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The Douglas Fairbanks Collection [5 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Mark of Zorro
Johnston MacCulley's 1913 adventure yarn The Curse of Capistrano was given its first filmization in Douglas Fairbanks' 1920 The Mark of Zorro. Fairbanks plays the outwardly foppish Don Diego de la Vega, the son of wealthy Spanish Californian rancher. In reality, Don Diego is the dashed masked-and-caped Zorro, who wages a one-man war to rescue his fellow citizens from the tyranny Captain Juan Ramon (Robert McKim). The lovely Lolita (Marguerite de la Motte) despises the namby-pamby Don Diego, but loves the devil-may-care Zorro, never dreaming (until the end, of course) that the two men are one. In turn, Lolita is loved by Captain Ramon, who is as ruthless in his domestic dealings as he is in his political weight-throwing. Noah Beery Sr. plays Sgt. Garcia, a buffoonish minion of Ramon's who eventually casts his lot with Zorro--after being bested time and again by the hero's swordplay. Best scene: Zorro insouciantly challenging Ramon's soldiers to capture him while he wines and dines at a local cantina. At the time he made Mark of Zorro, Fairbanks was best known for his peppy contemporary comedies. He hoped that Zorro would be an interesting temporary change of pace for him, never dreaming that the film's popularity would lock him into the swashbuckling mode for the rest of the silent career. In 1925, Fairbanks starred in a sequel, Don Q, Son of Zorro; the original film has, of course, been remade many times since 1920. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Robin Hood
Robin Hood, Douglas Fairbanks' biggest (though not necessarily best) production of the silent era, represents the first time that many familiar of the elements of the Robin Hood legend were presented on screen. To bring the project to full fruition, Fairbanks and his wife Mary Pickford purchased the old Jesse Hampton studio in Santa Monica, and on that site constructed a near-lifesized replica of 12th century Nottingham. The humongous castle set was so awesome that Fairbanks became worried that his own performance might be dwarfed. It wasn't: take our word for it. When first we meet Robin Hood, he is still the Earl of Huntington, preparing to joust with his bitter enemy Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Paul Dickey). Despite Sir Guy's propensity for cheating, the Earl is victorious. Shortly thereafter, Huntington rides off to the crusades with Richard the Lionhearted (Wallace Beery). Upon learning that Prince John (Sam De Grasse), goaded on by Sir Guy, has usurped his brother Richard's throne, Huntington returns to Nottingham in a new guise: dashing righter-of-wrongs Robin Hood. While robbing from the rich, giving to the poor, and bedevilling the villains, Robin romances the fetching Maid Marian (Enid Bennett). The film's singular highlight is Fairbanks' slide down a two-story tapestry, a bit of bravado accomplished by hiding a playground slide behind the huge cloth. As in all of Fairbanks' films, Charlie Stevens, a grandson of Geronimo and Doug's "mascot", appears in several minor roles. Also appearing is Alan Hale Sr. as Little John, a role he'd repeat in the 1938 Errol Flynn Robin Hood, not to mention the 1950 swashbuckler Rogues of Sherwood Forest. Long thought lost, Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (as the film was so copyrighted) was rediscovered in the early 1960s. Most current prints fail to do justice to Arthur Edeson's glistening photography; also, some versions are stretch-framed to slow down the action to "normal" speed, a process that retards the marvelously fast pace instilled by star Fairbanks and director Allan Dwan. We recommend that you seek out a good-quality, tinted print of Robin Hood, processed at the slightly faster-than-life speed at which it was originally filmed. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Don Q, Son of Zorro
Douglas Fairbanks returns as the great Spanish swashbuckler in this sequel to The Mark of Zorro. Don Cesar de Vega (Douglas Fairbanks) is the son of the famous masked avanger, Zorro; he's been sent to Spain to continue his education and learn the ways of his homeland. He soon becomes a favorite of the local dignitaries, but this does him little good when he's falsely accused of murder. Faking his own suicide, Don Cesar goes underground, and posing as Zorro, begins his own investigation of the killing; eventually his father arrives, giving us two Zorros for the price of one. Mary Astor plays Dolores de Muro, Don Cesar's love interest, with Warner Oland and Jean Hersholt highlighting the supporting cast; Donald Crisp, who plays Don Sebastian, also directed. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

