Sunday, May 05, 2013

"The Count of Monte Cristo" (1975)

Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo is my second-favorite book.  I've read it probably six or seven times.  And yet, I somehow have this fantastic inability to remember which antagonist is which when I'm not actually reading the book.  Danglars, de Villefort, Caderousse, Mondego -- I get them horribly confused all the time.  One is a banker, one is a military guy, one is a police official, and one is a random dude... and I can never remember which is which once I've finished the story, and I sometimes get confused in the middle of it.  Especially Danglars and Mondego, I mix them up all the time.  It's so frustrating!

So when I watched this movie this time, I tried to keep careful track of names that go with faces.  And failed miserably.  Grr.  I have to keep checking imdb.com to straighten them out, even as I write this review.

But never mind, because I need to give you a quick synopsis of the story!  Because it's a rip-snorter.  Okay, it all starts when Edmund Dantes (Richard Chamberlain), respected French sailor, returns home after a long voyage.

Edmund is the young one on the right in the smashing uniform.

He's greeted by his dearest love, Mercedes (Kate Nelligan), whom he's about to marry.

Edmund and Mercedes at their wedding rehearsal.

But three men are envious of Edmund for various reasons, namely Danglars (Donald Pleasance), Caderousse (Alessio Orano), and Mondego (Tony Curtis).  They cook up a little plot that gets him arrested on the day before his wedding.

Mercedes screaming as Edmund is arrested.

He's brought before a police official named de Villefort (Louis Jourdan) who, for reasons of his own, has Edmund thrown into the infamous French prison the Chateau d'If.

The real Chateau d'If.  So much shorter than I always imagine it.

There, Edmund meets a fellow prisoner and eventually escapes.  I first encountered this story as a little radio dramatization included in a lit textbook when I was 11 -- it dramatized the section in which Edmund meets the other prisoner, and I enjoyed it so much, I got the novel from the library and read it.  And loved it.  Anyway, once he's escaped, Edmund goes to the island of Monte Cristo and finds a treasure.

Edmund and the treasure
He uses that treasure to transform himself into the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo and sets about revenging himself on the four men who ruined his life.

The ultra-handsome Count.
Danglars is now a wealthy banker.
Mondego is a successful military officer and has married Mercedes.
Caderousse is a dandy ne'er-do-well.
De Villefort is an important police official.

Only Mercedes recognizes Edmund after all these years -- everyone else just wonders who this guy is, with his astounding wealth.

Mercedes, who hasn't aged as well as Edmund.

Edmund sets out wreaking vengeance on his enemies, and I'm not going to go into all that because you really should either watch it (available on YouTube here) or read the book.


I find the costumes in this to range from adequate to awesome.  I absolutely love the count's look, with his striking white hair and black goatee.  He wears an amazing cape in several scenes, and lots of rich clothes.  I especially love shirts with swooshy sleeves like these, and he wears lots of them.


Is this a family-friendly film?  There's really no bad language, no objectionable scenes, no real violence.  So yes, it is!  Unless you're anti-revenge, as this is all about revenge.  But it does show that vengeance as an end unto itself does not promote happiness, even for the vengeance-seeker.

16 comments:

  1. I have never read the book, but I do love this movie. I remember seeing it way back in the 70's, and it stuck with me for years. I introduced my kids to it in the mid 2000's, and your review has made me want to see it again. (I think there was a remake in the 90's or early 2000's, but this Richard Chamberlain version is the one I like best.) I also like Richard Chamberlain in "The Man in the Iron Mask."

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    1. This is definitely the best version I've seen. I didn't even finish watching the newest one because they messed everything up -- instead of the Abbe Faria, Edmund's fellow prisoner is a fencing master... what??? All wrong.

      I just got a copy of Richard Chamberlain in The Bourne Identity, which looks so cool. Hope to watch it soon!

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  2. It was one of the best versions going, you may also want to check out the sultan of monte cristo.

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    1. Thank you! I'll do that if I have a chance.

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  3. I read the abridged book (I THOUGHT I had bought an unabridged version, but realized halfway through that it actually was abridged... ugh) after watching the 2002 with Jim Caviezel. I think he was great for the part, but of course, I'm saying that from the perspective of someone who watched the movie first.

