Mexico, 1840s. When the new Spanish Governor begins to grind the peasants under his heel, wealthy landowner Don Diego Vega follows in his late father's footsteps and becomes Zorro, the ...
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Mexico, 1840s. When the new Spanish Governor begins to grind the peasants under his heel, wealthy landowner Don Diego Vega follows in his late father's footsteps and becomes Zorro, the masked man in black with a sword who rights wrongs and becomes a folk hero to the people of Mexico. When Vega sprains his ankle and cannot figure out how to continue his campaign against the corrupt Captain Esteban, luck stays with Vega when his long-lost twin brother Ramon, who was sent off by their father to the British Royal Navy to make a "man" of him, whom is also flamboyantly gay, and now known as Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth, appears for a visit. 'Bunny' agrees to temporarily take his brother's place as Zorro, but wishes to make some changes. Bunny becomes 'the Gay Blade' in which his new suits are lemon, plum, and scarlet colored, and Bunny insists on using a whip. Bunny also becomes the liaison between Don Vega and the liberal American activist/feminist Charlotte a long-time critic of Captain ... Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
You have to have a gift for the kind of cocksure buffoonery that's unleashed in "Zorro, the Gay Blade." But you also have to have a special kind of gift to enjoy how wild and cockeyed it can be. Hal Dresner and the rest of the writing team let loose with every conceivable bit of absurdity surrounding the Zorro legend, and succeeded in giving what looks to be George Hamilton's most engaging work. It was Hamilton's talk show with his ex-wife Alana that made me trust his essential good will. He may have been a cheating, good-time charlie to Alana, but it's just this willingness to let her at him over his own personal foibles that won me over. It's there in spades in "Zorro the Gay Blade." Hamilton's not afraid to go all out, playing the fool. He grins, and you can't help but grin back. His tan may be legendary, but it's that blinding-pearl-white smile that equals it. It's what carries his performance; I haven't seen a smirk this sardonic, since John William Sublett flashed his in the number "Shine" from "The Cabin In The Sky." And Hamilton's mugging and playfulness is as masterful as Cary Grant's was in "Gunga Din." It isn't only talented actresses who get wasted in Hollywood. Hamilton is an example of the actors who watched opportunities dry up, their best years flit away, and obscurity meet them head-on in their old age. It was nice seeing him on the Halloween edition of "Talk Soup;" the face may be a little jowly, and his hair grayer, but that tan is still there, and so is that trademark wantonness. I hope it never dies.
It would not have been very good for Hamilton to be playing at the height of his comic talents without a supporting cast meeting him jab for jab. There are some who think Ron Leibman's performance is too much, but I'm not among them. Leibman knew he would have to chew a lot of scenery to make the humor built into his role work; it takes a very astute actor to know when overacting, overdoing is the right pitch at which to carry a scene or a part. And I don't think Leibman ever misjudges the moment. I can remember myself enthralled over Nehemiah Persoff's El Presidente on one episode of "Gilligan's Island," and Leibman's performance matches it, accent for accent, outburst for outburst. It'll be a long time before I forget either.
I've always thought Brenda Vaccaro a very funny actress. It's hard to find actresses whose vibe puts you in a happy mood. She's always reminded me of a primmer Susan Tyrell with her button eyes, sharp profile (the prim part), and extra husky voice (the Tyrell part). As the Alcalde's wife, Vaccaro has some smart lines, and you wish director Peter Medak had let her go as far as Leibman had in his role. And she seems wrong for the part that requires her to be vain, self-absorbed, and sex-starved. With Vaccaro, you get the feeling that the woman she plays would be aware of how empty her existence was; how to resolve her sexual frustrations (She's accorded her husband's favor twelve times a year; not once every month, but twelve times in one night, and then nothing for the rest of the year.); how to pool her resources and become a foxy champion of the downtrodden herself.
The movie is full of little surprises from the gap in Lauren Hutton's front teeth (It's like an emblem of the absurdity this movie loves.) to Donovan Scott's shaggy-dog costume (or was he a bear?) to Hamilton's alter-ego, Don Diego's brother Ramon who throws off his Spanish heritage for a freer, more suitable, more "English" estate as Bunny Wiglesworth (A name with a built-in come-on, if ever there were one). The fact that Ramon is better at wielding a whip than a sword points to how knowing the writers are; it's things like this that make you beam at what Dresner and Bob Randall and others had cooked up. Their efforts returned the word "gay" to what it used to mean, and gave its new meaning, well, new meaning. It's undiluted joviality, and even that doesn't cover it.
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