Judging from the vintage of this swashbuckler, the Hollywood studio which produced it (Columbia), the two leads that star in it (John Derek and Anthony Quinn) and its director, I was negatively surprised by quite a few things in hindsight: it only received a measly ** rating on Leonard Maltin's Film Guide, is not mentioned at all on Leslie Halliwell's and the few reviews I read linked via IMDb were also equally dismissive; for a movie from this genre, it was one humourless ride with a glum hero and a dreary villain (awkwardly named Viovanni!!); having just watched both THE SWORD OF MONTE CRISTO (released a few months prior to this by Twentieth Century Fox) and the rare 1935 RKO version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS, I was struck by how awfully similar it was to the former in plot and to the latter in its music ("The Musketeers' Song" is recognizably riffed on for the main theme here)!! Although the original Count of Monte Cristo does have a tenuous bearing on the narrative, it is never explained how he came to settle in the Italian seaside community of Casamare and eventually bequeath his famed sword (yet again!) to the townspeople and to whom they erected a statue riding a horse(!) in return; similarly, had this likewise emanated from RKO, it would have made sense (sort of) for composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco to pilfer Max Steiner's original score but, as I said earlier, this came from the "Torch Lady" studio! For what it is worth, the similarly-titled exotic adventure MARK OF THE RENEGADE released that same year was an unrelated but somewhat superior excursion for Ricardo Montalban
Anyway, I do not want to give the wrong impression that this is a worthless addition to the stables of costumed adventures or "Monte Cristo" offshoots. Indeed, the fact that it was shot in Technicolor makes it a pictorially pleasing period piece, there are the expected plethora of treacherous intrigue, wrongful imprisonment and heroic impersonations that will ultimately be resolved in night-time horse chases and clumsy swordfights; having said that, the TCM-sourced print was sometimes too dark to fully appreciate them (again, I was surprised to find no official home video release of it so far)! For all its namedropping of the wealthy count, the clear template (apart from the aforementioned SWORD) was apparently Zorro since returning soldier Derek, finding his father branded a traitor and a suicide, feigns injury (after being beaten up by the angry townsfolk) and spends most of the time in the lion's den, as it were as a houseguest of decorated military leader Quinn's reading and playing chess! In the meantime, both Derek and his childhood sweetheart Jody Lawrance (on whom Quinn, needless to say, has his own romantic designs) roam the countryside writing wrongs and pinning poorly-rhyming accusatory messages around town! Quinn's acolytes include wily adviser Arnold Moss (who gets his comeuppance from his own increasingly impatient boss when caught going over his secret documents) and fraidy-cat art dealer Ian Wolfe (who is also the courier of coded messages from and to the Austrian invaders); on the side of Good, aiding the two alternating masked riders (dubbed "The Ghost of Monte Cristo" with Derek effecting a ludicrous 'foreign' accent to hide his identity almost 55 years before Christian Bale would adopt a gruff voice when Bruce Wayne dons the Batman costume!) are the girl's fencing master uncle (named simply "Zio"!), an orphaned student of the latter's and a street-smart brat. Two final bits of trivia concern the leading man: almost four decades later, Derek would pair Quinn with his star/wife Bo Derek in his own directorial swan-song GHOSTS CAN'T DO IT (1989); I currently have another three costumers of his in my unwatched pile including two "made in Italy"!
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