In ‘Joker’ Do We Think The Wayne Family Enjoyed ‘Zorro, The Gay Blade’?

Near the end of Joker – amidst riots and looting and violence after Joker committed murder on national television, we see the Wayne family (Thomas, Martha, and young Bruce) exiting their local movie theater. On the marquee it shows that two movies are playing on this particular night, Brian De Palma’s Blow Out – which has gone on to be considered a classic, and Zorro, The Gay Blade, a Zorro movie starring George Hamilton, which has gone on to be mostly forgotten and is certainly not a “classic.”

It’s true, both of these movies came out around the same time during July of 1981, but neither turned out to be a big hit. (The big hit at the time was Dudley Moore in Arthur, but since Joker’s name in this movie is also Arthur, maybe that was a bit too on the nose. Then again, it’s kind of remarkable Arthur wasn’t used.) A year later, both Blow Out and Zorro, The Gay Blade would become staples on premium television, shown in an almost never-ending loop. So, yes, I remember as a seven-year-old watching Blow Out because it had the funny guy from the Welcome Back Kotter reruns. And I remember watching Zorro, The Gay Blade numerous times because, well, it was on. I’ve seen Blow Out a few times since. I had not seen Zorro, The Gay Blade in a very long time until this piece.

So there’s no definitive proof which movie the Wayne family had just seen when they exited the theater. But since Thomas and Martha had their young son with them, chances are they went to the more family-friendly Zorro, The Gay Blade. Now, when we put it into perspective that, in the world of Joker, this was the last movie Thomas and Martha would ever see, do we think they liked it?

Not surprisingly, Zorro, The Gay Blade isn’t the easiest thing to find these days. It’s not even on iTunes. The only two options I could find were ordering a DVD on Amazon, which I did before realizing the whole movie is available on YouTube. (I always wonder how this happens, where whole movies are just hanging out on YouTube, considering it’s fairly easy to get things taken down off YouTube. Do the rights holders just decide, “Well, this movie stinks, so screw it. If someone wants to watch it, I guess that’s fine”? Or is it more that no one at Fox/Disney is saying, “Say, we should do a search for Zorro, The Gay Blade today just to make sure it’s not on YouTube. Hey, look at that, there it is”?)

Anyway, yes, I watched Zorro, The Gay Blade. First of all, it stars George Hamilton as Zorro, which in of itself is … weird. (It’s also weird to think of George Hamilton, who we mostly associate as being the guy with the tan who does hammy cameos, playing Zorro and a pivotal role in a Godfather movie within a few years of each other.) Hamilton plays Don Diego Vega, the son of Zorro, who inherits the costume from his father. And, yes, Hamilton’s accent is as cringe-worthy as you might expect, often playing it for laughs – as in a scene where Lauren Hutton thinks he’s saying “sheep,” when in reality he’s saying “ship.” So, yes, you get the gist I think.

The villain in this movie, Captain Esteban (Ron Leibman, also doing, let’s say, quite an accent), starts to suspect Don Diego Vega is Zorro, so Don Diego Vega recruits his gay brother, Ramón Vega (who now goes by Bunny Wigglesworth; I realize it’s starting to sound like I’m making stuff up but I am not), to also be Zorro in an effort throw off Captain Esteban’s suspicions. This may not surprise you, but George Hamilton also plays Ramón Vega. And Ramón’s version of Zorro is, well … let’s just say George Hamilton is certainly going for something here.

I’m just going to say this: After watching Zorro, The Gay Blade I can certainly understand why it’s not a very easy movie to find these days. And I’m sure the people in this movie are thrilled that Joker brought it back into the limelight a bit.

