(1975)

A TV 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.

I never really understood why Richard Chamberlain became such a big film star. His acting was seriously limited and his characterisations didn't change from one role to the other. This time he takes the part of Alexandre Dumas' hero "Edmond Dantes". Wrongly imprisoned after being betrayed by his jealous shipmate and a corrupt magistrate as a Napoleonic conspirator, he meets the Abbé Faria (Trevor Howard) and together they hope to take a mere four years to tunnel to the sea wall from his cell in the imposing "Chateau D'If". It's pretty clear the old man doesn't have that amount of time. He does, however impart news of the legendary treasure of "Cardinal Slad" and after a bit of nimble body-bag swapping, "Edmond" escapes and seeks vengeance on his persecutors. Cleverly, though, he uses their own foibles to bring them down - the greed of "Danglars" (Donald Pleasence); the ambition of "de Villefort" (Louis Jourdan) and the treachery of acclaimed general "Mondego" (Tony Curtis) who also managed to marry his sweetheart "Mercedes" (an unimpressive Kate Nelligan). My favourite parts of the book are the start - here they are generally skirted over, with little attention to the causes of his betrayal or to his time in the claustrophobic prison that ultimately drove his determination for revenge. Pleasence is good though, he portrays the avaricious banker well and Jourdan comes across strongly as the prosecutor but Tony Curtis is well past his best and the sub plots around the interesting "Caderousse" and the impressionable and honourable young "Albert" (Dominic Guard) characters are largely subsumed into the underwhelming leading role. It looks fine, the production and costumes work well enough - but somehow it is all just a bit lacking. The ending varies from the book - ordinarily that might not matter, but here is robs "Dantes" of the vaguest semblance of humanity which I felt was part of his ultimate redemption story. It's an OK watch, I didn't hate it, but a bit more by way of depth from the star would not have gone amiss.

Norman Rosemont Productions, ITC by David Greene, Sidney Carroll, Alexandre Dumas, Fred A. Wyler.
Stars: Richard Chamberlain, Trevor Howard, Louis Jourdan.

Genres: Adventure, Drama, History

Keywords: falsely accused treasure return revenge

01/10/1975

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