As the story opens, it is 1820. Don Diego Vega, a nobleman and expert fencer, is in Madrid, ready to leave for home in Los Angeles, having been summoned there by his father, Don Alejandro. Upon his arrival, he learns that his father, the Governor, has been ousted by the cruel and corrupt Capitan Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone), who taxes the poor unmercifully. Pasquale's puppet is Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg), a greedy, small man. They are robbing the citizens blind and putting the money into their own pockets.
Don Diego devises a plan to restore his father to power and save the people from the corrupt government. He assumes the role of Zorro, dashing about the county, frightening the evil in the government by scratching “Z’s” everywhere - in wood, stone, and even in people. He takes the gold to return to the citizens.
In order to pull off his disguise, he pretends to be a real sissy. He attempts to amuse by performing silly little parlor tricks, yawning incessantly, pulling out a very girly handkerchief at every whipstitch, and waving his hands in a rather unmanly fashion. This act, of course, is all part of a scheme to fooling people about the identity of Zorro. His father is disappointed, to say the least, in his son's behavior.
He becomes engaged to the Governor’s niece, Lolita, who is obviously appalled at Don Diego‘s manner. Little does she realize that he is actually Zorro, the masked man with whom she’d become infatuated.
A highlight of the “romance” comes when Don Diego and Lolita share a dance. Her delight in the dance is reflected in her smile, but the smile fades to a frown when he comments that the dance was exhausting for him.
The film moves along at an incredibly fast pace, with no lag time whatsoever. What a surprise it is when Don Diego consents to duel Esteban, as it seems like the end of the story is coming much too soon. The duel scene between Diego and Esteban is very fast paced, masterfully done by Basil Rathbone and Ty Power, who are considered two of the great Hollywood swordsmen.
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