So, let’s get back to the Wayne family. Now, having rewatched Zorro, The Gay Blade, it’s actually pretty depressing this is the last movie two fictional people watched before being murdered. (Though, it’s not lost on me that if I somehow die today, now Zorro, The Gay Blade will also be my last movie. The Joker strikes again!) But the way Thomas Wayne is depicted in the movie, he’s kind of a dick. So, yes, I can kind of see him enjoying George Hamilton hamming his way through that movie while delivering “funny” accents. Joker doesn’t let us spend hardly any time with Martha Wayne, so who knows? But, yes, I’m going to assume Thomas Wayne loved Zorro, The Gay Blade and, years later, Bruce Wayne finally watched Blow Out and cursed his father for their last movie together being a movie where George Hamilton plays two Zorros.

Zorro, the Gay Blade

It is hard to reconstruct these fragments from the memories of childhood but as nearly as I can remember, the Zorro craze came after the Davy Crockett craze and before Elvis. Kids made Z marks everywhere — on walls, fences, blackboards, and with ballpoints on the shirts of the kids sitting in front of them — and my personal notion is that Datsun sells half of their Z-cars to guys harboring sublimated Zorro fantasies.

Here’s the curious thing. I remember a lot about Zorro. I even remember that he was once played by Clayton Moore, who got to keep wearing his Lone Ranger mask. But I cannot remember if the Zorro movies were ever supposed to be funny. I assume that the Zorros, played by Douglas Fairbanks, Tyrone Power, and John Carroll, were more or less serious, within the broad outlines of the adventure genre. But what about all the Zorro movies and TV shows that Guy Williams made for Disney? Were we laughing at him, or with him?

I ask because I am just as confused after seeing „Zorro, the Gay Blade,“ which stars George Hamilton in a dual role as Don Diego Vega and his twin brother, Bunny. (The brother was originally a Vega, too, but after enlisting in the British Navy he changed his name to Bunny Wigglesworth.) This movie is, of course, intended as a comedy, and it has some funny moments. But it’s just not successful, and I think the reason is that Hamilton never for a second plays Zorro as if he were really playing Zorro. We could laugh at the previous movie Zorros because they were so serious about their ridiculous codes and vows and pledges of loyalty and chivalric passions. They were funny as long as they played it straight. But when a movie sets out a create a funny Zorro, that’s bringing coals to Newcastle. By playing every scene for laughs, Hamilton has nothing to play against.

„Zorro, the Gay Blade“ was no doubt inspired by the enormous success of Hamilton’s spoof of a durable Hollywood character, when he played Dracula in „Love at First Bite“ (1979). Hamilton demonstrated in that movie, and demonstrates again in this one, that he is a gifted comic actor. He can have fun with his improbably handsome appearance, he can poke fun at his character’s vanity, and he can look convincing enough as Zorro (or Dracula) to remind us of the quintessential Hollywood leading men whose footsteps he is stalking.

But … should Zorro be funny because of his puffed-up self-importance, or because his role in life is inescapably ridiculous any way you look at it? Should he be funny because of what he is (my theory), or what he does (this movie’s theory)? A funnier comedy might have been made out of a more genuinely satirical examination of the Zorro character. Instead, this one provides Zorro with a gay brother who’s a screamingly limp-wristed stereotype, and then goes for jokes that are disappointingly predictable. It also gives him a leading lady (Lauren Hutton) who has all she can do to play her role at all, much less play it satirically. And it never provides a comprehensive story to hold the jokes together. Too bad. I think I remember now: We laughed more at the old Zorros, because they didn’t know they were funny.

Zorro, the Gay Blade

Zorro, the Gay Blade is a 1981 feature film. This comedy features George HamiltonGolden Globe-nominated dual role as both Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro) and his gay twin brother Bunny Wigglesworth, né Ramon De La Vega.

Zorro, The Gay Blade

This blog is my entry to The Costume Drama Blogathon, which is being hosted by Debbie at Moon In Gemini. The rest of the entries can be found here:

Debbie uses the term “drama” loosely and said it was fine to write about musicals or comedies, which is what I am focusing on today. The movie had to take place 1920 or prior and could take place anywhere in the world.

