Zorro: The Gay Blade (1981)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Zorro: The Gay Blade takes place in 1840’s Los Angeles, California, Mexico. The wealthy landowner, Don Diego Vega, learns of his late father’s secret that once upon a time, he was the masked folk hero known as El Zorro. In a letter, dad tells Diego that it’s every Vega man’s duty to fight for the people. So, Diego adopts his father’s persona. However, when Diego injures his foot in an escape, he asks Ramon, his very gay, long-lost twin brother, to replace him as the heroic bandit. Ramon, now calling himself Bunny Wigglesworth, agrees, but he does so in his own flamboyant style.

‘Zorro: The Gay Blade’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Zorro: The Gay Blade (1981)We begin in Madrid, Spain sometime in the 1840s. Don Diego de la Vega (George Hamilton) is in bed with a married woman when her husband surprised them. Apparently, he’s not in Barcelona like they thought. The man attacks Diego with a sword, but Diego quickly gets the upper hand. Then the husband’s five brothers appear to help the onslaught.

Among the swinging swords, Diego’s mute servant, Paco (Donovan Scott) pantomimes a letter from Diego’s father ordering him to return to Los Angeles, California. Diego and Paco jump from a high wall into a waiting carriage, and off they go.

When the two arrive in Los Angeles, Diego’s childhood amigo, Esteban (Ron Leibman), greets him, and he’s now the capitán of the guard. Esteban’s has married Florinda (Brenda Vaccaro); the women the two men competed over as boys. Diego learns that his father was killed in a riding accident when a turtle frightened his horse. Esteban is acting alcalde until the Dons elect a replacement.

Coincidentally, all the necessary Dons are in town, and they quickly elect Esteban. In another coincidence, Esteban’s men have already assembled the town’s peasants for him to give a victory speech. Sitting in a carriage, Charlotte Taylor-Wilson (Lauren Hutton), a wealthy political activist from Boston, watches the proceedings and interrupts Esteban. She’s with the People’s Independence Committee, and she wants the people to overthrow the government. However, Esteban disperses the villagers and leaves. Diego looks on; smitten with this beautiful woman, even though their political views are vastly different.

When Esteban throws a masked ball celebrating his new position, he invites Diego. As the invitation arrives, so does his inheritance from his father; a black coffin-shaped box with the black cape, hat, and sword of El Zorro! Inside is also a letter from Diego’s father that reveals it is the legacy of all Vega men to take the Zorro mantle,. Now it’s Diego’s turn. He decides Esteban’s masked ball is the perfect place to begin El Zorro’s return.

On his horse ride there with Paco, Zorro comes across the alcalde’s tax collector, Velasquez (James Booth) extorting money from a local peasant. Zorro takes chase, and catches up to Velasquez. After a brief sword fight, Zorro defeats the man, but he spares his life so he can spread word that Zorro has returned. Zorro then goes back to the peasant to give him Velasquez’s money before leaving the mark of Zorro on his door. He instructs him to also spread the news that Zorro’s back to help the helpless, befriend the friendless, and defeat the featless.

That evening, as Diego entertains Florinda at the ball in his Zorro costume, Velasquez arrives to report the theft of taxes to Esteban. He singles out Diego as Zorro while he dances with Florinda. Esteban cuts in, and the two engage in a sword fight which Zorro wins. He then humiliates Esteban before Esteban orders his men to attack Zorro. As Zorro goes to jump from the tall balcony to escape, he loses his balance and falls. He hits the ground awkwardly, and injures his foot; maybe, he even broke it. The alcalde watches from above as Zorro hobbles away.

Later that night as Diego nurses his foot, Florinda shows up at his hacienda—drunk. She tries to seduce Diego, but Esteban shows up; suspecting that Diego might be Zorro. However, Diego convinces him that his foot is uninjured by walking and running and jumping in place. Esteban decides to begin a reign of terror with more flogging and increased taxation as revenge.

Meanwhile, Diego sits on the sideline in frustration, because, he cannot fight Esteban’s tyranny with an injured foot. Out of the blue, Diego’s foppish twin brother, Ramón (also George Hamilton), shows up to visit with their father; only to learn that he’s dead. Now a Royal Navy officer, and mostly gay, he’s adopted the name Bunny Wigglesworth. Diego gives him their father’s letter to read, and Bunny assumes the guise of Zorro until Diego’s foot heals. However, he can’t use a sword, so he uses his whip instead. To add to the fun, he wears a variety of flamboyant outfits (no idea where he buys such clothes in 1840’s Los Angeles on such short notice) in a variety of fruity colors.

As Zorro eludes capture, Esteban hatches a plan to smoke out Zorro once and for all. This time he plans another ball showing off Florinda’s expensive new necklace. However, Diego is two steps ahead of him, and he goes to the party dressed as Zorro. So do the Dons, and every male attendee because someone posing as Esteban’s messenger instructed all men to dress as the bandit.

Bunny also shows up in drag as Margarita Wigglesworth; Diego’s cousin from Santa Barbara. Esteban immediately falls for her her. When Bunny spills a drink on Florinda, the resulting chaos gives him the chance to be alone with her in the ladies’ room to steal the necklace from her neck. Later at their father’s grave, Bunny gives Diego the necklace before returning to the Royal Navy forever. He tells Diego that Charlotte Taylor-Wilson confessed her love for Zorro.

Excited, Diego, dresses as Zorro, and meets with Charlotte to give her the necklace. Then he gives her a passionate kiss. As they embrace, a peasant, hoping to cash in on the reward for Zorro, spies on the two and, and he informs Esteban of what he saw. As a reward, Esteban locks the peasant up, and sends him to solitary confinement.

He then arrests Charlotte, and orders her execution; knowing Zorro will want to save her. Don Diego, dressed as Zorro, surrenders to Esteban in order to save her. Esteban immediately orders his firing squad to execute him, but doesn’t unmask him in front of the people to respect Zorro’s last wish.

As the firing squad is about to open fire, Bunny reappears as a metallic-gold Zorro, and saves the day. With Charlotte and Diego’s help, the three inspire the assembled peasants to rebel. Overwhelmed, Esteban’s guards and Florinda desert him. Standing alone, everyone surrounds Esteban and they arrest him.

Later, Bunny rides off once again to catch his ship back to England. Charlotte decides it’s time for her to increase the voting population and have a bunch of kids. Diego says he’ll giver her the biggest wedding she’s ever had as the two ride off. As a wedding gift, Charlotte asks Diego to donate all his family’s land to the people, and they can settle down in Boston. No word on Paco’s fate as we never see him again.

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20th Century Fox released Zorro: The Gay Blade on July 17, 1981. Peter Medak directed the film starring George Hamilton, Lauren Hutton, and Brenda Vaccaro.

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