Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer: The Mark of Zorro, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

"THE MARK OF ZORRO" (Rouben Mamoulian; 1940)

The 20th Century Fox swashbucklers have just never quite matched up to the Warner Bros. yarns in my opinion and Rouben Mamoulian's The Mark of Zorro ('40) continues the trend.

Although The Black Swan ('42) would later prove to be a worthily entertaining Tyrone Power actioner, the decade long stretch beginning with Jesse James ('39) and ending ungraciously with The Black Rose ('50) provided no such vehicle that could rival the heroics of Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks or even John Gilbert.

Staidly telling of the notorious caballero who opposed tyranny in defense of the weak, The Mark of Zorro is perhaps the most tame and motionless version, stooping along with minimal gusto and plenty of low-key conversation. The Antonio Banderas version is silly, but at least Zorro - you know - does something. [B-]

"THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR" (Joseph L. Mankiewicz; 1947)

This timeless romance-cum-ghost story is at once delicate and mysterious and yet inevitably doughy and weepy. Adapted from a UK novel of the same name, it's the story of a widowed housewife who's move to the sea is accompanied by a deceased sailor.

With the spiritual passion of Wuthering Heights, the film feels curious and then stodgy, yet is helped greatly by the performances of Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison plus a stirring Bernard Herrmann score which foreshadows his work on Vertigo. [B]

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