The Thief of Bagdad
Douglas Fairbanks is at his most graceful and charismatic in one of the classic silent films of the 1920s. As the thief of Baghdad, his movements are dance-like -- nothing like the athletics he performed in most of his other films. In this Arabian take, the thief ignores the holy teachings and sneaks into the palace of the Caliph (Brandon Hurst). All thoughts of robbery slip away, however, when he sees the beautiful princess (Julanne Johnston). Princes have come from many faraway lands to win the princess' hand (and it's amusing to watch her face growing ever more alarmed at their arrival, because each one is uglier than the last). The thief disguises himself as a prince and the princess falls in love with him. After having a pang of conscience, the thief confesses all to the Holy Man (Charles Belcher), who sends him to find a magic chest. He braves many obstacles to get it, and when he returns he discovers that the Mongol Prince (Sojin) has taken over the city. Using the chest, the reformed thief creates armies of men out of nothingness and recaptures the city. He then uses the cloak of invisibility to spirit the princess away on a magic carpet. Fairbanks stole some of the special effects for his film from Fritz Lang's Der Müde Tod, which he had purchased for American distribution. The Thief of Baghdad, with its look of unrealistic beauty (courtesy of art director William Cameron Menzies), was not fully appreciated in its day. Because of its huge cost (two million dollars -- a real fortune in those days), it made little money. After that, Fairbanks stuck closer to the swashbuckling persona he felt his audience wanted. Available now on DVD, the remastered film features a new score by Carl Davis. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

The Black Pirate
The Black Pirate was hailed in 1926 as the "return" of the Douglas Fairbanks who'd breezed through several peppy comedies before starring in lavish costume epics like Robin Hood (1922) and Thief of Bagdad (1924). The story involves a young nobleman (Fairbanks) whose father is killed by pirates. He vows to avenge his dad's death by becoming a buccaneer himself and routing out the villains. Along the way, he rescues damsel-in-distress Billie Dove (likewise of noble birth) and engages in a few bloody duels with the swarthy likes of Sam De Grasse and Anders Randolph. Charlie Stevens, a grandson of American Indian chief Geronimo -- and whom Fairbanks regarded as a "lucky charm" -- appears in several tiny roles. The Black Pirate was originally presented in two-color Technicolor form; the black and white prints are the most-often-seen version of the film, however. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Three Musketeers
Douglas Fairbanks' longest and most elaborate production up to 1921, The Three Musketeers was Fairbanks' first full-blown costume adventure (his modestly produced 1920 The Mark of Zorro was regarded as an extension of his breezy contemporary comedies). Fairbanks assumes the leading role of D'Artagnan, who after challenging musketeers Athos (Leon Barry), Porthos (George Siegmann) and Aramis (Eugene Pallette--yes, Eugene Pallette) to a duel, joins forces with them in opposition of the scheming Cardinal Richelieu(Nigel De Brulier). Plotting to discredit Queen Anne (Mary McLaren) in the eyes of her husband King Louis XIII (Adolphe Menjou) Richelieu dispatches Milady de Winter (Barbara La Marr) to pilfer the diamond brooch given by Anne to her British lover, the Duke of Buckingham (Thomas Holding). With the help of the lovely Constance (Marguerite de la Motte) D'Artagnan and the Musketeers race against time to retrieve the brooch and save their Queen. The film ends with D'Artagnan emerging victorious, a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips; the actual, darker denouement of Dumas' original Three Musketeers would be dramatized in the opening reels of Douglas Fairbanks' valedictory silent film, The Iron Mask (1929). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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