NEW YORK — When the New Year arrives, so will a gallant masked figure from the past of old Spanish California. With sword flashing, black cape billowing, white teeth gleaming, here comes . . . Zorro?
Yes, by neddies. Zorro. With a Z. It's the latest in a long line of Zorros that includes the ABC series of 1957-59 that set millions of tykes running about in Zorro costumes, trying to puncture each other in the name of justice.
That one starred Guy Williams. This one, starring Duncan Regehr, 36, is the first new "Zorro" series ever on cable, specifically the Family Channel, where the half-hour series will debut Friday.
For those trivia buffs, other notable Zorros were Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Tyrone Power, and Clayton Moore, who later went on to be known as another masked crime-fighter, "The Lone Ranger."
The show's star, a Canadian with Shakespearean stage credits, is a very big Zorro. He stands 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds. Were this a "Zorro" of fisticuffs, not fencing, he'd be right at home.
This is because Regehr, a soft-spoken man with a dry sense of humor, regularly used to put up his dukes for sport. He once thought of seeking a spot on Canada's Olympic boxing team. He fought 65 amateur bouts, he says, and had only three losses, none by knockouts.
Regehr's dossier includes such varied work as "Hamlet" at Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the role of the late Errol Flynn in CBS' "My Wicked, Wicked Ways."
He shot 25 "Zorro" episodes in Spain this fall.
The new series takes place, as have most "Zorro" films, in California in 1820. Regehr has, as have others before him, a two-role part--the dandy Don Diego Vega who really is the masked Senor Zorro who zips about righting wrongs and leaving his trademark "Z" carved in various places.
George Hamilton played things for laughs -- and with a gay look-alike brother -- in 1981's "Zorro, The Gay Blade." So did CBS in 1983 with a contemporary "Zorro and Son," which was the sort of show in which a Franciscan monk was arrested for "selling wine before its time."
But in this edition, done in the old romantic tradition, Don Diego, usually played as a popinjay or even a fop, doesn't get that treatment from Regehr:
"I've played him more like a Renaissance man, interested in art, science and music, more bookish rather than being, er, a little light on the feet."