I am writing about one of my favorite silly comedies – Zorro, The Gay Blade starring George Hamilton.

This is one of those movies that many people are just unfamiliar with. This is a shame. I saw this movie when it first came out in 1981 and my brother and I have been quoting it ever since. It is not odd for a phone conversation with my brother to begin with a quote from this movie.

The film’s opening dedication states: “This film is dedicated to Rouben Mamoulian and the other great filmmakers whose past gives us our future”. The movie opens with a black-and-white clip from 1940’s The Mark of Zorro which Mamoulian directed.

The opening narration (done by the great Frank Welker) sets the tone for the film:

George Hamilton is just perfect in this film. He plays a dual role, which in reality, is like 4 roles. He plays the suave and sexy Don Diego de la Vega (1), who is also Zorro (2). He also plays his homosexual brother Ramon de la Vega – AKA Bunny Wigglesworth (3), who is also Zorro, the Gay Blade (4). He plays Don Diego with a slightly exaggerated Spanish accent, while Ramon/Bunny is played with a British/English accent. Hamilton does a great job of playing these as two very distinct characters. Not only do the accents of the two differ, but the body language in which the characters are played are very different. You really almost feel that two actors are playing the roles. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the film.

Ron Leibman plays the evil alcalde, Esteban. He not only uses his actions to make his character convincing, but he also has a great command of his voice. He often yells, like a power hunger mad-man, but when needed, he can speak in a mellow, soft tone. He also plays a variety of emotions – and conveys the anger of the character in such a way that you feel his frustrations. He’s really quite a jerk in the film, and he is the butt of many of the jokes, and the perfect foil for the hero, Zorro.

Brenda Vaccaro is Florinda, Esteban’s wife. We learn almost immediately that she was the woman that both Don Diego and Esteban wooed as young men. Unlike Hamilton and Leibman, who play their roles with heavy Spanish accents, Vaccaro doesn’t speak with one. Her raspy, almost manly voice only adds to her character. She craves sex, is unhappily married, spoiled, childish, and annoying. She also gets many of the movies funny lines.

Lauren Hutton is Charlotte Taylor Wilson. She is a political activist who is there to encourage citizens to fight their independence. She is a thorn in the alcalde’s side and is the love interest of Don Diego.

Donovan Scott (Popeye, Police Academy, and 1941) plays Don Diego’s mute servant Paco. Though he never speaks in the film, he conveys exactly what needs to be conveyed with his facial expressions. He has wonderful chemistry with Hamilton.

I have heard many compare this film to The Princess Bride. I think that is a fairly good comparison. The humor of both films is very similar. I think Zorro has a lot more “under the breath” one liners, and is a bit less of a love story. Both films have that sense of adventure, but I think there’s more in Zorro. Both have swordplay, but again, there’s more in Zorro.

Don Diego is summoned home by his father. He arrives to find that he has passed away and his childhood friend, Esteban is acting in his place as alcalde. His father’s servant brings a huge casket which contains a black hat, sword, black cape, and letter from his father, which reads:

In his first outing as Zorro, he injures his foot and can no longer “fight injustice”. The alcalde’s reign of terror on the people goes on for weeks and Diego is unable to help them. It is then, that Diego’s gay brother Ramon returns home (presumably after also receiving a letter from his father). Diego recruits Ramon, a British Navy man who now goes by the name Bunny Wigglesworth, to become Zorro in his place. It takes some convincing, and after being allowed to make Zorro “his own”, Ramon agrees, using a whip instead of a sword, and changing the costumes a bit.

Finding his “voice” as Zorro makes for a funny scene – I love how his face is half made up.

The change in Zorro does not go unnoticed. In one of my favorite scenes, the alcalde notices that Diego looks like Zorro and gets him to “act” like him ….

The film becomes even more absurd and hilarious once Diego’s flamboyant and fashion-conscious brother takes over the role of our hero, Zorro! Can they bring the alcalde to justice? Will Diego woo Charlotte Taylor Wilson?

