Friday, July 24, 2015

Classic TV: Zorro (1957)

Many of us grew up with Disney's programming airing on NBC, but, in the late 50's & early 60's, ABC was the network of choice for the Mouse House, which ultimately purchased ABC nearly 20 years ago.

While The Mickey Mouse Club was standard after-school fare, Disney served up a variety of primetime programs as well, either via its Disneyland anthology series, or in stand alone series, such as Zorro.

Johnston McCulley's Old West hero made his TV debut in 1957. Don Diego de la Vega (Guy Williams) is summoned home to Los Angeles to help his father, Don Alejandro, defend the city from the tyranny of Commandante Monasterio and others. The series lasted just 2 seasons, but when the Disney Channel launched in the 80's, Zorro was brought back in reruns, perhaps to soothe the pain of CBS' failed comedy-adventure series, Zorro & Son, which lasted just 5 weeks before getting the axe. We'll discuss that failure another time.

Disney eventually colorized the original episodes, 25 years after the series' launch, and while a revival was airing on the then-Family Channel (now ABC Family), with Duncan Regehr in the title role.

Let's go back to season 1 and "Adios, Senor Magistrado":

I happened to see some of the original black & white episodes whenever Disney, at the time a premium channel, had a free weekend. This is one case where the colorization actually improves the product.

Of course, Guy Williams would return a few years later with Lost in Space, which lasted three seasons.

Rating: A-.


magicdog said...

More recently, the show has been airing in two episode blocks weekdays on COZI-TV at 7 and 7:30am PST.

I watched the show thanks to Cozi and it is fun to watch! Guy Williams takes up the Zorro cape without any reservation! Tyrone Power would have been proud. I also found it interesting how Don Diego's servant/partner in heroics, Bernardo, is not deaf in this version of the character's exploits, but merely mute. Obviously all the better to eavesdrop on his enemies. Plus, there's an arc that lasts about 3-5 episodes, so not everything is wrapped up with a pretty bow in 30 minutes.

I would recommend this show over so-called, "kids programming" networks are rolling out these days.

You mention the colorizing being an improvement (I'm surprised Disney didn't take the risk and shoot the show in color in the beginning), but I have heard from some that they see the B/W print corrupted by the coloring - before colorizing the print was much clearer and sharper. It does make me ant to see the show as it was originally filmed just to compare.

hobbyfan said...

There are some black & white eps on YouTube. Eventually, I'll put up one if it ties to a specific theme (i.e. Christmas or Halloween).

Cozi ain't available in New York. That sucks.