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Image Entertainment presents
Zorro Rides Again (1937)

"Zorro, Zorro, Zorro. Can't you get rid of that man?"
- Marsden (Noah Beery)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 01, 2004

Stars: John Carroll, Noah Beery, Richard Alexander
Other Stars: Helen Christian, Reed Howes, Duncan Renaldo, Nigel de Brulier
Director: John English, William Witney

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 03h:30m:47s
Release Date: August 03, 2004
UPC: 014381946420
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CC+C+ D+

DVD Review

Although Zorro had been a highly popular film subject in the pair of pictures by Douglas Fairbanks in the 1920s, the masked avenger didn't appear in sound films until 1937. Earlier in that year, Johnston McCulley, Zorro's creator, brought the character back to the screen in the color feature The Bold Caballero. Inspired by that success, Republic Pictures shot this serial version of the story, using the "modern western" format that was proving to be a hit in the Gene Autry pictures.

James Vega (John Carroll), and siblings Joyce (Helen Christian) and Philip Andrews (Reed Howes) are the owners of the California & Yucatan Railroad being laid through the Southwest. But the project is plagued by the efforts of El Lobo (Richard Alexander), whose gang is willing to resort to sabotage and murder to make the railroad worthless. Behind this scheme is investment banker Marsden (Noah Beery), who wants to own the railroad himself. But James Vega is a descendant of Don Diego Vega, the original Zorro (the film variably refers to James as the grandson and great-grandson), and before long the sissyish James Vega has assumed the mantle of bravado and is cracking the whip as he tries to keep one step ahead, foiling the endless plots of Marsden and El Lobo.

Although the modern setting in general works fine, Zorro's change of focus doesn't sit quite so well. Where he used to be fighting for the downtrodden and the cause of liberty, here he's protecting his own financial interests. There's some lip service paid to the notion that there are thousands of people depending on this railroad, but that's pretty perfunctory especially in light of all the intrigues surrounding ownership of the railroad itself. It's thus difficult to root too hard for our hero, since he's primarily fighting for his own profit and there's not the sense of a larger good being served.

John Carroll does a reasonably good job as James Vega, though his assumed Mexican accent as Zorro is a bit over the top. Christian and Howes are pretty much one-note characters, disgusted at Vega's refusal to take arms on his own behalf. Also in support of Zorro is Duncan Renaldo as Renaldo, the faithful retainer of Vega; for some reason no one notices that he's also faithful retainer of Zorro and connects any dots. The villains are an entertaining lot, with Noah Beery a through-and-through nasty man, while Richard Alexander provides El Lobo with an earthy viciousness.

One of the things that is most entertaining about old serials on DVD is checking to see how badly the filmmakers cheated on the cliffhangers from weekly episode to weekly episode. Zorro Rides Again features some egregious cheats, especially that at the end of chapter 6, The Fatal Shot, where El Lobo shoots Zorro at practically point blank range; at the beginning of episode 7, El Lobo never even gets a shot off at all! Nonetheless, this is fun period entertainment with plenty of brawling, gunplay and fancy whipwork. Oddly enough, however, the only time the trademark 'Z' scars are made with the bullwhip are when El Lobo masquerades as Zorro.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full frame picture is not the greatest. The case proclaims that the serial was transferred from the original camera negative and fine grains, but if that's true then it was transferred years ago for laserdisc or videotape. Fine detail is quite lacking, as is shadow detail. There's a decent range of greyscales, but the picture is so soft that it sometimes feels like watching a good VHS tape. A new transfer would have been welcome, since the source material is in quite good condition.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono audio is presented at a quite low volume. There's moderate hiss, but not terrible for a 1930s vintage film, really. Music is as to be expected tinny, though Zorro's songs (yes, this is a singing Zorro) come through with decent enough quality.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Darkest Africa, Radar Men from the Moon, Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island, SOS Coast Guard, The Undersea Kingdom
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extras are a set of trailers for five other serials, plus this one. The Zorro Rides Again trailer is quite lengthy (3m:36s) and in very good shape. Chaptering is thin, with only one stop per weekly episode and no stops for the songs.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

A fun and somewhat goofy serial that deprives Zorro of his moral underpinnings, given a mediocre transfer and little in the way of extras.


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