    Also, no offense to Dumas, but I liked the ending of the movie better than the book. At the end of the book, I got the feeling that Dumas was saying "revenge really is sweet; take it and enjoy it!" while the Jim Caviezel movie showed how revenge can embitter the life of the revenge-taker and promotes a bit more forgiveness instead. It's not very true to what I remember of the (abridged) book at all, but I enjoyed it.

    I'll have to watch this version some time, and maybe be inspired to read the unabridged book! ;)

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    1. You know, there are some different translations out there too, and the one I read most recently glossed over a bunch of stuff that I clearly remember from the copy I read as a kid! I need to find a better translation, clearly.

      I haven't made it through the 2002 movie, so don't know how it ends. I do think, though, that the book doesn't end really happily. Edmund doesn't get Mercedes back, and he realizes he's ruined a lot of innocent lives just like his had once been ruined. (Or, at least, that's what I recall -- been about 3 years since I read it, I think.) But he does have the possibility of a happy ending, with the wonderful Haydee.

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    2. Ah, you know, that didn't even occur to me... but of course, the book was originally written in French. I wonder if the unabridged copy that my sister read was a complete translation...

      I thought it was really sad, in the version I read, Edmond didn't WANT Mercedes back, she was part of his revenge scheme. Also, Haydee was extremely young, like 14 or something, which I thought was kind of creepy. The 2002 movie did end a little differently, and I liked it better. Even though it isn't very true to the book, I recommend it.

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    3. Well, that's true -- Edmund felt that Mercedes had betrayed him by marrying Mondego (blast it, I still had to check my review here to see who she married -- I thought once again it was Danglars! Why do I have this mental block???), so he spent most of the book not wanting her back, though when little Edward dies, he begins to doubt he's on the right path at all.

      But was Haydee 14 by the end of the book? No. She was young when Edmund rescued her, but by the time they reach Paris, she's referred to as a young and beautiful woman -- he takes her to the opera and treats her as a young woman, not a child. So she's considerably younger than him, yes, but not jail bait.

      You've convinced me, though, that if I ever come across the 2002, I'll give it another try.

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    4. Wow, I don't remember the death of "little Edward" was that their son's name? Clearly, I really need to read the unabridged version before I attempt to talk about the book anymore. Haha!

      Yeah, she actually was 14 at the end of the version I read... she was basically introduced, and then the book ended, so far as I remember. It was very abrupt, after the relative length of the rest of the book.

      And you've convinced me I need to read the book again! I wish I could read in French... but I'll at least have to find an unabridged translation.

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    5. Okay, I've done a bit of digging, and it looks like the 1996 translation by Robin Buss is said to have restored material left out of or glossed over in earlier translations. You can get it here at Amazon in paperback pretty reasonably (especially if you don't mind used books!). I'm going to try to get this version myself and see if it's more like what I remembered. Though there's a hardcover edition coming out in August that's very tempting.

      Your abridged version is terrible! Good heavens, Haydee plays an integral part in the plot, and she is definitely not 14 by the end. I hope you can find an unabridged version! Actually, it's available for free online in various places, if you don't mind reading on the computer. Gutenberg.org will even let you download it in various formats, though I don't know which translation they have -- probably an older one.

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    6. Oh, and Edward was de Villefort's little boy. Not Mercedes' son, that was... oh, I forget his name, but he was a young man, not a little boy.

      Next time I read this, I am going to write every characters' names down and who and what they are and how they're related. That's the only way I can make it through a Russian novel, and maybe it will help here too.

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    7. Ah-ha! That is the unabridged version that my sister read. I will have to get it from her and read it soon. Thanks for sharing your info!

      Wow, okay, I had no Haydee was such an important character. My version really was awful! I'm looking forward to reading it again, now.

      That's a good idea! I'll have to employ that tactic when I next read it, too.

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  4. This is one of my all time favorite books ever! I read it all in one week! I have watched the french 6 hour version and the 2002 version but now i REALLY want to watch this version! Thanks for posting the youtube link!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Wow, a 6-hour version? Sweet! I'll have to keep an eye out for that. I don't mind subtitles in the slightest.

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  5. This mini series is pretty good. Nice write-up by the way. There are two different COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO television series up on You Tube if you are interested. One is from 1956 and runs for 39 episodes. Seen the first few and they come off rather good. The second is a 1964 UK production that runs for 12 episodes. They might your cup of tea.

    Gord

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    1. Thanks, Gord! I feel like I've seen part of one of those series, but I don't know which one. I will try to check those out when I get a chance.

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