scenes, feature extraordinary shadow detail and inky deep blacks. Much more vibrant than its hi-def predecessor, this 4K presentation is absolutely demo-worthy material.

The main audio track is presented in English Dolby Atmos, which is English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible. It too is a powerhouse, giving the quieter, dialogue-driven moments plenty of volume, while excelling at music and sound effects. The subtlest of moments within the score come through with perfect clarity, while the sound effects slice through the soundstage all around you. Panning and directional effects are lively and engaging, with the overhead channels used mostly to give the stage a nice bit of lift and extension. Whether it’s the cracking of Zorro’s whip, the clanging of swords, or the impressive explosions during the finale, the dynamics are incredible, rattling and booming when needed and simmering down when not. Other audio options include English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 DTS-HD, as well as Czech, Hindi, Hungarian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (Latin American), Thai, and Turkish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.

Also included in the package is the original Blu-ray release from 2009, presented with the same 1080p presentation as before. The following extras are included on each disc:

DISC ONE – UHD

  • NEW Deleted Scenes (SD – 10 in all – 8:57)
  • NEW Teaser Trailer #1 (HD – 1:16)
  • NEW Teaser Trailer #2 (HD – 1:46)
  • NEW Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:09)

DISC TWO – BLU-RAY

  • Audio Commentary by Martin Campbell
  • Unmasking Zorro (SD – 45:05)
  • Deleted Scenes (SD – 2 in all – 4:50)
  • I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You Music Video (SD – 4:51)
  • The Legend of Zorro Behind-the-Scenes Sneak Peek (SD – 5:02)
  • Exclusive Scene from The Legend of Zorro (HD – 1:45)
  • Previews: Angels & Demons (HD – 2:14)
  • Previews: It Might Get Loud (HD – 2:26)
  • Previews: The Da Vinci Code (HD – 1:06)
  • Previews: Casino Royale (HD – 1:34)

Why all of the Deleted Scenes were not compiled onto the same disc is strange. Nevertheless, the new additions on the UHD do offer a few interesting trims, including a horse-riding contest between Elena and Captain Love under the disgruntled eye of Don Rafael, De La Vega picking up trinkets around Zorro’s lair to sell for food, De La Vega chastising Alejandro during Don Rafael’s party, more of Don Rafael’s and Don Luiz’s personal dealings with each other, and an alternate version of the moment when De La Vega confronts Don Rafael for the first time. The audio commentary is a very technical but interesting listen as Martin Campbell breathlessly takes us through the making of the film scene by scene, offering plenty of valuable information along the way. Do note that this commentary contains optional subtitles in Spanish and Portuguese. The 45-minute Unmasking Zorro documentary is a nice making-of that speaks to all of the principal players in front of and behind the camera, but mostly focuses on the current incarnation of the script when it was taken over after Robert Rodriguez’s departure. Also included in the package is a Digital code on a paper insert. Missing from the Deluxe Edition DVD release are 2 still galleries and a set of 12 TV spots.

Needless to say, The Mask of Zorro soars in 2160p. The gorgeous cinematography mixed with an enjoyable piece of entertainment make it a perennial watch. The extras selection offers a few new and valuable items of interest, though it feels a bit light overall. Still, this is a reference-quality 4K Ultra HD release that should be of interest to fans of both the film and the format at large.

- Tim Salmons

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