Sunday, August 14, 2016

Zorro 3.1 - El Bandido

Plot: El Cuchillo and his gang sit on their horses and watch a group of soldiers ride towards them for far too long before deciding Mexico is a little too hot for them, and fleeing. During their escape, one bandit, Chato, has his horse shot out from under him, and another, Vibora, refuses to help him escape. So Cuchillo goes back for Chato himself, and when they catch up to the rest of the gang, Cuchillo belts Vibora one, before giving him a cigar as a peace offering. Then he announces they're going to visit Los Angeles and see what there is to steal. Chato notes that's where Zorro hangs out, but Cuchillo is not impressed.

In Los Angeles, Diego and Bernardo practice fencing in the front garden of their house. Diego fails to notice Sergeant Garcia come in, and has to do some fast explaining to the sergeant about how he looked so skilled with a blade. Offering the sergeant wine helps distract him. As it turns out, Garcia is there to tell Alejandro the warehouse in town is ready to hold all the hides the dons are selling to an incoming ship. Garcia is confident the warehouse is secure, Alejandro is not so sure, because of Garcia. Diego explains to his father he isn't too worried, because he figures there's no group of criminals around large enough to pull it off. Right on cue, we shift to Cuchillo and his gang entering town and beginning to loiter. Garcia is marching his men through the town, and notices the arrivals, but Cuchillo is not forthcoming with answers to Garcia's questions about his identity and purpose. Diego is able to prevent things going poorly, by offering to buy the sergeant drinks, and then Cuchillo decides to get chummy.

In the tavern, one goon makes the mistake of referring to Cuchillo by that name, when he points out the wanted poster for Zorro. Cuchillo isn't too impressed, but when the waitress Chulita reminds Garcia he's supposed to escort a 5000 peso silver service set for Don Francisco, well Cuchillo is very interested in that. Fortunately, both Diego and Bernardo are convinced the guy is no good, and so even as Cuchillo and a few of his men are robbing the wagon (and leaving the soldiers tied up), Zorro arrives to give chase. He systematically thwarts their attempts to ambush him, and eventually faces Cuchillo one-on-one. The two seem evenly matched, but the fight is interrupted by the lancers, who have followed on foot. Both parties take to the hills, though Cuchillo's men are arrested, and put to work stacking the dons' hides in the warehouse. Diego advises the sergeant to perhaps be careful around Cuchillo (who wore a mask during the robbery), but won't exactly say why. Which means the sergeant fails to keep it to himself that those hides are going to be sold for 20,000 pesos when the ship from Boston arrives.

However, the ship hasn't arrived yet, so instead Cuchillo, Chulita, and his men pay a visit to the de la Vegas, under the pretext Diego had mentioned wanting to play host at some point. Chato drops a vase, which Cuchillo uses as pretext to make his goons wait outside. Bernardo was in the secret passage (as Diego was preparing to change to Zorro to deal with Cuchillo), and emerges from upstairs, where he hears Chato send a couple of the bandits to rob the tavern. But there's nothing Diego can do at the moment. When his men return, Cuchillo bids a good night, and then it's time for Zorro. Cuchillo makes the mistake of trying to be a good boss, and offers to race his men for the biggest share of the night's haul. He gives them a head start, which he quickly erases. But he let Chato hold the money, and Zorro gets ahead of them, and drops a rope around Chato, pulling him off his horse. Cuchillo rushes back, and it's Round 2. He makes another good go of it, but loses decisively this time, but with all the other men also coming back to see what's wrong, Zorro can't finish the fight, and has to content himself with taking the money back. Which is where things stand, for now.

Quote of the Episode: Vibora - 'If we play it smart, we could return to Mexico rich men.'

Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 3 (3 overall). He put one in Cuchillo's vest before their first fight, then Chato used his buttons to make matching designs on both sides to cover it up. So when they met again, Zorro left his mark on both sides.

Other: So "El Cuchillo" means "the knife". Which explains the name of that one character in For a Few Dollars More. The one with the knife, who was framed for killing another member of the gang by Indio, then shot by Indio. Learn something everyday. Look, I took German in school, not Spanish, alright? I speak about as much Spanish as Michael Westin prior to Season 7 of Burn Notice.

