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  Zorro: The Gay Blade Whip It
Year: 1981
Director: Peter Medak
Stars: George Hamilton, Lauren Hutton, Brenda Vaccaro, Ron Liebman, Donovan Scott, James Booth, Helen Burns, Clive Revill, Carolyn Seymour, Eduardo Noriega, Jorge Russek, Eduardo Alcaraz, Carlos Bravo y Fernández, Roberto Dumont, Jorge Bolio, Dick Balduzzi
Genre: Comedy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Don Diego Vera (George Hamilton) has spent the last few years away from his California home womanising throughout the United States, and is so adept with a sword that he rarely has trouble with the husbands and boyfriends of the women he seduces, except tonight when one such husband brings back up of four other swordsmen. In the nick of time, Don Diego's manservant Paco (Donovan Scott) appears with a message to return to California, so off they go - with a surprise awaiting them about the identity of Don Diego's late father...

George Hamilton had by the late seventies become as well known for his chat show appearances as he was for his acting, if not more so, so when he had the chance to play Dracula in Love at First Bite many were surprised at how well he slipped into the role of suave comedian, even though it came across as if this had been in him all along. Such was that film's success that a follow up was long planned; Hamilton always wanted to make a sequel, but that never happened, so fans of his goofy comedy would have to content themselves with Zorro: The Gay Blade, except that on its release, it turned out the moment had passed.

Therefore this flopped, but over the years on late night television, as is so often the way for moves neglected at the box office, a new fanbase emerged who thought that, do you know, this spoof was every bit as funny as the Dracula one, and some even preferred it. So it was that a cult was built up around this campy take on the famed swordsman of countless screen adaptations, and if Hamilton was never going to eclipse the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Tyrone Power or Guy Williams, then for the aficionados this was the best version of Zorro until Antonio Banderas came along with his blockbuster over a decade later.

The key to this was that it was cheerfully silly, and for the first half at least this worked in the movie's favour as Don Diego and his mute associate Paco arrive back in California to discover its being held in the iron grip of the tyranny of his childhood friend Captain Esteban (a very loud Ron Liebman). Then it is revealed that Don Diego's father was actually the freedom fighter Zorro, and his last wish was that should the region be oppressed once again, either he or his twin brother (also Hamilton) should take up the mantle of the hero and grab his sword. Speaking of those swordfights, the action sequences were surprisingly accomplished with the star proving himself an excellent fencer, worth inclusion in a straight effort.

But this was not straight, as while Don Diego has a love interest in activist Charlotte Taylor Wilson (Lauren Hutton) his brother who shows up later on was the character who lived up to the double entendre in the title. He is Bunny Wigglesworth, a foppish Englishman who stands in for his sibling when Don Diego injures his foot jumping out from a balcony - something a conventional action hero movie would rarely think of, not at the halfway point anyway. Bunny takes to the mask and costume like a duck to water, except he uses a whip and accessorises, enthusiastically dressing up and operating equally as well as Don Diego does, with nobody else any the wiser. The trouble here is that where this should have been the point where the comedy moved into a higher gear, for some reason the laughs became thinner on the ground; it was still goodnatured to a fault, and there are the odd moments to chuckle at, but the inspiration ran out just when it should have been hilarious. Music by Ian Fraser.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Peter Medak  (1937 - )

Variable Hungarian-born director who alternates between the big screen and the small screen. Arthouse hits like Negatives, satire The Ruling Class and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg gave way to comedy - Zorro: The Gay Blade - and classy horror - The Changeling. In the nineties, he went from gangster movie The Krays to morbid thriller Romeo is Bleeding to over-the-top sci-fi sequel Species II.

 
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