Zorro: The Gay Blade (1981)
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 Esteban's policies, and who has a crush on her masked hero.
In 1840's Mexico, wealthy landowner Don Diego Vega learns of his late father's secret as Zorro, the masked folk hero, and Vega adopts his new persona. But when Vega is incapacitated by an injury, he asks Ramon, his very gay, long-lost twin brother (now calling himself 'Bunny'), to replace him as the caped hero, who makes some drastic changes to his Zorro persona.
- Set in an indeterminate year of the 1840s, the film opens in a villa in Madrid, Spain, where Don Diego Vega (George Hamilton), the archetypal Spanish Don Juan, is in bed with a beautiful woman who, we learn shortly, is not his wife, but someone else's. The couple are caught by her husband, Garcia, who "is not in Barcelona", as they had previously thought. Diego, with considerable panache, fights Garcia and his five brothers with swords. During the fight, Diego's mute servant Paco (Donovan Scott) reads a letter (via gestures) from Diego's father requesting that Diego return to California (then a part of Mexico). Diego and Paco escape by jumping from a high wall directly into a waiting carriage.
A few weeks later, Diego and Paco arrive in the village of Los Angeles, where they are met by Diego's childhood friend Esteban (Ron Leibman), who has become capitán of the local guard. We also learn that Esteban has married Florinda (Brenda Vaccaro), for whom the men competed when they were boys.
Esteban delivers the sad news that Diego's father was killed a few weeks earlier in a horse riding accident, when his horse was frightened by a turtle. Esteban is acting alcalde in the senior de la Vega's stead until a new one can be chosen by the dons (landowners) of the area.
At the meeting of the dons, each introduces himself and where he resides. Each Don's surname is that of a well-known city in California, but none of the surnames and place-names match, with amusing results: Don Diego from San Fernando Don Francisco from San Jose Don Fernando from San Diego Don Jose from San Bernardino Don Luis Obispo from Bakersfield, who wears an ascot
Esteban is elected alcalde, via an obviously fixed election, and gives his inaugural speech to the assembled peasants in the village plaza. He is interrupted mid-speech by Charlotte Taylor-Wilson (Lauren Hutton), a wealthy political activist from Boston. She and Diego meet, and despite their political differences, there is an immediate attraction. Diego is clearly smitten with Charlotte, but she rebuffs his advance for she finds him to be arrogant.
Relaxing at the de la Vega villa, Diego receives an invitation to a masked ball to celebrate Esteban's election. He is also given his inheritance, which turns out to be Zorro's black cape, hat and sword. A note from his father tells Diego the truth: his father was Zorro, the legendary hero of the people. Diego decides that it is the perfect costume for the ball.
On the way to the ball, Diego witnesses a peasant being robbed by a criminal. Giving chase, Diego confronts and defeats the highwayman, and returns the money to the peasant, instructing him to spread the news that 'El Zorro' has returned.
At the ball, Diego (under cover of anonymity) dances with Florinda while the old peasant informs the people outside that Zorro has indeed returned. At the same time, we learn that the robber was in fact Velasquez (James Booth), the area's tax collector, who reports the theft to Alcalde Esteban and points out Diego. A duel ensues, and Diego escapes by again jumping from a high wall, but injures his right foot in the process. Unable to walk without a noticeable limp, he hobbles away. Esteban and Velasquez plan to use the injury to track Zorro down.
Later that night, a drunk Florinda attempts to seduce Diego in his bedroom, but Esteban arrives to speak about the events of the evening. Esteban begins to suspect that Diego is Zorro, but Diego is able to convince him that his foot is not injured. Esteban leaves, satisfied.
Out of commission due to his injury, Diego can do nothing to help the people as Esteban becomes more and more ruthless in his pursuit of gold. But luck stays with Diego when a few days later, his long-lost twin brother, Ramon (George Hamilton in a dual role) arrives at the family estate for a visit and to also to pay respect to their late father. Ramon, who now calls himself Bunny Wigglesworth, has just returned from the British Royal Navy where he is currently on shore leave for a few weeks. Apparently over 20 years ago, Diego and Ramon's father sent Ramon away to England to a boarding school and from there to the Royal Navy to make more of a "man" out of him (after seeing how "fruity" that Ramon was). Bunny, speaking with a distinctive English accdent and flamboyantly homosexual, reluctantly accepts the role of Zorro, but he insists on making changes to the costume; he adds fringe and tassels to the hat, makes multi-colored variations to the fabrics and exchanges the sword for a whip.
As Diego recovers, his gay brother becomes champion of the peasants and tries to manage Charlotte Taylor Wilson who loves Zorro, but sees Diego as an adversary because of his position as a landowner. The Alcalde and landowners are infuriated and bewildered by Zorro's interference in their business and by his new clothes and different behavior.
Meanwhile, the Alcalde's nagging and neglected wife, Florinda, convinces her husband to throw another masquerade ball to show off her extravagant new necklace. Finally healed, Diego decides to go. To throw Esteban off his trail, Diego sends fake notes to all the landowners, telling them that the Alcalde wishes everyone to dress like Zorro. Dressed in the traditional black costume, Diego attends the masquerade ball with Bunny dressed in drag as Diego's female cousin "Margarita Wigglesworth from Santa Barbara". Together, with all of the attention the ballroom guards of looking at all the masked men dressed as Zorro, the brothers steal the necklace from Florinda. When Diego 'accidentally' spills some red wine on Florinda's dress, Bunny takes her to her bedroom where he swipes the necklace as she takes it off. It is Bunny who leaves behind the traditional 'Z' written on red lipstick on Florinda's mirror. Afterwards, Bunny then leaves Los Angeles to return to the Royal Navy.
Still dressed as Zorro, Diego rushes off to Charlotte Taylor Wilson to give her the necklace and to reveal his true identity, but she beats him to it. She tells him that she loves him, and that she had already figured out that he was Zorro. Their conversation, however, is overheard by a spy who tells the Alcalde that Charlotte can be used as bait to trap Zorro.
Esteban arrests Charlotte and sentences her to a public execution. Disguised as a monk, Zorro sneaks into the palace and offers his own life in exchange for hers. Just as Diego is about to executed by the firing squad, his brother swings into the courtyard, dressed in a gold-yellow Zorro costume. Bunny frees Diego and Charlotte, and they rally the peasant crowd to fight the soldiers who eventually turn against the Alcalde as well. In the end, even Florinda abandons Esteban who is overthrown.
In the final scene, Bunny waves goodbye to Diego and Charlotte and rides off into the sunset to return to the Royal Navy. Diego and Charlotte then ride off together to discuss their impending wedding and plans for the future.