(Spoiler: They do and yes – with many laughs along the way!)

Zorro was far from a “hit” at the box office. I think it only made like $5 million. The fact that it wasn’t a hit, doesn’t prevent it from being one of my favorites. As I think about the list of my favorite films, there are plenty of them that didn’t “perform” at the box office – this is one of them. It is one of those films that I had to watch twice to catch all of the little “under the breath” jokes, and continue to watch (and quote) when I need a good laugh.

Is this the best comedy you will ever see? Probably not. It is, however, a fun and adventurous romp with a familiar hero. It’s one of those films that is difficult to find in the store to buy or rent … It is available at this link on YouTube:

“Remember, my peoples. There is no shame in being poor! Only in dressing poorly!” – Bunny Wigglesworth/Zorro, the Gay Blade

Zorro, The Gay Blade

Storyline

Mexico, 1840s. When the new Spanish Governor begins to grind the peasants under his heel, wealthy landowner Don Diego Vega follows in his late father’s footsteps and becomes Zorro, the masked man in black with a sword who rights wrongs and becomes a folk hero to the people of Mexico. When Vega sprains his ankle and cannot continue his campaign against the corrupt Captain Esteban, his long-lost twin brother Ramon arrives to visit. Bunny was sent off by their father to the British Royal Navy to make a „man“ of him, for he is flamboyantly gay, and now known as Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth. ‚Bunny‘ agrees to temporarily take his brother’s place as Zorro, but opts make changes in the established Zorro persona. Bunny becomes „the Gay Blade,“ and his new costumes are lemon, plum, and scarlet colored. He insists on using a whip. Bunny also becomes the liaison between Don Vega and the liberal American activist/feminist Charlotte, a long-time critic of Captain Esteban’s policies, and who has a crush … Written byJohn Vogel <;

Storyline

User Reviews

You have to have a gift for the kind of cocksure buffoonery that’s unleashed in „Zorro, the Gay Blade.“ But you also have to have a special kind of gift to enjoy how wild and cockeyed it can be. Hal Dresner and the rest of the writing team let loose with every conceivable bit of absurdity surrounding the Zorro legend, and succeeded in giving what looks to be George Hamilton’s most engaging work. It was Hamilton’s talk show with his ex-wife Alana that made me trust his essential good will. He may have been a cheating, good-time charlie to Alana, but it’s just this willingness to let her at him over his own personal foibles that won me over. It’s there in spades in „Zorro the Gay Blade.“ Hamilton’s not afraid to go all out, playing the fool. He grins, and you can’t help but grin back. His tan may be legendary, but it’s that blinding-pearl-white smile that equals it. It’s what carries his performance; I haven’t seen a smirk this sardonic, since John William Sublett flashed his in the number „Shine“ from „The Cabin In The Sky.“ And Hamilton’s mugging and playfulness is as masterful as Cary Grant’s was in „Gunga Din.“ It isn’t only talented actresses who get wasted in Hollywood. Hamilton is an example of the actors who watched opportunities dry up, their best years flit away, and obscurity meet them head-on in their old age. It was nice seeing him on the Halloween edition of „Talk Soup;“ the face may be a little jowly, and his hair grayer, but that tan is still there, and so is that trademark wantonness. I hope it never would not have been very good for Hamilton to be playing at the height of his comic talents without a supporting cast meeting him jab for jab. There are some who think Ron Leibman’s performance is too much, but I’m not among them. Leibman knew he would have to chew a lot of scenery to make the humor built into his role work; it takes a very astute actor to know when overacting, overdoing is the right pitch at which to carry a scene or a part. And I don’t think Leibman ever misjudges the moment. I can remember myself enthralled over Nehemiah Persoff’s El Presidente on one episode of „Gilligan’s Island,“ and Leibman’s performance matches it, accent for accent, outburst for outburst. It’ll be a long time before I forget either.I’ve always thought Brenda Vaccaro a very funny actress. It’s hard to find actresses whose vibe puts you in a happy mood. She’s always reminded me of a primmer Susan Tyrell with her button eyes, sharp profile (the prim part), and extra husky voice (the Tyrell part). As the Alcalde’s wife, Vaccaro has some smart lines, and you wish director Peter Medak had let her go as far as Leibman had in his role. And she seems wrong for the part that requires her to be vain, self-absorbed, and sex-starved. With Vaccaro, you get the feeling that the woman she plays would be aware of how empty her existence was; how to resolve her sexual frustrations (She’s accorded her husband’s favor twelve times a year; not once every month, but twelve times in one night, and then nothing for the rest of the year.); how to pool her resources and become a foxy champion of the downtrodden herself. The movie is full of little surprises from the gap in Lauren Hutton’s front teeth (It’s like an emblem of the absurdity this movie loves.) to Donovan Scott’s shaggy-dog costume (or was he a bear?) to Hamilton’s alter-ego, Don Diego’s brother Ramon who throws off his Spanish heritage for a freer, more suitable, more „English“ estate as Bunny Wiglesworth (A name with a built-in come-on, if ever there were one). The fact that Ramon is better at wielding a whip than a sword points to how knowing the writers are; it’s things like this that make you beam at what Dresner and Bob Randall and others had cooked up. Their efforts returned the word „gay“ to what it used to mean, and gave its new meaning, well, new meaning. It’s undiluted joviality, and even that doesn’t cover it.

