I've seen various Zorros and can never remember which is which; I vaguely remembered this as one of the good ones (which is not what you would expect from a 1970s TV movie) and tuned in to see when it was broadcast again on television this afternoon. To my surprise and pleasure, I still thought it was pretty good.
I can't at this lapse of time remember how much the script takes from the famous 1940s version, but it's not only competent but admirable; I'd infinitely watch a low-budget film with a polished script than a big-budget blockbuster where all the cash has gone on special effects, and this undoubtedly falls into the first category! Don Diego, of course, gets all the quips, but Frank Langella does them ample justice, and is impressive in his dual role, especially in the two episodes at the beginning when you can see his intelligent Diego assessing the situation and coming up with his 'spineless fop' act more or less off the cuff, mid-scene. Ricardo Montalban wins the personality contest by a whisker -- although a really good villain always has an unfair advantage over the hero of the piece. Gilbert Roland doesn't get much to do; I was looking forward to seeing him in this, but had to look up the cast afterwards in order even to be certain which character he'd been playing...
Anne Archer as the heroine was the only real disappointment, although the rather abridged plot here doesn't offer much scope for her to duel wits with her lover. Her performance seemed uninspiring, especially compared to Louise Sorel in the part of her vain, self-serving aunt.
The main faults I'd find with this version are twofold; first of all, it seems to get more and more compressed as it races towards the end. The opening scenes are expansively paced, but once the Zorro identity has been established, the masked avenger hardly has time to do anything before it's time for the finale! He tears down one notice, pays a nocturnal visit to frighten the Alcade, meets Esteban in his father's house... and then an aristocratic revolt breaks out, and the final duel is due. Not much of a heroic career, really, and I assume this is the result of a TV time-slot and budget.
The second problem, possibly related, is that the actual swashbuckling action -- with the exception of said final duel -- doesn't impress very much. We get one of the parody-prone sequences where the villain's henchmen unintelligently attack the hero in ones and twos and are duly dispatched, and a similar old chestnut of a horse chase, where the hero hides behind some bushes and watches the pursuit thunder obliviously past, and that's about it. There's nothing wrong with sticking to the good old conventions, but this isn't the most inspiring rendition of either trope. The duel, however, *is* well done... even if I can't help feeling that killing your enemy by revealing your true identity and then attacking while he is still off his guard with astonishment isn't quite cricket, Diego old chap! Very practical tactics, though.
Anyway, on the whole I liked it a good deal. At the beginning of the film I'd probably have considered awarding it an 8, but sadly Anne Archer's 1970s starlet performance and the rather rushed timing later on reduce it from that level. Watch for the Ricardo Montalban/Frank Langella/Louise Sorel triangle, if nothing else; Inez is a wonderfully self-centred character, and the two men play well off each other.