“ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE”–always new, always funny

“Zorro, the Gay Blade”

Always New, Always Funny

Amos Lassen

“Zorro, the Gay Blade” was made in 1981, quite a while ago. This is one funny movie—it was funny then and it is funny now. Made before political correctness was so important, it says all those things we can’t say today. Every time I watch it, I see something I missed before.

When the new Spanish governor begins to take control and hold the peasants in tight rein, Don Diego Vega becomes Zorro, the man who rights wrongs and proudly carries his sword. But when Vega sprains his ankle and dos not know how he can continue his campaign, his long lost twin brother—who had been sent off to the British navy to make a man of him—suddenly returns. He is flamboyant and his name is now Bunny Wigglesworth. Bunny agrees to act in his brother’s place but not without making some adjustments. Instead of wearing the traditional black suit, he insists on lemon, scarlet and plum and he wants to use a whip.

I watched this Zorro again yesterday and I was surprised that it hasn’t aged like I have. It is a wonderful parody of the Zorro films and TV series. As a satire it is unique in that it has its own theme, its own characters and its own plot. There is no romance, no grandiose special effects—it doesn’t need them. It fascinates simply and it is wacky and accessible.

George Hamilton is Zorro and this is probably the best role he has ever played. In fact George Hamilton is Zorro and Zorro—he plays both roles—that of Don Diego Vega and that of Bunny Wigglesworth. We may find it hard to imagine Hamilton doing slapstick but he does it well—in fact he is superb just as is his supporting cast of Brenda Vaccaro, Lauren Hutton and Ron Liebman.

Stereotypes abound in the film and the idea of gay Zorro giving one liners is irresistible. There are several classic scenes in the film. One is the masked ball when the Alcalde (governor) plans to catch Zorro. All of the guests arrive in Zorro costumes and the result is like a house of mirrors.

Some of the performances are over the top. Ron Liebman as the Alcalde overacts but he can still bring a grin to the face of the viewer. When the Alcalde and Zorro go at it, you get a laugh a minute. Lauren Hutton as the love interest with a bit of liberal feminist touch but the comedy of the movie overshadows it. Brenda Vaccaro as Florinda, the wife of the Alcalde and the fact that she lusts for Zorro adds a little spice.

It makes no difference that the humor is simple and that the plot s predictable—this is a very funny movie that shows there is more than one way to tell a story and even if not totally successful, t can still be a lot of fun.

The movie is packed with sword fights, injustice and cross dressing as well innuendos, inside jokes and moments of hilarity.

The fact that Hamilton is able to make fun of himself says a lot about the film. Here is a colorful and dashing comedy so suspend the belief that whips are more powerful than rifles and that the gay Zorro can challenge an army. Just sit back and ready to laugh and enjoy the movie for what it is.

One note to think about though—does Hamilton ever lose his suntan? As for the gay blade in the title—the writers have evidently returned to the original meaning of the word gay and then gave  a new meaning to the newer meaning of the word. The movie is very gay about a gay man and that fits both definitions of the word.

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