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Edmond Dantes is falsely accused by those jealous of his good fortune, and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the notorious island prison, Chateau d'If. While imprisoned, he ... See full summary »
A film adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel. Edmond Dantes is falsely accused by those jealous of his good fortune, and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the notorious island prison, Chateau d'If. While imprisoned, he meets the Abbe Faria, a fellow prisoner whom everyone believes to be mad. The Abbe tells Edmond of a fantastic treasure hidden away on a tiny island, that only he knows the location of. After many years in prison, the old Abbe dies, and Edmond escapes disguised as the dead body. Now free, Edmond must find the treasure the Abbe told him of, so he can use the new-found wealth to exact revenge on those who have wronged him. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
I had low expectations of this film, thinking it was a Hollywood bastardization of Dumas's classic, like the corny but enjoyable 1934 version starring Robert Donat. How wrong I was! This is one of the better adaptations of "The Count of Monte Cristo"--not just required viewing for fans of the novel but a good film in its own right.
Let's start with its star. The problem with most actors who play the Count is that they're usually suited to play only one side of him-- the young and naive Edmond Dantes or the suave, revenge-driven Monte Cristo. John Gilbert is the only actor I've seen who excels as both. It helps that he was a young man at the time and plays Edmond with the vigor of genuine youth. He's just as convincing as the older, embittered Monte Cristo, thanks to the intense, smoldering stare that made him a matinée idol. As written by Dumas, the Count might be a swashbuckler but he is also an avenger whose thirst for cold revenge disturbs other characters and even the reader. Gilbert understands this and is perfectly cast.
Dumas's novel is a 1,200 page monster, and even three-hour adaptations have to cut large chunks of it. This version (which draws on several stage adaptations) is less than two hours, yet it manages to preserve the major plot points of the book. This is intelligent distillation is considerably more faithful than the 2002 version. Minor characters have been combined to streamline the story, which gains a surprisingly swift pace. The ending is differs from the original, but the scriptwriters have prepared for it with a melancholy prelude.
I wasn't familiar with the director, Emmett J. Flynn, and feared the movie would be stagy and visually dull. Once again I was wrong. The direction is lively and makes excellent use of superimposition. The lighting and costumes are lavish in the old Hollywood style, and the opulent, airy sets perhaps influenced the 1929 French film of the novel, directed by Henry Fescourt. His three-hour "Monte Cristo" is a greater work than Flynn's, though the most faithful adaptation is a 1979 French TV production starring Jacques Weber. Neither Weber nor Fescourt's versions have English subtitles so my recommendation for those who've read the book is to watch Flynn's film, with Gilbert's excellent performance, and the 1964 BBC TV production starring Alan Badel, which has been released on Region 2 DVD. The 1934 film starring Robert Donat takes too many liberties and the 1998 French TV miniseries suffers from the miscasting of Gérard Depardieu in the central role.
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