Monday, April 23, 2012

Z is for 'Zorro' (1920), which we're screening
on Friday, May 4 in Concord, N.H.

It's one of the all-time great silents, and we're showing it on Friday, May 4 in Concord, N.H. It's 'The Mark of Zorro,' (1920), the historical/action/adventure/romance that helped propel Douglas Fairbanks into the pantheon of swashbuckling superstars. We're screening it at 7 p.m. (with music by me) at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., in Concord, N.H. Admission is $10. The film will be run in the theater's Screening Room.

I often say that silent film contains the DNA of a lot of today's pop culture, and 'Zorro' is an especially good example of that. The basic story has proven a durable one for the movies, all the way up through the age of Antonio Banderas. But it also played a key role in lauching the whole 'Batman' franchise, too. It was at a screening of the original silent 'Zorro' that a young Bruce Wayne saw his parents get murdered in an alley outside the theater, and which later inspired him to be a masked fighter of crime.

So we have 'Zorro' to thank, in part, for Julie Newman in her Catwoman suit in the later 1960s TV version. Ahem.

But back to business. Here's the press release that went out for 'The Mask of Zorro.' Hope to see you there -- it's a great way to welcome in Cinco de Mayo weekend, up here deep in Gringoland.
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For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Original 'Zorro' to screen with live music
in Concord, N.H. on Friday, May 4

Silent adventure epic starring Douglas Fairbanks to be shown at Red River Theatres

CONCORD, N.H.—It was the original swashbuckling blockbuster—the film that first brought 'Zorro' to the big screen, and also turned actor Douglas Fairbanks into Hollywood's original action hero. 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) will once again fill the silver screen, accompanied by live music on Friday, May 4 at 7 p.m. at Red River Theatres in Concord, N.H. Admission is $10 per person.

'The Mark of Zorro,' a huge hit when first released, tells the story of young Don Diego Vega, the outwardly timid son of a wealthy ranch owner in Spanish California of the early 19th century. Witnessing the mistreatment of the poor by rich landowners and the oppressive colonial government, Don Diego assumes the identity of "SeƱor Zorro," a masked figure of great cunning and skill, and vows to bring justice to the region. As Zorro, he also woos the beautiful Lolita Pulido, a woman who is distinctly unimpressed with Don Diego, but who is captivated by the masked swordsman.

The film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who until 'Zorro' had focused on playing traditional all-American leading roles in romantic comedies. The success of 'Zorro' launched Fairbanks on a series of historical adventure films that went on to rank among the most popular spectacles of the silent era, including 'The Three Musketeers' (1921), 'Robin Hood' (1922), 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), and 'The Black Pirate' (1926). The original 'Zorro' film was so popular it inspired one of Hollywood's first big-budget sequels, 'Don Q, Son of Zorro' (1925), also starring Fairbanks.

Fairbanks, one of the silent screen's most popular leading men, was the inspiration of the character George Valentin in 'The Artist,' the recent Oscar-winning Best Picture.

Critics have praised 'The Mark of Zorro' for its tight story, fast pace, and many exciting action sequences, which include numerous stunts performed by Fairbanks himself. Steven D. Greydanus of the Decent Films Guide wrote that the silent Zorro "...contains some of the most jaw-dropping stunts I’ve ever seen this side of Jackie Chan." Film writer Leonard Maltin described 'Zorro' as a "silent classic with Fairbanks as the masked hero...perhaps Doug's best film...nonstop fun!"

This genre-defining swashbuckler was the first movie version of the Zorro legend. The film was based on the 1919 story "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley, which introduced Zorro. The screenplay was adapted by Fairbanks under the pseudonym "Elton Thomas" and Eugene Miller. The story has since been remade and adapted many times, most recently in 1998 as 'The Mask of Zorro' starring Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.

'The Mark of Zorro' was the first film released by the newly formed United Artists studio, formed in 1920 by Fairbanks with fellow silent film superstars Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and director D.W. Griffith. The silent version of 'Zorro' also played a key role in the formation of the DC Comics Batman character; in the original 1939 story, a young Bruce Wayne sees 'Zorro' on the same night that his parents are later murdered, which leads him to adopt Zorro's mask and cape as a basis for his own transformation into 'Batman.'

The May 4 screening of 'The Mark of Zorro' will be accompanied by an original score created and performed live by New Hampshire silent film musician Jeff Rapsis. Rapsis achieves a traditional "movie score" sound for silent film screenings by using a digital synthesizer to reproduce the texture of the full orchestra.

'The Mark of Zorro' will be screened on Friday, May 4 at 7 p.m. in the screening room of Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord, N.H. For more information, visit or call (603) 224-4600.

Red River Theatres, an independent cinema, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to screening a diverse program of first-run independent films, cult favorites, classics, local and regional film projects, and foreign films. The member-supported theater’s mission is to present film and the discussion of film as a way to entertain, broaden horizons and deepen appreciation of life for New Hampshire audiences of all ages.

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