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  • Stefan Riedlinger

The Mask of Zorro - James Horner - Soundtrack Review

Another amazing movie music soundtrack by James Horner on my website. In my opinion “The Mask Of Zorro” is one of his best scores. When I saw the movie for the first time, I was surprised how entertaining it was. Martin Campbell, who also directed two James Bond-movies and brought with “Goldeneye” starring Pierce Brosnan and later with “Casino Royale” starring Daniel Craig the franchise two times back to life, was the right director for this great mixture of action, old-fashioned style and comedy.

The movie

Steven Spielberg started to develop this movie, first with director Mikael Salomon and Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez brought Banderas in, Salomon cast Sean Connery as Don Diego, and this would have been a great cast. Connery and Salomon dropped out; I could not find any reason why this happened, and Rodriguez had some trouble later with TriStar concerning the budget, so he was also not a part of the project anymore. Martin Campbell stepped in, and in my opinion, he was a better choice than Rodriguez.

By accepting this movie, Campbell turned down the chance to direct the James Bond movie “Tomorrow never dies”, so Roger Spottiswoode directed this movie. For Connery, Anthony Hopkins stepped in, and Catherine Zeta-Jones played the female character. She is really great in this role!

“Zorro” is a movie legend, and there are dozens of movies about this secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega that was created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919. There is also a parody starring George Hamilton, who plays Don Diego and also his gay brother in “Zorro, The Gay Blade”. “The Mask of Zorro” incorporates certain historical events and people. Banderas' character is a fictional brother of Joaquin Murrieta, a real Mexican outlaw who was killed by the California State Rangers led by Harry Love (portrayed as Captain Harrison Love) in 1853. The confrontation in the movie takes place more than a decade earlier, in 1841. As in the movie, Harry Love also preserved both Murrieta's head in alcohol-filled glass jars. The opening sequence is set during the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence. The movie was quite successful, so Martin Campbell signed up to direct the sequel, again with Banderas, Zeta-Jones, and Horner was hired again to compose the music.

The music

The music was influenced by Miklós Rózsa's score from “El CID”, and Horner used again his favorite instrument, the Japanse shakuhachi flute. He also composed a song for Marc Anthony and Australian singer Tina Arena called “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You". The song went #3 on the French singles and #4 on the Dutch singles charts. Personally, I do not like this song, so let’s concentrate on the instrumental parts.

The score was Horner’s first score good score after “Titanic” – “Deep Impact” is rather disappointing -, and even though you can hear the typical Horner mannerisms in it, I think “The Mask Of Zorro” is a quite better score than “Titanic”. The main theme is more beautiful, the action music is more energetic, and the score is more ambitious. Horner used a lot of Latin flavor, with hand clapping, flamenco guitars, and castanets. The first track “The Plaza Of Execution”, also one of longest tracks, is the first highlight of the score.

The wonderful majestic main theme, you can hear in a very elegant version in Track 8 “Zorro’s Theme”.

Track 2 “Elena And Esperanza” is a quieter one after the action track. Track 3 “The Ride”, a shorter one, presents us again more Latin flavor with castanets. I skip “Elena’s Truth” (Track 4) and “The Confession” (Track 7), and with “The Fencing Lesson” (track 5), we have one of the most enjoyable tracks for one of the most enjoyable scenes in the movies. I like especially how Horner used the hand clapping, balanced with trumpet and guitar. This is a marvelous piece of music, and here is the video of the scene:

Track 6 “Tornado In The Barracks” is another highlight, highly enjoyable, energetic and with a good sense of humor. Horner at his best!

You can skip track 9 “The Mine”, before with track 10 “Stealing The Map”, we have an interesting piece because Horner used the percussion in the “Titanic” way. The 13 minute track “Leave No Witnesses…” is the music underscoring the big action scene for the showdown, and with the wonderfully composed track 12 “Diego’s Goodbye”, we have the last track on the score before the song.

“The Mask Of Zorro” is without any doubt one of Horner’s best scores, perhaps the sequel “The Legend Of Zorro” is more advanced in the composing style. You can decide by yourself. These scores are great examples of soundtracks that just Horner could compose: elegant music, wonderful themes, powerful action music. James Horner, you are really missed!

I found an interview with Horner and director Campbell:

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2016, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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