They're really trying to play Cuchillo as an honorable bandit. Doesn't abandon his men. Won't kill the soldiers when they're helpless, wouldn't let Chato shoot Zorro in the back, even after Zorro took the money and ruined Cuchillo's jacket. Almost a dark reflection of Zorro. Instead of having a couple of followers who work in secret, a whole gang that follows him. And of course he serves himself rather than the public.

Cuchillo is pretty contemptuous of Zorro, though. He dismissed Chato's concerns, and when he saw the wanted poster, he had two reactions: One was to remark that the reward for him in Mexico is 1000 pesos more, and the other was that it would be easy money to capture Zorro, but he didn't think they'd see much of him. I presume because he figured he was so smart Zorro would never be able to catch him. It wouldn't be because Zorro would be afraid, because he's not supposed to know Cuchillo, the dangerous bandit, is even in town.

Zorro, on the other hand, seems to really enjoy Cuchillo. Maybe because he sees Cuchillo's arrogance and enjoys puncturing it. When they first start to fight, after the silver service heist, Cuchillo snarls out, 'Now Zorro!' And Zorro calmly replies, 'Alright. Now.' With a smile on his face. He was having great fun, even when Cuchillo's skill with a blade put him on his heels for a moment.

A little strange to see Garcia making even a perfunctory attempt to capture Zorro. I know he was doing that even late into Season 2, but by this point, you'd think he'd give it up. Focus on protecting the warehouse so Alejandro doesn't outright insult your competence to your face, sergeant. That was a dick move, even for Alejandro. At least say it under your breath, old man. And where the heck are the rest of the sergeant's lancers? Diego says that if Cuchillo can free his three men from jail, the sergeant's forces won't stand a chance. I was sure the cuartel had more than a dozen soldiers in it previously.

The front patio of Diego's home looked different from past seasons. Perhaps it was the angle he and Bernardo were being shot from. But when Garcia came in through the front gate, I was pretty sure I saw a wall on the opposite side of the road behind the lancers, and I know there hasn't been a house across from the hacienda previously. Maybe they moved in town for quicker access to trouble. Like when Batman and Alfred moved into a skyscraper in Gotham during the '70s. Also, there still appears to be a level in the secret passages between the sala and Diego's room, even though there isn't one apparent in the two-story house from the outside. Bernardo back away from the peephole in the sala, turns to the stairs, then the camera cuts to another shot of him rounding from one flight of stairs to the next, and then he reaches the room that accesses Diego's room. They're doing some strange, space-warping stuff in that house. Some poor bandit should find his way in there and spend years lost.


Anonymous said...

I finally can read this, even though I'm a few days late.

The 4 special episodes are double lenght, with each half potentially being a standalone episode.

The canyon jump at the beginning was more impressive than Zorro's canyon jumps in 1x02 and 1x08: the distance is bigger, and the horse was carrying two people. Of course, all these jumps are less impressive to me now that I know these canyons are all matte paintings, but they still look great. Kudos to Albert Whitlock whose paintings made these shots look so realistic.

El Cuchillo is played by Gilbert Roland, who will play Don Alejandro in the 1974 television movie "The Mark of Zorro". Too bad corporal Reyes is not part of the cast of these 4 special episodes.

I hadn't noticed before the new wall (or building?) in the background of the hacienda front door, but the hacienda set (including the patio) is definitely the same. On the other hand, the interior of the secret passage in the sala is different from both season 1 and season 2, so this is its third layout. I can't say for sure there is still a middle floor because of the editing (it looks like the peephole in the sala is at the far right, not at the floor behind)

CalvinPitt said...

Those painted backgrounds are pretty outstanding.

I miss Corporal Reyes here, just to have another person to react to El Cuchillo and his gang, I think. They gave Reyes a wide enough range of reactions he could be intimidated, confused, or have one of those perceptive moments of his and then have to try and convince the sergeant of the danger.

When i watched the second half, I could tell the front patio is the same, as you said. I think it was either the angle it was shot from, or the fact it was a daylight scene that made it look different.

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