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

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

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.

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

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 ( )

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))

Popular reviews

Beyond silly, zany comedy of a style i don’t usually enjoy. it is mostly redeemed by an oscar-caliber george hamilton performance as both zorro and gay zorro. he’s adorable and fully committed. love him!

A childhood favorite. I’ve seen it a million times and I love every single second of it. George Hamilton’s energy is incredible.

A pretty good broad Zorro parody before the titular gay brother shows up. I got very excited with the first scene of a heroic gay plum-colored Zorro fighting tax collectors with a bullwhip and insisting on whipping his entire name onto the wall instead of the customary „Z“. Who wouldn’t? But the most inspired gags of the film all happen before his arrival and after his departure, with his scenes playing more as a cavalcade of gay stereotypes.

Granted, they are much more loving and less mean-spirited gags about gay stereotypes than you’d expect from the era (he is, after all, still a hero and never a cheap punchline) but Zorro, The Gay Blade is not a brave enough film…

“Why she no say something like: I’m going to love you forever? Why she no say that?”

Honestly can’t be sure how well this has aged but Peter Medak’s relentlessly silly Zorro, the Gay Blade begins with a nice epigraph that hits me right where I live then literally never fails to put a big ole smile on my face. You just can’t ask a swashbuckler for much more than that.

Peter Medak’s swashbuckling comedy. When the son of the well-known Zorro is hurt, he conscripts his ostentatiously gay twin brother to take up the battle against oppression and unfairness.

The story concerns Zorro, the well-known swordsman, who has handed over his weapon and his intelligence of duty to his moral son, Diego (George Hamilton), a dashing adventurer like his father.

But after a wound sidelines Diego, he is left with no choice but to give the mask over to his ostentatiously gay twin, Ramon (also Hamilton), who desires to be called Bunny Wigglesworth.

While Ramon approves to take on the semblance of Zorro, he chooses to add his own talent, with brashly dazzling costumes – and a whip in place…

When looking at a comedy of this type-gimmicky-from 1981, it needs to be funny and work as parody. It’s rare a movie does both these things-‘Zorro the Gay Blade’ does. It’s not as self referential as a Mel Brooks movie, nor is it over the top like something from the Zucker brothers. What it is, is a very funny Zorro adventure. Taking the action idea that the original Zorro had twin sons-one a ladies man and one who the Navy made a man of -who both inherited the mantle of Zorro. Both Zorros are played by George Hamilton, one with a sword and the other with a whip. The jokes are mainly dialogue based-and the movie has some great action…

But the best thing about this movie is that it was the last movie Thomas and Martha Wayne (Batman’s parents) saw in Joaquin Phoenix’s „Joker“ movie.

Do I have to turn in my gay card if I wasn’t offended by this?

Very silly; often very funny. George Hamilton is always a pleasure and I appreciate that (some stereotypes and the villain’s bigotry aside) the gay character is every bit as heroic and awesome as (actually more awesome than) his straight brother.

Ron Leibman’s screaming all of his lines was sometimes a bit much, but even that led to some really funny stuff. I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this.

Now I know where the character of Brak’s Dad came from.

Needed way more Gay Zorro whipping his name into things.

Recent reviews

who couldn’t love a movie in which gay george hamilton teaches straight george hamilton that the revolution requires transcending the limits of masculinity

george hamilton should’ve won an oscar for this, frankly

This movie is actually brilliant and it’s queer representation is better than most we get nowadays.

Haven’t seen it since I was a kid- still hilarious. I wasn’t sure it was going to be politically correct anymore but it is actually fine. George Hamilton is great on dual roles and Ron Leibman is amazing as the alcalde, show stealing. His performance is totally hilarious. Great movie, fast paced, I didn’t want it to end.

I’ve watched this but have no intention of watching any other Zorro movie take that as you will

Watched it with my dad over spring break (half expecting this to be really offensive) and… it was honestly funny as fuck. The costume design is amazing, has some funny parts, and some pretty cool stunts here and there. Anyways, gay zorro! Fuck yeah

There’s really no reason I should love this movie as much as I do.

Well, no reason except GEORGE FUCKING HAMILTON and his tan.

Vain aristocrats inherit the mantle of Zorro from their father. They use it to stand up to a corrupt alcalde. George Hamilton plays the gay and straight twins as equally heroic and equally silly. The screenplay is mildly progressive but rarely funny. Half the cast realized they hadn’t any jokes and decided to SHOUT their lines instead.

Why are they using the Adventures of Don Juan music?

George Hamilton, after playing an appalling, tacky and romantic Dracula in „Love at First Bite“ has another great performance playing a funny gay Zorro in this good comedy. He does 2 parts here: the real Zorro and his gay brother, who eventually takes his place.

People always be giving the 80’s shit for homophobia, but we are now in the 2020’s, and you don’t see massive IPs like Zorro daring to make their hero homosexual, and with absolutely winning personality, sense of humor and style that even audiences in 81′ couldn’t deny.

Brokeback who?Call me by your what?!Love, Si… Huh!?There’s only one name on my mind when it comes to pioneers, and that’s Bunny Wigglesworth.

?Pride: A Chronological History of Queer Interest & LGBTQ+ Cinema

It’s an LGBTQ+ world and these are my other LGBTQ+ lists on Letterboxd:

Any and All LGBTQ+ Films

The following lists are combined here. They’re updated to December 2020 or January 2021.

Cinema Gay: Filmes e Curtas

Filmes com imagens, situações e personagens gays IMDb: Filmow:

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.

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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.