based on the novel by Johnston McCulley
dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky
studio performance by a full cast starring Val Kilmer
and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor
Ⓟ 2010, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Zorro, a masked figure whose mission it is is to vindicate the poor and oppressed, cuts a romantic figure against the landscape of Spanish California, circa 1806.* The governor, Luis Quintero and a local garrison commander, Captain Ramon, are corrupt martinets who disenfranchise the wealthiest and most respected families and cheat and abuse the poor - all in order to consolidate their political influence, shore up their family bloodlines and enrich themselves. Zorro tracks these villains down to redress social injustice. Exactly who Zorro is and why he must go about his missions disguised is not explained in the story; but the listener is treated to a swashbuckling tale on the order of Robin Hood :-)
Armin Shimerman (who is perhaps best known for his television work as Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) opens the narrative from a bartender's point of view. With a story like Zorro, an iconic adventure tale that has not been innocent of advancing certain Mexican stereotypes, there is the danger of rendering the story from a cartoonish and politically incorrect voice; but Armin Shimmerman tiptoes to the edge of this caricature without giving offense and sets the tone for a fun tale of adventure and romance.
Val Kilmer (memorable for his roles as Batman in the movie, Batman Returns and Doc Holliday in the movie, Tombstone) performs the roles of two characters: the fopish Don Diego and, of course the daring Zorro himself. Val Kilmer never pulls any punches: Always delivering his lines with the verve, slyness, humor or meekness as his roles demand. His performance (and his innate sexiness and talent) make it easy to see him, in the mind's eye, as Zorro!
The supporting cast, which includes a voice familiar to many audio book aficionados - Stefan Rudnicki as the friar, all step up and complete the picture that this audio drama draws. The Mark of Zorro is slickly produced: At times it feels like the live soundtrack to a movie! The sound effects are artfully edited in and the musical scoring for the most part works (There was one scene in which Classical music plays under Lolita's lines that didn't add anything, seemed out of place and was distracting.) This was a studio production and the producers had the luxury of providing all the audio cues to prompt the listener into this world. The Mark of Zorro is an enormous amount of fun! It doesn't succumb to cheesiness, there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments and, is family friendly :-)
*Being unfamiliar with Californian history and, as the story does not provide a specific time frame, I referenced The Legacy of the Fox: A Chronology of Zorro by Matthew Baugh with updates by Win Eckert, a fan-created web-site.
Other Stuff: The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor) qualifies for:
I received a MP3-CD copy of The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. The copy I received has a corrected cover from the web image above (Johnston McCulley's last name is misspelled on the cover art image featured on web-sites.) I had no involvement in the production of The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.