07 Mar

Back in 1961 when Sean Leslie Flynn embarked on his cinematic career, he joked that after he did “The Son of Captain Blood” he would do the “son of Zorro”. Not quite, but the producer of “TSOCB”, Harry Joe Brown  did sign Sean up to do “Il Segno di Zorro” (translation: “The Sign of Zorro”). In this film (which had its initial European release in 1963) Sean got to display his athletic skills and prowess at fencing and horsemanship and he did a better acting job here than in his freshman outing. In my article, “The Forgotten Films of Sean Flynn” I stated (at least in my opinion) that Sean seemed to be channeling Errol and his performance was enjoyable to watch. As a matter of fact some of his dueling scenes could rival similar scenes in Errol’s “The Prince and the Pauper”.   The film was popular throughout Europe and was released in most countries as a Zorro film. But because of copyright issues (Disney had released a film titled, “The Sign of Zorro” in the US in 1960), any reference to Zorro was excised from the English language print. (There weren’t many, as the film only used the Zorro motif as a symbol (using “the sign of Zorro”)  and the character isn’t even called Zorro throughout its run.) Thus the film under the title, “Duel at the Rio Grande” was released in 1964 in Great Britain on a double bill with a remake of Maria Montez’s film “The Siren of Atlantis”. (This time under the title of “The Lost Kingdom”).  The film received little (if any) theatrical release in the US due to the copyright issue and was sold to television syndication in 1968 where it played in some markets as time filler in the afternoon and late nights before disappearing. When the video boom of the eighties took off, the film was released on home video in Finland, where it was released with Finnish subtitles. As edited, “Duel at the Rio Grande” is almost a completely different film from “Il Segno di Zorro”. “Duel at the Rio Grande” like most of Sean’s films is not available in the US on legitimate home video. (Il Segno di Zorro” has been released in German, French and Spanish.) You can catch it on YouTube as “The Sign of Zorro” and judge for yourself.–A. R.

[Sean’s costume in the movie remarkably resembles the cover illustration from the 1958 paperback edition of the “Mark of Zorro”. (see below)



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    March 7, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    As the version on YouTube is in German, here is a quick synopsis of the plot of the film to help those who don’t speak German.
    The film opens with Sean belting out the “Basque” yodel and leading a group of horseback riders through a mountain range while the credits are rolled out to a rousing score from one of Spain’s most revered composers, Gregorio Garcia-Segura. Sean then leads the riders back to the village where a celebration is taking place. In a scene cut from “Duel at the Rio Grande” Sean is surrounded by a group of girls, each girl holding a hoop and trying to “capture” Sean in their hoop and steal a kiss. Sean gets away from the girls and meets his loyal servant, Jose (played by Italian actor Folco Lulli) who informs Sean (or Ramon, the character Sean is playing) that his mother wants to see him. As Ramon is about to engage in a bout of Basque martial arts and is having so much fun, he tells Jose to tell his mother he “will be home in awhile”. As Jose then yells to Ramon that his “mother said NOW” Sean is distracted and his opponent knocks him to the ground, after which Sean/Ramon answers, “Okay, Jose, now!”
    Sean rides with Jose home where his mother informs him that the father she had told him was dead, was actually alive, living in Mexico and had sent a letter pleading for the help of “his son”. At first Ramon is adamant about going to Mexico to meet a father he has never known, especially as he finds out he is half Spaniard, but he agrees to go to please his mother.
    Ramon and Jose are soon in Mexico and enter a cantina where soon Sean is in a dueling match with “three amigos” who are obviously meant as comic relief in the slapstick style of the Three Stooges. In a well choreographed sequence Sean bests the 3 amigos who turn out to be Basques and learn that Sean is a Basque as he rides off yelling the Basque yodel.
    In town Ramon and Jose seek out the Alcalde’s office to gain directions to the home of Don Salvador Martinez, Sean’s father. Ramon then meets Lt. Martino who slyly provides directions. Unbeknownst to them Martino has given the pair directions to Don Salvador’s unmarked grave. There the pair see a beautiful senorita toss a rose onto the grave and ride off.
    As Sean then questions the priest of the church which is adjacent to the grave, he learns that his father was arrested as a traitor to the crown of Spain and was found hanging in his cell.
    Sean then learns that his father owned a silver mine and had a rich estate which have now been taken over by a corrupt generalisimo (is there ever any other kind?). Sean with the help of Jose and the 3 Basque amigos then begin a revolt against the corrupt generalisimo Gutierrez and his henchman Lt. Martino, who was responsible for hanging Ramon’s father in his jail cell and then declaring it a suicide.
    In the end Sean/Ramon has a great duel with Lt. Martino, avenging his father and winning the love of the beautiful senorita, Manuela (played by French actress, Danielle de Metz) who also aided Ramon in his quest for justice.
    (General Gutierrez also gets his just deserves as the three amigos capture him and throw him to a mob of angry peons.)–A. R.

  2. zacal

    March 8, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Here’s the first ten minutes. He certainly shows “star quality” in his first appearance. Great natural athlete. ILIKEFLYNN is right about the music, it’s terrific.


      March 10, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Thank you zacal for posting a link to “Sign of Zorro”! Another way to find the link is to go to YouTube and search for “SeanFlynnCambodia”(no space). There you will find seven of Sean’s films and if you click on to the “play” tab on “The Sign of Zorro” the film will play with the next section beginning with out one having to click to the next part.–A. R.

  3. David DeWitt

    March 9, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Well done, AR! And nice follow up reference, Zacal! Good peeps on this blog! :-)

    • Tim

      March 9, 2014 at 10:31 am

      Ditto, David! Great posts. This really does show Sean had great potential “star power”. And he does be channeling his Dad!!

  4. Inga

    March 9, 2014 at 6:51 am

    For once, we can say: advantage Germany! Thanks for this interesting post, A.R.!

    • Tim

      March 9, 2014 at 10:48 am

      Gluckwunsch, Inga. I’m helping to help commemorate one. of America’s greatest German-blooded icons today & tomorrow. St. Petersburg has declared tomorrow “Babe Ruth Day”.