In keeping up with their long and prestigious line of excellent Tin Box Sets, Disney has unleashed two new Walt Disney Treasures for collectors the world over to get all warm and fuzzy over. This time, though, the Tin Box Sets are black in color (as opposed to silver), and they bear the adventures of one of the most iconic swashbuckling heroes of fiction: Johnston McCulley’s “Zorro.”
Zorro: The Complete First Season and Zorro: The Complete Second Season are two new 6-disc sets from Disney, that give us the full run of Walt’s third television series. First broadcast across TV sets in 1957, Zorro was a weekly half-hour family drama. Set in the Roaring ’20s (1820s, that is) of Spanish California (you know, before Disneyland), Zorro tells of Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams). A studious Spaniard, Don Diego also masquerades as Zorro — the masked vigilante whose aim is to prevent the corrupt powers-that-be from growing even more corrupt.
Donning a swashbuckling outfit complete with a black mask, Zorro causes all kinds of havoc for the local authorities. The “main” official, the relatively mindless (and harmless) Sergeant Garcia (Henry Calvin) is so much a for Zorro. Comandante Monastario (Britt Lomond) on the other hand is a far-more cunning officer (not to mention evil) and spends a majority of the first season playing his most-worthy adversary. Gene Sheldon also co-stars as Diego’s manservant Bernardo (who aides his master in many an adventure).
Throughout the entire series, Zorro juggles its way through a slew of stories: some border on the light comedy side, while other episodes can take a far more serious tone. Never fear though: the traditional (‘50s) Disney manner of storytelling is well-preserved the whole time, never reaching the point of being too “adult” for family viewing. Even after five decades, these episodes have preserved their dignity (well, except for the occasional song, that is), and should fare well with newer generations as successfully as they did with those who saw it when it was first run.
Long unavailable to North American audiences in their original form (Disney offered colorized versions a few years back, but as a promo only to Disney elitists), the House of Mouse finally presents both Zorro: The Complete First Season and Zorro: The Complete Second Season in all their black-and-white glory. I have to say, that for a show that dates back more than fifty years, the transfers found in these collector’s sets is stunning. Grain is kept to a minimum, and the contrast is an example that should be mandatory with other distributors of vintage TV on DVD material. All episodes are shown in their good ol’ standard television aspect ratios (1.33:1), and are presented with mono English sound (which is just as nice as the video presentation).
You may well ask yourself, “Sounds good — but do these sets carry any extras?” Yes, they do. Not only do we get the complete first and second seasons, but the four hour-long episodes that aired on television from late 1960 to early 1961 (which are often regarded as a withered third season) are also included here. The Complete First Season houses “El Bandido” and “Adios, El Cuchillo” (from 1960), while The Complete Second Season brings us the final black-and-white adventures with Guy Williams, “The Postponed Wedding” and “Auld Acquaintance” from 1961.
Also included as bonus features with these sets are new introductions by the one-and-only Leonard Maltin. As chipper as he ever was, Maltin appears at the beginning of each set to give us a little insight into Disney’s Zorro legacy. Several featurettes (“The Life And Legend Of Zorro,” “Behind The Mask,” and “A Trip To The Archives”) bring Guy Williams, Jr. into the mix to talk about his late father’s television legacy, along with stuntman Buddy Van Horn, actress Suzanne Lloyd, and historian/host Maltin. A clip from the Season Four Disneyland episode, “The Fourth Anniversary Show” (1957) once again places Guy Williams in his full Zorro regalia.
Rounding out the special features in these sets are some booklets, Disney promos, certificates of authenticity (there are only 30,000 of each of these in print, kiddos — so get ‘em while you can!), and a couple of collectible pins. In short: these two sets are perfect for collectors and Zorro fans alike (and they’re much easier to stomach than the last Antonio Banderas flick).