Rezensionen

Australien Edition, PAL/Region 0 DVD: TON: Englisch ( Mono ), BONUSMATERIAL: Szene Zugang, Wechselwirkendes Menü, SYNOPSIS: Der Sohn Zorros, mehr Frauenheld als Rächer der Unterdrückten, tritt anfangs eher aus Neugier in die Fußstapfen seines Vaters. Aber mit Hilfe einer Frauenrechtlerin und seines homosexuellen Bruders gelingt es ihm schließlich, dem geldgierigen Gouverneur das Handwerk zu legen. Dünnblütige Parodie des Abenteuer-Klassikers. Der Versuch, Klischees von Geschlechterrollen zu persiflieren, ist weitgehend mißlungen und nicht immer geschmackssicher. SCREENING/VERGEBEN IN: Goldene Kugeln, .. mit der heißen Klinge / Zorro, the Gay Blade ( )

Rezensionen

Australien Edition, PAL/Region 0 DVD: TON: Englisch ( Mono ), BONUSMATERIAL: Szene Zugang, Wechselwirkendes Menü, SYNOPSIS: Der Sohn Zorros, mehr Frauenheld als Rächer der Unterdrückten, tritt anfangs eher aus Neugier in die Fußstapfen seines Vaters. Aber mit Hilfe einer Frauenrechtlerin und seines homosexuellen Bruders gelingt es ihm schließlich, dem geldgierigen Gouverneur das Handwerk zu legen. Dünnblütige Parodie des Abenteuer-Klassikers. Der Versuch, Klischees von Geschlechterrollen zu persiflieren, ist weitgehend mißlungen und nicht immer geschmackssicher. SCREENING/VERGEBEN IN: Goldene Kugeln, .. mit der heißen Klinge / Zorro, the Gay Blade ( )

Rezensionen

Australia released, NTSC/Region 0 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Mono ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: THIS IS AN NTSC, REGION 0, USA COMPATIBLE DVD. PLEASE IGNORE ANY OTHER REFERENCES TO ITS FORMAT – THIS DVD WILL PLAY ON ANY US DVD this spoof, Don Diego Vega (George Hamilton) follows in his father’s footsteps as he dons the identity of Zorro in an attempt to defend the weak and innocent from the ravages of the evil. However, when Vega falls victim to a debilitating injury, it is up to his gay twin brother, Bunny Wigglesworth (George Hamilton), to take up the mask and sword. SCREENED/AWARDED AT: Golden Globes, .., the Gay Blade

Critic Reviews for Zorro, the Gay Blade

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (6) | Rotten (8)

This movie is, of course, intended as a comedy, and it has some funny moments. But it’s just not successful, and I think the reason is that Hamilton never for a second plays Zorro as if he were really playing Zorro.

