Created by Johnston McCulley, the character of Zorro, the swashbuckling swordsman of Spanish colonial California, first appeared in All-Story Weekly in 1919. Douglas Fairbanks starred in the first film adaptation The Mark of Zorro (1920), which was such a huge hit it compelled McCulley to write over 60 Zorro stories. Zorro appeared in other films and comics, and according to Leonard Maltin who introduces this collection, was an influence on the Lone Ranger and Batman. Walt Disney was the first to bring the Zorro franchise to television.
Wave IX in the "Walt Disney Treasures" series presents the two seasons of Zorro, which starred Guy Williams as Don Diego de la Vega whose secret identity is Zorro. Each season was made up of 39 episodes and aired from 1957 to 1959 on ABC to good ratings until a financial dispute between Disney and the network brought the series to a halt.
Diego returns to Spanish California circa 1820 at the request of his father to help deal with the oppressive territory commander Captain Enrique Sanchez Monasterio. However, Diego hides his skills at fighting and with a rapier and pretends to be a bookworm in an effort to hide his secret identity. The only one who knows is his trusted assistant Bernando, a mute man who also pretends to be deaf in order to spy for Diego. After Monasterio is finally defeated, Zorro has to deal with other foils like Magistrado Galindo and the mysterious leader of a group who only identifies himself as the Eagle.
During the second season, Diego competes for the hand of the fair Ana Maria Verdugo against his friend Ricardo del Amo, but she only has eyes for Zorro. This season also features guest stars like Cesar Romero playing Diego’s uncle and Disney alumni Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and Jeff York as his character from The Saga of Andy Burnett.
Each complete season is presented over a six-disc set in its own black collectible tin accompanied by a sharp-looking Zorro pin, an authenticity certificate indicating its number out of the 30,000 created in the limited series, and a lithograph though those appear to be oversized post cards. The black-and-white footage looks very sharp.
The extras from the first-season set include a two-part Zorro adventure that aired in 1960 on Walt Disney Presents, and as host, Walt provides intro and outros. There’s also the first introduction of Williams as Zorro from an excerpt of "The Fourth Anniversary Show" of WDP and a new feature “The Life and Legend of Zorro” (12 min) that tracks the history of Zorro and then focuses on the Disney series.
The extras on the second-season set include two Zorro adventures that aired in 1961 on WDP. Ricardo Montalban co-stars in “Auld Acquaintance.” “Behind the Mask” (8 min) is a feature on Guy Williams and “A Trip to the Archives” (11 min) presents Leonard Maltin and Williams’ son on the Disney Burbank lot.
Zorro is a very charming series and holds up well for its age. Reflective of its time with its simple “good guys vs. bad guys” motif, Zorro remains very engaging over five decades later due to Williams’ charisma, the humor derived from characters like the bumbling Sergeant Demetrio López García, and plenty of action, particularly sword-fighting. No doubt fans who grew up with the series will want to relive it, but there’s no reason the series shouldn’t make new fans.