Tasteless, forced comedy just about killed the Zorro franchise for many years.

Zorro, The Gay Blade provides zesty and zippy entertainment.

Very funny spoof with its heart in just the right place.

15 thoughts on “Zorro, The Gay Blade”

I had never seen any of the old Zorro movies before this. It also made me want to see them!!

Like you, I saw this upon its release and it is one of my favourite movie memories. I can easily recall the stomach aches that were the result of my laughter.

Silly is a great way to describe it! I love the fact that you also saw it in the theatre. I am sure this is one of those films I saw twice at the theatre – I usually don’t do that.

It was also one of the first films I bought on VHS! I was lucky enough to find it on DVD at a used media store. I still laugh as hard at it today, as I did in 1981!

I am one of those not familiar with this film, but no more! I’m going to track it down.

Also, this may be unfair to say, but I didn’t realize George Hamilton was so talented. I really do need to see this one.

I have always felt it was one of those hidden gems. I never really knew how to explain it to people until I heard the Princess Bride comparison. It really is a great comparison.

I included the link to the entire movie on YouTube in the blog, because it is just very difficult to find. Please check back in and let me know if you enjoyed it.

You make a really good case for this film, which I have never seen. You sold me with the Princess Bride comparison. I have always liked Hamilton and thoroughly enjoyed his performance in Love at First Bite.

Give it a watch, Debbie. Let me know what you think.

Hamilton had just come off Love at First Bite when he did this. The Princess Bride comparison was something I read somewhere and felt it was perfect.

Thank YOU! I always enjoy being a part of your blogathons!

I need help in translating this to Portuguese correctly. There are a few words in the movie I cannot understand. Would anyone help me please?

I would like to help, but I do not know how to speak Portuguese. Sorry.

What I need is to know some the English dialogue. The translation is done by me afterwards.

Can I have your email please? I’ll send you a small list. It’s you very much. (Victorhugofernandes1978(at))

Summaries

Zorro, the legendary swordsman, has passed on his weapon and his sense of duty to his noble son, Diego, a dashing swashbuckler like his father. But after an injury sidelines Diego, he is forced to hand the mask over to his twin, Ramon.

Mexico, 1840s. When the new Spanish Governor begins to grind the peasants under his heel, wealthy landowner Don Diego Vega follows in his late father’s footsteps and becomes Zorro, the masked man in black with a sword who rights wrongs and becomes a folk hero to the people of Mexico. When Vega sprains his ankle and cannot continue his campaign against the corrupt Captain Esteban, his long-lost twin brother Ramon arrives to visit. Bunny was sent off by their father to the British Royal Navy to make a „man“ of him, for he is flamboyantly gay, and now known as Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth. ‚Bunny‘ agrees to temporarily take his brother’s place as Zorro, but opts make changes in the established Zorro persona. Bunny becomes „the Gay Blade,“ and his new costumes are lemon, plum, and scarlet colored. He insists on using a whip. Bunny also becomes the liaison between Don Vega and the liberal American activist/feminist Charlotte, a long-time critic of Captain Esteban’s policies, and who has a crush on her masked hero.

In 1840’s Mexico, wealthy landowner Don Diego Vega learns of his late father’s secret as Zorro, the masked folk hero, and Vega adopts his new persona. But when Vega is incapacitated by an injury, he asks Ramon, his very gay, long-lost twin brother (now calling himself ‚Bunny‘), to replace him as the caped hero, who makes some drastic changes to his Zorro persona.